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#Twitterhack: Java security under fire again after Oracle's 50 patch update

04 Feb 2013
The Twitter bird logo in blue on white

The release of 50 Java patches by Oracle after Twitter was hit by an attack that appears to have come via the platform has again raised concerns with Java security.

Oracle issued an update on Friday designed to patch over 50 security vulnerabilities in its Java SE software. The patch update was originally scheduled to be released on 19 February.

Oracle reportedly brought the patch forward after discovering many of the vulnerabilities were being actively targeted.

One may well have been Twitter. The firm announced hackers had successfully broken into its networks stealing as many as 250,000 users' passwords over the weekend.

Bob Lord, director of information security at Twitter, indicated the attack had exploited a vulnerability in the Java platform to break into the company's network, though exact details remain vague.

However, F-Secure security research Sean Sullivan said that while official information is still not clear, the scenario is worryingly common and could well have been a result of poor Java security.

"My hunch is that Twitter employees were targeted. Twitter developers use Macs and code in Java (on the back end). Those developers probably have a funny notion that 'there are no viruses for Macs and so had JRE enabled in their browsers - probably browsing the Web with their development computers/images," Sullivan told V3.

"I suspect that a targeted attack using a Java exploit and a Mac binary payload nailed a Twitter employee. Twitter, having a good security team was able to detect the unusual outside connection and mitigated the attack."

Kaspersky director David Emm mirrored Sullivan's sentiment noting that the breach was unlikely to have stemmed from a customer's machine.

"The origin is still unclear. In the blog announcing the attack, Twitter makes reference to disabling Java in the browser," he told V3.

"This may be good advice for anyone who doesn't need Java, but clearly this breach didn't occur because of a vulnerability on the machine of a Twitter customer."

Emm went on to praise Twitter for its proactive approach to the breach.

"It's good to see Twitter being open about the attack and taking proactive steps to try and minimise the risk to its customers by resetting passwords and revoking session tokens," he said.

"It's also good to see that passwords were not being stored in plain text."

The patch follows widespread concerns over the Java platform's security. The concerns stemmed from the discovery of an automated attack linked to the Blackhole exploit kit targeting a zero-day vulnerability in Java.

The vulnerability's discovery led to widespread calls for people not needing Java to simply turn it off.

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Alastair Stevenson

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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