Apple updates Java after malware spreads

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One day after security researchers spotted active exploits taking advantage of gaping vulnerability in Java software running on Mac OS X machines, Apple released a fix.

The update, for both Lion (10.7.3) and Snow Leopard (10.6.8) versions of the platform, closes a dozen holes in Java 1.6.0_29, "the most serious of which may allow an untrusted Java applet to execute arbitrary code outside the Java sandbox," according to Apple. That presumably refers to CVE-2012-0507, which researchers at F-Secure said Monday was being used to spread the latest variant of the password-stealing Flashback trojan.

Computers can be infected simply by users visiting a malicious web page, a scenario known as a drive-by download.

Apple acted quickly after the reports of in-the-wild exploits began surfacing. However, the computing giant waited roughly six weeks to push the patches -- released by Oracle in mid-February -- for Mac OS X.

Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of vulnerability management firm Qualys, on Tuesday urged administrators to apply the update as soon as possible.

"In addition, Mac users and IT admins for Macs should review whether Java is actually needed for their usage," he said in an email to SCMagazine.com. "If not, Java can be disabled through the 'Java Preferences' program. Just uncheck 64-bit and 32-bit versions."

Unpatched Java deployments are one of the largest malware threats facing enterprises today, according to Microsoft.

And now Macs, not just Windows machines, appear to be in the cross-hairs.

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