Java 7 Update 21 to fix bugs, change applet warning messages

The new update will fix 42 security issues, 39 of which are remotely exploitable

Oracle will release a new version of Java on Tuesday that will include 42 security fixes and will make changes to how Web-based Java content will be presented inside browsers.

Thirty-nine of the vulnerabilities patched by the new Java 7 Update 21 (7u21) can be exploited remotely without authentication, Oracle said in a pre-release announcement. Some of them have the maximum score on the CVSS 2.0 scale used by Oracle to rate the severity of vulnerabilities.

In addition to security fixes, the new update will also make changes to how Java applets -- Web-based Java applications -- are handled and presented in Web browsers that have the Java plug-in enabled.

"The Java 7u21 release introduces changes to security messages related to running Java applets and applications," Oracle said in a technical document that explains the changes. "All Java applications executed via the user's browser will prompt the user for confirmation. The type of messages presented depends upon different risk factors such as running applications that include invalid digital certificates, and using out of date versions of Java."

The changes follow an large number of attacks this year that have used Web-based Java exploits to infect computers with malware. The company hopes that the changes will encourage developers to sign their legitimate Java applets with digital certificates issued by publicly trusted certificate authorities (CAs).

In cases where the risk of an attack is lower, like when the applet is digitally signed with a CA-issued certificate, the messages displayed to users will be minimal and there will be an option to automatically trust applications from the same vendors in the future.

However, when dealing with unsigned applets, the warning messages will contain more information that will reflect the higher security risk. Additional interaction will also be required from users who want to run such applets, Oracle said.

The company has published an overview of all use cases of signed and unsigned applets with example of how the warning dialogs will look in each case.

This new release is the result of Oracle's plan to accelerate its patching cycle for Java and will coincide with the release of security updates for other Oracle applications and middleware products that used to be updated separately.

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Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
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