New features aim to shore up Java’s flagging security

Oracle has added new features to Java designed to make it harder for hacked or malicious websites to carry out drive-by malware attacks that exploit underlying vulnerabilities in the widely used software framework.

As Ars reported Wednesday, some security experts say the growing prevalence of attack code exploiting flaws that will never be fixed in an older, widely used version is one factor causing the security of Java to take a dangerous turn for the worse. That's largely the result of Oracle's move in April to stop issuing security updates for Java version 6. Many large companies still use the older release because their Java apps don't work on the latest one, putting the enterprises in the difficult position of choosing compatibility over the security of their employee desktop computers. Apple, Facebook, and Twitter are just some of the companies that have experienced breaches in the past year that targeted Java running on employee computers.

A new feature in Java 7 Update 40 is aimed at ameliorating this predicament. It's a change to the local security policy that allows large customers to specify a limited number of apps that will run on older versions of Java. Now known as a deployment rule set, the new instructions use a digitally signed certificate to whitelist specific apps, often referred to as JARs or java archive files. Those not on the list will be dropped, or possibly run on the latest Java version.

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