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TUCoPS :: Unix :: General :: cert0112.txt

CERT Advisory CA-96.07 java bytecode verifier


CERT(sm) Advisory CA-96.07
Original issue date: March 29, 1996
Last revised: August 30, 1996
              Information previously in the README was inserted
              into the advisory.

              A complete revision history is at the end of this file.

Topic: Weaknesses in Java Bytecode Verifier
- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The CERT Coordination Center has received reports of weaknesses in the
bytecode verifier portion of Sun Microsystems' Java Development Kit (JDK)
versions 1.0 and 1.0.1. The JDK is built into Netscape Navigator 2.0 and 2.01.
We have not received reports of the exploitation of this vulnerability.

When applets written with malicious intent are viewed, those applets can
perform any operation that the legitimate user can perform on the machine
running the browser. For example, a maliciously written applet could remove
files from the machine on which the browser is running--but only if the
legitimate user could also.

Problem applets have to be specifically written with malicious intent, and
users are at risk only when connecting to "untrusted" web pages. If you use
Java-enabled products on a closed network or browse the World Wide Web but
never connect to "untrusted" web pages, you are not affected.

The CERT staff recommends disabling Java in Netscape Navigator and not using
Sun's appletviewer to browse applets from untrusted sources until patches are
available from these vendors. We further recommend upgrading to Netscape 2.02
but still disabling Java and JavaScript if you don't need these programs.

We will update this advisory as we receive additional information.
Please check advisory files regularly for updates that relate to your site.

- -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

I.   Description

     The Java Programming Language is designed to allow an executable
     computer program, called an applet, to be attached to a page viewable
     by a World Wide Web browser. When a user browsing the Web visits that
     page, the applet is automatically downloaded onto the user's machine
     and executed, but only if Java is enabled.

     It is possible for an applet to generate and execute raw machine code
     on the machine where the browser is running. This means that a
     maliciously written applet can perform any action that the legitimate
     user can perform; for example, an applet can read, delete, or change
     files that the user owns. Because applets are loaded and run
     automatically as a side-effect of visiting a Web page, someone could 
     "booby-trap" their Web page and compromise the machine of anyone visiting
     the page. This is the problem described in the Wall Street Journal on
     March 26, 1996 ("Researchers Find Big Security Flaw in Java Language," by
     Don Clark).  

     Note: The security enhancements announced by Sun Microsystems in
           JDK version 1.0.1 and by Netscape Communications in Netscape
           Navigator version 2.01 do *not* fix this flaw.

II.  Impact

     If Java is enabled and a Web page containing a maliciously written
     applet is viewed by any of the vulnerable browsers or Sun's appletviewer,
     that applet can perform any operation that the legitimate user can
     perform. For example, the applet could read, delete, or in other ways
     corrupt the user's files and any other files the user has access to, such
     as /etc/passwd. 

III. Solution

     We recommend obtaining vendor patches as soon as they become available.
     Until you can install the patches, we urge you to apply the workarounds
     described below.

     A. Java Development Kit users 

        Sun reports that source-level fixes will be supplied to source
        licensees in the next few days. The fixes will also be included in
        the next JDK version, v1.0.2, which will be released within the next
        several weeks. 

        The JDK itself is a development kit, and it can safely be used to
        develop applets and applications. If you choose to use the
        appletviewer as a rudimentary browser, do not use it to browse
        applets from untrusted sources until you have installed the v1.0.2

     B. Netscape users 

        Upgrade to Netscape version 2.02, which addresses the Java Bytecode
        Verifier problems discussed in the advisory.
        Until you can do so, if you use Netscape 2.0 or 2.01, disable Java
        using the "Security Preferences" dialog box. You do not need to
        disable JavaScript as part of this workaround.

        After you update to version 2.02, you should still disable Java and
        JavaScript if these programs are not being used.  (This also applies
        to Netscape Version 3.0b4.)  Note that in order to display Netscape's
        home page, you must have JavaScript enabled. 
        For the latest news about fixes for Netscape Navigator, consult
        the following for details:


        Netscape 2.02 and additional information about it are available from


IV.  Information for HotJava (alpha3) users

     Sun Microsystems has provided the following information for users of
     HotJava (alpha3). 

          Sun made available last year a demonstration version of a browser
          called "HotJava." That version (alpha3) is proof-of-concept 
          software only, not a product. HotJava (alpha3) uses an entirely
          different security architecture from JDK 1.0 or JDK 1.0.1. It will
          not be tested for any reported security vulnerabilities that it
          might be susceptible to, and Sun neither supports it nor recommends
          its use as a primary browser. When HotJava is released as a product,
          it will be based on an up-to-date version of the JDK and fully

V.  Information for Macintosh users

    Macintosh version 2.01 does not support Java, so there is nothing to
    disable as part of the solution to the problems described in this

- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
The CERT Coordination Center thanks Drew Dean, Ed Felten, and Dan Wallach of
Princeton University for providing information for this advisory. We thank
Netscape Communications Corporation and Sun Microsystems, Inc. for their
response to this problem.
- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you believe that your system has been compromised, contact the CERT
Coordination Center or your representative in the Forum of Incident
Response and Security Teams (FIRST).

We strongly urge you to encrypt any sensitive information you send by email.
The CERT Coordination Center can support a shared DES key and PGP. Contact the
CERT staff for more information. 

Location of CERT PGP key

CERT Contact Information
- ------------------------

Phone    +1 412-268-7090 (24-hour hotline)
                CERT personnel answer 8:30-5:00 p.m. EST
                (GMT-5)/EDT(GMT-4), and are on call for
                emergencies during other hours.

Fax      +1 412-268-6989

Postal address
        CERT Coordination Center
        Software Engineering Institute
        Carnegie Mellon University
        Pittsburgh PA 15213-3890

CERT publications, information about FIRST representatives, and other
security-related information are available for anonymous FTP from

CERT advisories and bulletins are also posted on the USENET newsgroup

To be added to our mailing list for CERT advisories and bulletins, send your
email address to

Copyright 1996 Carnegie Mellon University
This material may be reproduced and distributed without permission provided it
is used for noncommercial purposes and the copyright statement is included.

CERT is a service mark of Carnegie Mellon University.

Revision history

Aug. 30, 1996  Information previously in the README was inserted into the
June 26, 1996  Introduction - added a note about Netscape 2.02.
               Sec. III.B - added a pointer to Netscape 2.02 and a
               recommendation about disabling Java and JavaScript.
Apr. 1, 1996   Sec. III.B - added a note about viewing Netscape's home page. 
               Sec. V - added this section for Macintosh users.

Version: 2.6.2


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