Quickly patching vulnerable software is key to keeping computer systems secure. Yet, consumers are increasingly leaving their systems open to attack by failing to patch two ubiquitous third-party programs: Oracle’s Java and Adobe’s Flash.
Over the past five quarters, the portion of U.S. Java users with unpatched versions of the program on their systems increased to 50 percent at the end of 2014, up from 44 percent in Fall, 2013, according to data from vulnerability management firm Secunia. A similar, if slightly muted trend, affects U.S. users of Adobe Flash: The portion of users with older versions of the program reached 24 percent at the end of 2015, slightly up from five quarters earlier.
Programs like Java and Flash, which run on many different operating systems are “gifts to hackers,” said Kasper Lindgaard, director of research and security for Secunia.
“They run on all different kinds of operating systems, so if there is a vulnerability, the attackers can use it on every target,” he said.
No wonder, then, that the creators and users of key cybercriminal tools, known as exploit kits, regularly focus on both Java and Flash. While the number of attacks from exploit kits has declined since the 2013 arrest of the group suspected of being behind the popular Blackhole exploit kit, a number of other popular kits have popped up, and almost every one has included exploits for Adobe’s Flash, Oracle’s Java or both.
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