Despite the significant Java security improvements made by Oracle during the past six months, Java vulnerabilities continue to represent a major security risk for organizations because most of them have outdated versions of the software installed on their systems, according to a report by security firm Bit9.
Bit9's report was released Thursday and is based on data about Java usage collected from approximately 1 million enterprise endpoint systems owned by almost 400 organizations that use the company's software reputation service.
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The data shows that Java 6 is the most prevalent major version of Java in enterprise environments, present on more than 80 percent of enterprise computers that have Java installed.
Java 6 reached the end of public support in April, and only Oracle customers with a long-term support contract will continue to receive security updates for it. Java 7, the version that is the focus of Oracle's recent security strengthening efforts, was only found on around 15 percent of endpoint systems sampled by Bit9.
Furthermore, most companies that run Java 6 on their systems don't have the latest security updates for it, the security firm found.
The most widely deployed Java version, according to Bit9's data, was Java 6 Update 20, which was installed on a little over 9 percent of endpoints. This version of Java is vulnerable to a total of 215 security issues, 96 of which have the maximum impact score on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) scale, Bit9 said.
The last publicly available security update for Java 6 is Java 6 Update 45, which was released in April at the same time as Java 7 Update 21, the latest version of Java available when Bit9 collected data for its report.
Only 3 percent of enterprise endpoint systems were running Java 7 Update 21, the company said. However, those endpoints belonged to only 0.25 percent of the sampled organizations, which seems to indicate that organizations with a larger number of endpoints are more likely to have the latest version of Java installed on their systems.
Another issue is that many enterprise systems have multiple versions of Java running on them. Around 42 percent of systems had more than two versions of Java installed at the same time, and approximately 20 percent had more than three versions.
According to Bit9's report, on average organizations have more than 50 distinct versions of Java installed in their environments. About 5 percent of organizations have more than 100 versions.
This problem mainly stems from how the Java installation and updating process deals with older versions.
The Java 7 updater will attempt to remove existing installations of Java 6, but a clean installation of Java 7 won't remove older versions, said Harry Sverdlove, Bit9's CTO. Java 5 versions are not removed during Java 7's installation or update processes, he said.
The Bit9 data showed that 93 percent of organizations have a version of Java on some of their systems that's at least five years old. Fifty-one percent have a version that's between five and 10 years old.