Cybercriminals have released password-stealing malware that exploits a Java vulnerability Apple has been slow to fix, despite knowing about the security flaw since at least February.
A variant of the Flashback malware that takes advantage of the well-known vulnerability has been spotted on the internet, Helsinki, Finland-based F-Secure reported Monday. Oracle, which controls the Java platform, released an update in February that patched the flaw for Windows. Apple, which handles all Java updates on the Mac, has yet to follow suit.
Apple did not respond to requests for comment.
To avoid infection, F-Secure advised disabling Java on the Mac. "Please do so before this thing really becomes an outbreak," the vendor said. F-Secure has published a how-to on disabling Java.
Flashback, which targets the Safari and Firefox web browsers, is designed to steal passwords to online banking and other web sites visited by users of an infected Mac. The first version of the malware, discovered last September by security vendor Intego, disguised itself as an Adobe Flash Player installer that appeared when a person visited a malicious website. Several variants of the malware have been found on the Internet since the initial discovery.
Cybercriminals have been busy preparing to take advantage of the vulnerabilities listed in Oracle's latest patch release. Security vendor Rapid7 says from 60 percent to 80 percent of computers are running older versions of Java.
Last week, an updated version of BlackHole, a software toolkit popular among cyber-criminals, was discovered with malicious code targeting the Java vulnerabilities addressed by Oracle. The kit, typically installed in a hacked or malicious website, is capable of attacking multiple plug-ins in the browsers of people visiting the site.