[ISN] First Virus Written In Java Found

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Fri Aug 21 1998 - 15:52:52 PDT

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    First Virus Written In Java Found
    (08/20/98; 5:36 p.m. ET)
    By Andy Patrizio, TechWeb 
    It was inevitable. 
    If Java could be used to write cross-platform applications, then someone
    would likely find a way to cause cross-platform havoc with a Java-based
    The Symantec Antivirus Research Center (SARC) has found the first such
    virus, but the good news is it can't hurt Web surfers.
    The research center's automated virus-hunting engine, called Seeker, found
    the virus during a routine scan of websites. The virus, called Strange
    Brew, is just an infector. It spreads itself from one Java application to
    another, and it can jump from anything from a Network Computer to an IBM
    S/390 mainframe.
    "This is just proof of concept," said Kerry Nachenberg, chief researcher
    at SARC, in Santa Monica, Calif. "The guy is showing it can be done, and
    he was the first to do it."
    The virus affects only Java applications, not applets run inside a
    browser. Because the Java Virtual Machine has built-in security measures
    -- such as not allowing applets to access to the hard disk or modifying
    applications -- Strange Brew can't get at other Java code. 
    The Java Virtual Machine will kill the Strange Brew virus because it's
    trying to do something it shouldn't, said Nachenberg. "So the main point
    is users shouldn't be afraid of this because it cannot affect users as
    they surf the Web," he said. 
    Because Strange Brew functions differently than standard non-Java viruses,
    anti-virus programs can't detect it even with a new definition file. A new
    executable is needed to detect it, which Symantec said it will make
    available for download through the LiveUpdate function in Norton
    Full-blown applications don't have the same restrictions as applets
    because they need to perform certain functions, like disk access, which is
    why the Java Virtual Machine security measures don't work, Nachenberg
    There will inevitably be more viruses written in Java, said Peter Tippit,
    president of the International Computer Security Association, an
    anti-virus research firm in Carlisle, Penn. But he said that of the
    near-20,000 viruses his company has found, roughly 300 have caused any
    havoc in companies because very few can actually survive.
    "For a virus to be an issue, it has to have a few properties," he said.
    "It has to fit into the ecology of the current computing environment, and
    Strange Brew doesn't fit into the ecology of the way viruses have to move
    to live."
    Nachenberg, however, doesn't think there will be a big outbreak of Java
    viruses. "Not too many people use Java applications," he said. "But should
    they find a security hole in the [Java Virtual Machine], then it could be
    more of a threat."
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