RuneScape Relaunched With New Game Engine

Many will remember playing RuneScape, the game being a popular favourite way back before large multiplayer online games flooded the video game market. From the village of Lumbridge to the battlegrounds of Castle Wars, players levelled and traded all within their browser for the past fifteen years, but that is all to change with the games relaunch, featuring new game engine and all.

Using a new visual engine and game client, RuneScape will no longer be played in your browser, instead sitting on your computer awaiting your adventures. The new adventure isn’t going to just change its location with a wide range of technical improvements including support for DirectX12 and Windows 10.

The graphics are clearly on a whole different level to the pixels and blocks that once strained your eyes as you mined for copper and tin, with new draw distances, water effects and dynamic lighting and shadows now welcoming you into the world on a whole new level.

Jagex isn’t stopping with the new game client, with Jagex promising further enhancements to the game’s visuals, including the inclusion of volumetric lighting, improved animations, and higher-resolution textures.

I remember starting back on RuneScape many years ago, and the new graphics definitely look to bring the urge to boot it up again to the surface. If you’re interested you can download the new game client here.

Oracle Asks For $9.3 Billion in Copyright Trial Against Google

Google is known for many things, from the search engine that started it all to the chrome web browser that so many uses these days. One of the things Google is known for is the Android mobile operating system, something that could Oracle want a piece of in a copyright trial against Google.

The copyright claim refers to several infringements that Google made as part of 37 java API’s that were used in the creation of the Android operating system. In total, the damages Oracle are seeking come to $9.3 billion, an absolutely staggering figure that seems to dwarf even what Google made in the last quarter ($4.9 billion).

Previously the largest copyright verdict stood at $1.3 billion in a case that Oracle won against SAP in 2010. The value of $9.3 billion was figured out by using “a weighted average analysis of what Google pays to others for the contribution of their non-Android mobile platforms in connection with generating search advertising revenue”.

When it comes to code and copyright the law is a little indecisive. Some say that code can be copyrighted and protected under law, some say it can’t be. This case should set an interesting precedent, with it being the largest intellectual property verdict in history.

JavaScript Projects Were Broken After Left-Pad Was Unpublished

Tuesday afternoon and you start running your brand new JavaScript for the website you’re working on. You’ve been working on it for days and have been enjoying it working only to find it breaks. The reason your project, among hundreds of JavaScript Projects, was broken for hours because someone unpublished a piece of their work known as Left-pad.

As people create more and more complex programs they often rely on code written by others in modules or tools, in this case, the module was titled left-pad and was taken down my creator Azer Koçulu after lawyers representing instant messaging app, Kik, targeted one of Koçulu’s many modules for having the same name. While this wouldn’t cause problems for many, left-pad whose sole purpose is to pad the left-hand side of strings (or sentences) with zeroes or spaces, is used in projects like Node and Babel, most popular pieces of work that are used in many other projects themselves.

With left-pad removed from NPM (a packet manager that helps developers organise their use of other modules or packages), the projects suddenly found themselves unable to retrieve the code, ultimately falling over in style. With just under 2.5 million downloads in the last month alone according to NPM you can tell just how many projects could have been broken by a single action.

In order to solve this problem Laurie Voss, CTO and co-founder of NPM took a step that many consider unprecedented and republished the previously removed left-pad 0.0.3. This action was apparently prompted by the new owner and allowed Voss to end the day knowing that he was “sleeping fine tonight”.

Two Year Old Java Vulnerability Reappeared Thanks to Broken Patch

Back in 2013, Oracle released a patch for a critical security flaw in Java. Now it has been found that this patch was ineffectual and easily bypassed, once again making PCs and servers running even the latest version of Java vulnerable to it.

The tracking code for this flaw in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) database was CVE-2013-5838 and managed to be rated at 9.3 out of 10 by Oracle according to the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS). This vulnerability allows attackers to escape from the Java security sandbox that usually limits the code that can be run in a Java virtual machine using the Java Runtime Environment. Able to be utilized remotely without authentication allows attackers to totally compromise a target system.

Now, researchers at Security Explorations discovered that the patch used to fix the vulnerability was majorly flawed, with the proof-of-concept code from 2013 requiring a change of only 4 characters in order to bypass it. The full details of the ability to bypass the patch were documented in a full technical report released by Security Explorations.

The versions of Java affected by this flaw include all of the latest versions: Java SE 7 Update 97, Java SE 8 Update 74 and Java SE 9 Early Access Build 108. Additionally, Oracle’s original advisory stating that CVE-2013-5838 only affected client deployments of Java and is exploited through “sandboxed Java Web Start applications and sandboxed Java applets.” Security Explorations CEO Adam Gowdiak explained that this was incorrect, stating that “We verified that it could be successfully exploited in a server environment as well as in Google App Engine for Java.”

While attackers would still require an additional vulnerability in order to bypass the security prompts that feature in newer versions of Java, it is easily possible that victims could be convinced to allow the malicious applet to run.

Unlike many firms, Security Explorations did not report the issue to Oracle prior to releasing it publicly. Gowdiak stated that “We do not tolerate broken fixes any more,” and that there would be full public releases whenever broken vulnerability fixes are found. Oracle are yet to respond to the report, with it currently unknown if an emergency update will occur to patch the issue, or whether it will remain in place until the next quarterly Critical Patch Update, on April 19.

Oracle is Killing Off Java

Outdated browser plugin Java is finally being pulled, Oracle has announced. Java will be slowly phased out, beginning with a deprecation of the plugin starting with JDK 9. The advent of HTML5 means that buggy and insecure browser plugins, such as Flash and Java, are no longer required, with Google Chrome already suspending use of Java last year. Adobe has made a similar move, rebranding Flash and shifting toward HTML5.

“By late 2015, many browser vendors have either removed or announced timelines for the removal of standards based plugin support, eliminating the ability to embed Flash, Silverlight, Java and other plugin based technologies,” Oracle’s announcement on its blog reads. “With modern browser vendors working to restrict and reduce plugin support in their products, developers of applications that rely on the Java browser plugin need to consider alternative options such as migrating from Java Applets (which rely on a browser plugin) to the plugin-free Java Web Start technology.”

“Oracle plans to deprecate the Java browser plugin in JDK 9. This technology will be removed from the Oracle JDK and JRE in a future Java SE release,” the post continues. “Early Access releases of JDK 9 are available for download and testing at http://jdk9.java.net. More background and information about different migration options can be found in this short whitepaper from Oracle.”

Oracle’s Java Code to Be Removed from Future Android Versions

Today Google confirmed that the next version of their Android Operating System, Android N, would not be making use of Oracle’s Java Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and instead they would be replaced by their OpenJDK equivalents in all future versions of Android. While Google states that this change will make the development of Android applications easier in future, it is also likely related to Google’s legal battle with Oracle relating to Google’s use of its Java APIs.

The switch from Oracle to OpenJDK was first spotted last month due to a commit made to the Android open source repository, clearly showing changes to a massive 8092 files and the commit message documenting the initial addition of OpenJDK code to the repository. Now Google has gone public with the change, making this statement to Venturebeat:

“As an open-source platform, Android is built upon the collaboration of the open-source community. In our upcoming release of Android, we plan to move Android’s Java language libraries to an OpenJDK-based approach, creating a common code base for developers to build apps and services. Google has long worked with and contributed to the OpenJDK community, and we look forward to making even more contributions to the OpenJDK project in the future.”

So while Google’s official line on the matter is that it allows for easier development of applications by developers and allows the community to give more back to OpenJDK, which is impossible with a proprietary product such as Oracle Java, it is unlikely this is the only reason for the switch, else would Google not have done it sooner?

That leaves the matter of Google and Oracle’s ongoing legal battle over the Google’s use of Java APIs, with Oracle claiming that Google had misused their APIs, which are their property, and Google maintaining that the use of the APIs should be protected for software innovation purposes and could not be copyrighted. Since 2010, this legal battle has raged back and forth, with verdicts being handed down and overturned. This switch to OpenJDK could indicate an out-of-court settlement between the companies that has yet to come to light, or that Google are simply insuring themselves in case they lose the legal war and by then would have already instigated the change away from Oracle APIs.

Even if the result of the lawsuit could be made somewhat moot by Google no longer using Oracle’s APIs, the result could have wider ramifications on the software industry on the whole, should code vendors be allowed to consider parts of their code copyrighted, it could spark a whole new blaze of copyright wars over the use of programming languages and tools. At least for the everyday Android developer, the switch to OpenJDK may make future application development for Android a little simpler; how strongly this will affect the backwards compatibility of newer apps remains to be seen.

One Java With An Added PUP Please

Critical security updates to applications are essential to maintain a patched system from the many exploits which attempt to infiltrate ones PC. Certain software companies need patching more than others and this is no less evident with both Adobe Flash and Oracle Java, the aforementioned needs fixing every five minutes and the latter, well, is probably better uninstalled altogether. On the subject of Java, many websites are using a trick which promises an update but also bundles are PUP for good measure.

So, what are the tricks, well, when a user attempts to view content which requires a Java plugin on certain websites, a pop up appears stating that they should update their version of Java. By following the prompt the user lands on various pages unconnected with Java, for example one page is coined “Media Downloader”. The user is then asked to both downloaded and install a “setup.exe” file which turns out to be a PUP.  Quick tangent here, a novice computer user once asked me if it would download a dog, I replied PUP not Puppy, not joking either.

There are other techniques too, one masquerades on a webpage as a standard Java pop up update notification, further examination shows this is in fact a background image and not a pop up. If you click on this you might receive among others a bundler which offers Java but also others including Norton 360 (terrible program) PC Mechanic and for some reason Stormfall Age of War. This though can be avoided by checking the UAC prompt which lists this .exe file as from Verified Publisher “Super IS Fried Cookie Ltd”, sounds about as authentic as a fast food burger, mentioning no names.

As standard, make sure any software applications are downloaded from authentic sources, if you visit a page that promises an update, be cautious, check the URL and as an extra precaution, always scan downloaded files with a reputable Anti-Virus and if possible a Malware scanner as well. Quick side note, these days viruses are becoming harder to detect by AV companies, therefore, while it’s essential to have these suites available, always download from authentic sources and be sceptical.

Of course, if you don’t use Java then it might be better to uninstall it considering the amount of security issues it has faced over the last few years.

Image courtesy of limewheel

Yahoo Trying to Trick Java Users into Switching Search Engines

Do you use Yahoo Search? No? Me neither. But Yahoo is hoping to change that via trickery. The internet giant has teamed up with Oracle to backdoor Yahoo Search as your default search engine when installing Java. The deal was announced by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer on Wednesday and will come into effect later this month.

According to Oracle, Java is installed on 89% of desktop computers in the US, and billions of devices around the world, including mobile phones and smart TVs, which by proxy could give Yahoo a huge market boost in its effort to expand the reach of its search engine.

Yahoo has been making steps to increase the userbase of its search engine which, while once popular over a decade ago, is now lagging behind Google, and even Microsoft’s Bing, as the internet’s search engine of choice. A deal with Mozilla, making Yahoo Search the default browser for the Firefox internet browser, was greeted by groans, and this new Java deal is set for an equally negative reaction, potentially rendering Yahoo’s efforts counterproductive.

In truth, the stealth defaulting to Yahoo Search is rather transparent: a checked tickbox that can be opted out of. So, if you tend to click ‘next’ without reviewing what you are agreeing with, you deserve to be a Yahoo user. It’s an unethical tactic, using bundling in order to proliferate your product, but one that responsible computer users can easily sidestep.

Thank you Wall Street Journal for providing us with this information.

Ask Toolbar Targetted by Microsoft as High Threat Malware

Microsoft looks to be serious about making their Windows platform more safe and secure after years of being derided as being malware prone. In its latest move, Microsoft has branded the notorious Ask Toolbar as a piece of malware. As many of you who might have to clean relatives and friend’s computers, the Ask Toolbar can often be found installed in Internet Explorer. While there are many problematic toolbars, Ask Toolbar is noted in particular due to it’s bundling with Java.

Being branded as malware means that Ask Toolbar will be removed by Microsoft’s security software. For Windows 8.1 that means Windows Defender while Windows 7 and Vista will be served by Microsoft Security Essentials. Microsoft has taken issue with the fact that the Ask Toolbar restricts a users control over their search provider. It also attempts to restrict or block users from changing their search provider and tries to get the user to revert back to Ask if a change is made. It’s important to note that Microsoft is not targeting the current version of Ask Toolbar which is apparently less egregious, focusing only on the older versions.

While viruses and other malicious malware are frequently the target, the increased attention to adware, crapware and PUP (Potentially Unwanted Program) is much-needed. We’ve all seen Internet Explorer cluttered by numerous toolbars and if Microsoft wants to improve change their image, this is a much-needed change.

New Google Chrome Update Will No Longer Support Java

Chrome Version 42; The answer to life, the universe and everything?

Not for much longer as Google have deprecated NPAPI, NPAPI stands for Netscape Plug-in API. A feature of Chrome to allow extensions to interface with the local machine.

This doesn’t come as a surprise though, Google started their efforts to remove support more than a year ago. Google have kept the option to re-enable the support for NPAPI of you really, really need it, however, they do plan to remove the functionality as of September this year.

The disabling of this feature will mean a large impact to several extensions and plugins that are available for the browser, such as Java. Chrome will now refuse to run the Java plugin as default. Severely minimizing the attack vector against the browser and more importantly, your personal data.

Apps have now started to be removed from the Google Web Store now. Google state the following:

“In April 2015 (Chrome 42) NPAPI support will be disabled by default in Chrome and we will unpublish extensions requiring NPAPI plugins from the Chrome Web Store. All NPAPI plugins will appear as if they are not installed, as they will not appear in the navigator.plugins list nor will they be instantiated (even as a placeholder). Although plugin vendors are working hard to move to alternate technologies, a small number of users still rely on plugins that haven’t completed the transition yet. We will provide an override for advanced users (via chrome://flags/#enable-npapi) and enterprises (via Enterprise Policy) to temporarily re-enable NPAPI (via the page action UI) while they wait for mission-critical plugins to make the transition. In addition, setting any of the plugin Enterprise policies (e.g. EnabledPlugins, PluginsAllowedForUrls) will temporarily re-enable NPAPI.”

The team are not the only people pushing for the end of Java in the web browser. The developers of Minecraft and the US government have taken serious steps to mitigate user exposure to the exploits of Java vulnerabilities.

Thanks to TheRegister for this information

Image courtesy of ikinja

Simda Botnet Taken Down After Affecting 777,000 PC’s Worldwide

Sidma has been around for the past 6 months, causing pain to PC owners across the world. It infected 128,000 computers each month – a phenomenal rate for a botnet. The bot changed into a new undetectable form every few hours; making it almost impossible to detect with standard antivirus products.It controlled more than 777,000 computers across 190 countries, stealing people’s bank credentials and creating more backdoors to install other malware.

The creators used a variety of methods and utilities to infect targets across the internet. It made use of known vulnerabilities in software including Java, Adobe Flash and Silverlight. The exploits were coded into websites by injecting the code via even more vulnerabilities in their SQL software. Another method called Social Engineering was used, mainly in the form of Spam e-mails.

The US had the most infected machines with around 22% of the botnets infections, closely followed by the UK. Turkey with 5% and Canada and Russia with 4% of the infections.

The bot was surprisingly simple in terms of how it worked. The bot used the computer host file to change where the internet traffic of the infected device went. Normal websites such as Facebook, Google and Twitter’s traffic was being re-directed to servers under control of the hackers. In most cases the infected file remained after antivirus software had removed the infection; this meant that the hackers could still see information being sent to their servers.

The final blow against the creators of the botnet was when the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation co-ordinated  based in Singapore. It involved the FBI, Dutch National High Tech Crime Unit and the Russian Ministry of the interiors crime department. The take down happened all over the globe last Thursday and Friday, resulting in 14 control servers being seized.

If you want to check if you have been infected by the Simda botnet then Kaspersky have a site available here to check.

Thanks to Kaspersky and Artstechnica for this information

Image courtesy of guim.co.uk

Latest Java Update Trolls Mac Users with Annoying Adware

Java is one of the most used platforms on all major operating system nowadays. It is even required by some websites to be able to load and display their applets, giving you a rich browsing experience. However, its latest update seems to want to dictate which search engine we are using when browsing the Internet.

The latest update for Java is said to ‘automatically’ install a web browser add-on for Ask.com, an alternative search engine such as Bing, Google, Duck Duck Go, etc., as well as defaulting your browser’s home page to the Ask.com webpage. Windows users have been plagued by something similar in the past, but now it looks like the adware is targeting Mac users.

Ask.com features can be skipped during the installation, but knowing how companies tend to put such software ticking options enabled and ‘well hidden’, most users don’t even realise they are being installed until they are on the system or notices the computer running slow. Oracle, the distributor of Java, is said to have not responded to requests for comment so far.

Thank you CNN Money for providing us with this information

Why do Android Phones Need So Much RAM?

A question that has haunted Apple and Android fans for years has now been answered. Why do iPhones get by on 1GB of RAM while most Android handsets need an extra 1 or 2GB?

Well Glyn Williams on Quora thinks he has the answer. Apparently Android apps rely on Java which utilises a process called “garbage collection”. This is essentially the recycling of memory used up by apps that have been closed. These processes require 4 to 8 times the amount of memory being used, which in turn slows things down considerably when there isn’t enough RAM available to meet the request.

This also usurps the power consumption of the device, suggesting why iPhones can last so long on standby (about 10 days). Glyn’s post on the question-and-answer site has more than 3000 upvotes, including ones from ex-Google employee Kevin X Chang and Jeff Harris who is apparently a Project Manager on Google Glass. 

Source: Phone Arena

Japanese Adult Websites Could Infect Your Computer with Malware

People visiting adult websites is nothing out of the common, having it be a normal occurrence from time to time. However, those of you attempting to visit a Japanese adult website should know that cyber criminals are attempting to infect your computer just by visiting the website.

A report made by ESET reveals that the malware targets Microsoft Internet Explorer users, having users be redirected to an exploit page that will take advantage of a Java vulnerability. Needless to say, other browsers could be affected by the vulnerability as well. Therefore, Japanese adult websites should be avoided even if using a different browser like Google Chrome or Firefox for example.

The website is said to redirect users to a common Error 404 page, which usually indicates that the page does not exist. Users are tempted to close the page and no harm done. At least that’s what everybody thinks. The truth is, the code behind it all is said to trigger a malicious Java applet that will remain in the system even after the page has been closed.

To be noted is that the Java vulnerability in question is said to have been patched by Oracle back in 2013. However, the hackers might be relying on the fact that many users are not patching their software to the latest versions thinking that they are safe and exploits do not affect them. This is not the case, since hackers are always out to find and exploit even the most tricky vulnerability they could find, therefore it is a good idea to keep all your software up to date. Those who have not updated their Java to the latest version should do it by visiting Oracle’s Java web page here.

Thank you Ubergizmo for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Ubergizmo

Hide Your Windows, Mac And Linux Devices, ‘Cause Java-based Malware Is Coming!

We have seen similar incidents in the past, may it be ad-related such as the Yahoo! incident, or directly involving the Java platform. It has been reported that a Java-based malware bot is currently ‘roaming’ around, infecting all three major operating systems: Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

Researchers have revealed a fragment of botnet malware that is capable of infecting the latter mentioned OSes, being a cross-platform HEUR:Backdoor.Java.Agent.a, having been reported in a blog post published by Kaspersky Lab. It reportedly takes control of computers by exploiting CVE-2013-2465, a critical Java vulnerability which Oracle patched last June.

The Java vulnerability is said to be present on Java 7 Update 21 and earlier versions. Once the malware has infected the computer, it copies itself to the autostart directory of its respective platform to ensure it runs at every startup. Compromised computers then report to an Internet relay chat channel that acts as a command and control server.

It is reportedly designed to generate Distributed-Denial-of-Service, or DDnS, which targets the attacker wants to designate as a ‘target’, having it packed with ‘features’ such as setting the IP address, port number, intensity, and duration of attacks. The malware is said to be written entirely in Java, allowing it to run on Windows OS X and Linux machines. To make matters even worse, the bot incorporates PircBot, an IRC programming interface based on Java.

In addition to all that, the malware also is said to use Zelix Klassmaster obfuscator to prevent it from being reverse engineered by whitehat and competing blackhat hackers. Apart from obfuscating bytecode, Zelix encrypts some of the inner workings of the malware. It is extremely recommended to update to the latest Java 7 Update 51 found on Oracle’s official website here.

Thank you arstechnica for providing us with this inforamtion
Image courtesy of arstechnica

Yahoo Malware Attack Reportedly More Far-Reaching Than Previously Thought

Yahoo has reported a while back that on January the 3rd, their website has been infected with ad-related malware content. The FoxIT security company reported that the UK, France and Romania were the countries who suffered heavily due to this attack, but further details prove more to it.

First of all, Yahoo stated this Friday that the attack took palace between December 27th and January 3rd, not only on January the 3rd as previously thought. This widens the window of malware infection, and also confirms the fact that more than 2 million PCs may have been infected. Also, Yahoo said that people outside Europe may have been hit by the infected ads before they could do something about it. Anyone using the Yahoo Mail or IM services during that time frame may have been served malware which exploits vulnerabilities in Java and had installed a variety of malware-related software.

Another security company based in the United States called Light Cyber said that one of the malware present in Yahoo’s ad network was designed to link infected PCs and form a Bitcoin mining operation. Other exploits involve theft of usernames and passwords, disabling antivirus software and remote control of computers. To be noted is that Mac computers or mobile devices were not harmed by the software, only PCs, laptops and netbooks running on Windows-based operating systems were vulnerable to the attack.

Yahoo has released some precautionary steps to take in order to prevent and detect further infection by the malware in cause:

Thank you Cnet for providing us with this information

Homeless Man Launches His First Mobile App After NYC Man Teaches Him Java

Patrick McConlogue of the website Medium had a idea last August that involved a homeless man he had met while he was heading to work. The homeless man called Leo goes by the nickname “Journeyman” and to Patrick, he seemed a smart and driven character who had just fallen on hard times. Patrick decided to give the man something, either $100 right now that he can take away and spend however he likes, or three JavaScript books, a cheap laptop and one-hour of coding lessons a day for eight weeks.

“He told me I could have a laptop and learn how to do something and I figured it could turn into something more. It’s not like I don’t have the time to learn to do it.” – Leo

Leo took the latter option, learned to program and has been working on his own mobile app called Go Green. In the 8 weeks he has been learning to code he has become quite the popular man, being interviewed by Business Insider, Mashable and a few others, not to mentioning visiting the nearby Google NYC offices who were kind enough to let him charge his laptop there.

Leo’s story is far from over, his app is about to go public, his fame in on the rise and as far as we know, he is still actually homeless too. For more updates on Leo’s progress, there is an official Facebook page setup to keep track of him and his app.

“Life can still be good even if you’re homeless. I don’t need a million dollars to be happy.” – Leo

Thank you PSFK for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of PSFK.