The log4j vulnerability is considered the “most serious security breach ever” in terms of the number of services, sites and devices exposed.
What is log4j?
Log4j is a chunk of code that helps software applications keep track of their past activities. Instead of reinventing a “logging” — or record-keeping — component each time developers build new software, they often use existing code like log4j instead. It’s free on the Internet and very widely used, appearing in a huge swath of Internet services.
A few weeks ago, the cybersecurity community realized that by simply asking the program to log a line of malicious code, it would effectively let bad actors grab control of servers that are running log4j. Experts say it’s the biggest software vulnerability of all time in terms of the number of services, sites and devices exposed.
Computer programmers and security experts have been working night and day since the vulnerability was publicized to fix it in whatever piece of software they’re responsible for. Hackers have been working just as hard as the security experts to exploit log4j before the bug gets patched. Hackers have already tried to use it to get into nearly half of all corporate networks around the world.
Why is this vulnerability such a big deal?
Log4j is part of the Java programming language, which is one of the foundational ways software has been written since the mid-90s. Huge swaths of the computer code that modern life runs on use Java and contain log4j.
Cloud storage companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft, which provide the digital backbone for millions of other apps, are affected. So are giant software sellers whose programs are used by millions, such as IBM, Oracle and Salesforce. Devices that connect to the Internet such as TVs and security cameras are at risk as well.
The vulnerability is straightforward to take advantage of and gives hackers access to the heart of whatever system they’re trying to get into, cutting past all the typical defenses software companies throw up to block attacks. Overall, it’s a cybersecurity expert’s nightmare.
How are Hackers Taking Advantage of the Bug?
The vulnerability gives ransomware attackers a fresh way to break into computer networks and freeze out their owners. Devices that connect to the Internet such as TVs and security cameras are at risk as well. Hackers who try to break into digital spaces to steal information or plant malicious software suddenly have a massive new opportunity to try to get into nearly anywhere they want. That doesn’t mean everything will be hacked, but it just got a lot easier to do so.
To take advantage of the vulnerability, hackers have to deliver malicious code to a service running log4j. Phishing emails — those messages that try to trick you into clicking a link or opening an attachment — are one way to do so.
How Should Consumers Respond?
The best thing regular computer users can do is make sure the apps they use are updated to their most recent versions. Developers will be sending out patches over the coming days to fix any log4j issues, and downloading those quickly will be important.
For the most part, consumers should just wait and let the experts fix their software programs. And keep an eye out for an influx of phishing messages in the coming days.
If you get an email saying that your account has been compromised or your package failed to deliver, don’t open any links or attachments. First, make sure you actually have an account with that company or were expecting mail from that carrier. Then, find a real customer service number or address online and reach out that way.
How is the Industry Responding?
Computer programmers and security experts have been working night and day since the vulnerability was publicized to fix it in whatever piece of software they’re responsible for.
Not everyone will fix the problem in the first place. Getting an entire industry to update a specific piece of software quickly is next to impossible. Many companies won’t end up doing it, or will think they aren’t affected when really they are. That means log4j could be a problem for years to come.
In general, consumers should just wait and let the experts fix their software programs.
If you are concerned about the log4j and its effects on your business and employees, please reach out to ACE IT Solutions at 646.558.5575 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We can make sure you have the cybersecurity measures in place to help minimize the risk of hackers accessing your systems.