Log4Shell, an online susceptibility that impacts millions of systems through the almost universally used open source software Log4j. Log4j helps to record all activities under the hood of a computer device using log data and is used by the biggest names in the technology sector. The Director of US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, Jen Easterly, marked Log4Shell as the biggest vulnerability she’s ever seen.
Thousands of attempts have already been made to exploit this susceptibility and the impact will continue for months and years ahead. In this post we discuss the attack, and how you can secure your systems against a similar attack in the future. So, what is Log4j, and how do hackers exploit it?
Function of Log4j
Log4j helps record activities, errors, system functions, and communicates diagnostic messages to administrators. A typical example of when we’ve all unknowingly seen Log4j in action is when you type or click a bad internet link, and a 404 error message is displayed. So, the web servers communicate with you and tell you that no such webpage exists. Log4j records this activity in a log file and makes it available to the administrators.
Log4j is universal
Logging is a basic function of most software that makes Log4j’s presence extensive. It is used by gaming apps like Minecraft, Cloud services like AWS and Apple iCloud, several enterprise software development tools, and even monitoring and security software.
Vulnerabilities and damage caused by the attack
Hackers consistently scan the internet to search for vulnerable servers and set up processes to deliver destructive payloads. They request services (webserver) and attempt to trigger a log message (404 error) to process the attack.
A reverse shell is created using the instructions that let the attacking service acquire control over the targeted server or develop a target server part of a botnet. Botnets carry out multiple actions on the hacker’s behalf.
From ransomware hackers locking Minecraft servers to bad people trying to mine Bitcoin and hackers connected with North Korea and China trying to get sensitive data from their geopolitical foes, Log4j has been a part of several malicious activities. The vulnerabilities and damages caused by Log4Shell are numerous. The Belgian Ministry of Defense recently complained that its systems were under a Log4Shell attack.
And, that’s not all, thousands of hackers are still looking for new ways to cause harm using this breach. So, how do you bulletproof your system from a future Log4j-like attack? Here are some ways that will help.
7 Ways to bulletproof your system
1. Learn to detect a potential social engineering attack
Social engineering is marked as a cybersecurity danger that influences the weakest security mechanism link. It causes compromise of a corporate system using manipulation and trickery to make them reveal personal information.
The best way to avoid social engineering attacks is to take preemptive steps. Being vigilant can secure you from social engineering attacks. Some tips to avoid them are:
- Always be alert while checking emails from suspicious sources. Cross-check the email address, confirm the news from a trusted source, and click on the link.
- Use multifactor authentication to ensure your accounts are protected.
- Install antivirus and anti-malware programs and keep them updated. Check regularly to see if the updates have been applied and scan periodically.
2. Identify if your systems are vulnerable
You should scan vulnerable Log4j servers frequently. This makes detection of exploitation trials and after-exploitation actions easy. Because Log4j is vulnerable on back-end servers, companies need to check external and internal vulnerable systems.
Scan Log4j across all systems. Check into every library, open and closed source, for vulnerabilities and fix them instantly before attackers reach them.
3. Create a security-focused workplace culture
Go for a DevSecOps culture where software developers, security experts, and operations teams aim to develop a security-focused work culture with solid collaboration. The teams work together to detect vulnerabilities, spot them and fix them. They also take steps to avoid such vulnerabilities in the future.
4. Increase security with vulnerability scans
Choose robust troubleshooting and security tools from verified online sources to enhance your security. Know your attack surface and perform static code evaluation to spot susceptibilities at the source code level. It is also suggested that companies should adopt safe software development practices. Aim to develop lean code and offer unexpected specs as opt-in specs to lower loopholes in the future. The software library design should be simple and robust rather than unnecessary functionalities.
A quick, centralized, and automated patching regime of software and comprehensive monitoring and scanning of the exposed components should be done to stay ahead of vulnerabilities.
5. Conduct regular audits
Make it a point to start your financial year with a comprehensive audit of every website, application, and system on the internet. It also includes auditing of the cloud-based services. Rank your infrastructure and be more alert toward software code, apps, and databases with important data such as clientele details, credentials, and intellectual property. Make sure all applications are updated with software patches because any loophole performs as an entrance of vulnerabilities getting exploited.
You can get the infrastructure assessed and tested by a third party as it offers unbiased results on your present security standing. Also, keep in mind software patching avoids future vulnerability exploitation attempts; if hackers work their way out, they are already in your network. This is why comprehensive and regular audits are frequently needed.
6. Utilize a Security Information and Event Monitoring (SIEM) System
The best defense against log4j is the installation of a Web Application Firewall. By detecting and preventing the hazardous character strings on upstream gadgets, you can secure your apps from getting impacted by Log4j.
The NCSC suggests setting up monitoring systems on devices running Log4j. The WAF blocks every possible malicious signature and ensures iteratively monitors and fine-tunes for a period to handle all the rising exploit issues.
7. Restrict admin rights
Lastly, it is imperative to raise awareness of the security problems related to Log4j. Make sure you educate employees to know situations to raise a red flag. Also, providing restricted access to users majorly reduces risks and reduces the possibility of lateral movement. Allowing MFA also goes a long way in preventing hackers from using compromised credentials.
When you keep your data, systems, apps, devices, and connections secure, you are not affected by the consequence of a Log4j exploit attack. It is essential to consider that Log4j susceptibility is just one of several, and more are waiting for exposure. Experts suggest that the worst may seem to end, but more attacks are around the corner. The real remedy is not just patching the latest releases but performing a complete scan of your exposed IT systems. By following these best practices you can harden your security posture against a future Log4Shell-like attack.
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