Tech giants Microsoft, Amazon and more warn of widespread software flaw

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Cyber ​​security officials at big tech companies are working to fix a serious flaw in widely used internet software that security experts say could trigger a new round of cyber attacks.

The bug, hidden in obscure server software called Log4j, has prompted inquiries into the depth of the problem within Amazon.com Inc.,

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Twitter Inc.

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and Cisco systems Inc.,

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according to the companies.

Amazon, the world’s largest cloud computing company, said in a security alert, “We are actively monitoring this issue and working to resolve it. “

The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a vulnerability alert on Friday and urged companies to take action. CISA Director Jen Easterly added on Saturday: “To be clear, this vulnerability poses a serious risk. We will only minimize potential impacts through collaborative efforts between government and the private sector. “

Software vendors that include Log4j in their products, such as International Business Machines Body

IBM 0.42%

Red Hat, Oracle Corp.

ORCL 15.61%

and VMware Inc.,

VMW 0.28%

said they were rolling out fixes.

“This is one of the most significant vulnerabilities I have seen in a long time.”


– Aaron Portnoy from Randori Security Company

Because the bug is easy to exploit and attacks difficult to block, the Log4j issue could be used by hackers to break into corporate networks for years, said Aaron Portnoy, senior scientist at security firm Randori. “This is one of the most significant vulnerabilities that I have seen in a long time,” he said.

The flaw gives hackers a way to turn log files that keep track of what users do on computer servers into malicious instructions that force the machine to download unauthorized software, giving them a bridgehead over the network. ‘a victim.

The issue was reported late last month to the development team at Log4j, a group of volunteer coders who distribute their software for free as part of the Apache Software Foundation, according to Ralph Goers, a volunteer with the project. The foundation is a non-profit group that helps oversee the development of many open source programs.

“This is a very critical issue,” Mr. Goers said. “People have to upgrade to get the fix. Log4j is used on servers to keep records of user activities so that they can be reviewed later by security or software development teams.

Because Log4j is distributed for free, it is not known how many servers are affected by the bug, but the logging software has been downloaded millions of times, Goers said.

This isn’t the first time that open source software has raised security concerns. In 2014, Internet users around the world were asked to reset their passwords after another problem, known as Heartbleed, was discovered in OpenSSL, obscure but equally ubiquitous internet software created by volunteers.

Hackers began exploiting the recent loophole on Friday morning to gain access to servers running Microsoft‘s

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Minecraft gaming software, researchers said. But they quickly observed widespread analysis and attempts to trigger the Log4j bug on the internet. In a note released Friday, Microsoft advised Minecraft users to upgrade their software to fix the bug.

Over a period of approximately 24 hours, the security company Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. said she saw more than 100,000 attempts to exploit the bug, about half of which she said came from malicious cyber attackers. The rest came from legitimate researchers, whether governments analyzing national infrastructure or security researchers, CheckPoint said.

Dutch researcher Cas van Cooten says he discovered the bug on Apple Inc.

AAPL 2.80%

servers, potentially giving it a way to execute code within Apple’s network. Mr van Cooten said he immediately reported the issue to Apple.

“It would have been trivial for a malicious hacker to turn this into a weapon,” he said. An Apple spokesperson did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Another researcher, Carson Owlett, said consultants working with his security company, Black Mirage LLC, were able to spot the bug on systems managed by other companies, including Twitter and LinkedIn, also owned by Microsoft.

“Our teams are investigating the matter, but we have no details to share at this time,” a Twitter spokesperson said by email on Friday. A spokesperson for LinkedIn said via text message that “while we are responding to this, just like the security teams of many companies, we are not having any active issues.”

Since all kinds of data is logged by servers, from email addresses to web browsing requests, these attempts could allow attackers to gain a foothold on a vulnerable server at the heart of corporate networks, said Ryan McGeehan, an independent security consultant who was previously director of security. on Facebook. “A successful attack is like creating a wormhole,” he said. “The attacker cannot know where he will end up. “

But security experts have warned that even though researchers found the Log4j flaw on the websites of tech companies, many of them put other processes in place that would prevent a hacker from running software and breaking down. get into these companies.

Cisco is investigating more than 150 of its products for the Log4j bug. So far, it has found three products vulnerable and determined that 23 are not, a company spokesperson said on Saturday.

Write to Robert McMillan at [email protected]

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