Want Cyber Insurance? Better get patching!

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Want Cyber Insurance? Better get patching!

Managing the technology stack and known vulnerabilities is becoming a key criteria for  cyber insurance pay outs

Open source software has once again made the headlines following warnings to organisations about the release of a new version of OpenSSL. Released on 1st November 2022, the new version patched vulnerabilities in version 3.0 and above of the nearly ubiquitously used cryptographic library for encrypting communications on the Internet.

The OpenSSL Project team took the unusual step of pre-warning organisations five days ahead of the 1st November release date that a critical update was being issued to address the vulnerabilities. This came as a surprise to many as the OpenSSL library rarely has critical vulnerabilities, but due to its popularity and widespread use, organisations were advised to be cautious and to prepare. 

Based on the assessment by the OpenSSL team, the vulnerabilities can be exploited and trigger data leakage or remote code execution. It is hard to predict the potential damage and risk of these vulnerabilities, which is why it’s vital for organisations to act swiftly, determine any use of the affected OpenSSL and patch immediately if they are exposed to the vulnerabilities. However, as these vulnerabilities were classified as “high severity” and not critical as initially thought, widespread exploitation is not expected. 

Open Source the foundation of modern software

The benefits of open source software are numerous and well known, so let’s be clear open source is not the problem – our ability to learn from the past is. 

There have been a couple of big open source incidents in the last year that have sent shock waves through the cyber security world. Firstly, the vulnerability in the widely deployed Log4J component, and now this new vulnerability in OpenSSL. This is only the second such flaw ever found in the open source encryption project. The first was Heartbleed.

The December 2021 zero-day vulnerability in the Java logger Log4J, known as Log4Shell, was characterised by many security experts as the single biggest, most critical vulnerability of the last decade. If left unpatched, attackers can hack into systems, steal passwords and logins, extract data, and infect networks with malicious software causing untold damage, not least to brand reputations. 

Unfortunately, a situation that specialty insurer Crum & Forster, owned by Fairfax, know all too well after falling victim to the hacking group known as RansomHouse. Despite widespread news coverage of the Log4shell vulnerability, which was revealed in December 2021, it appears the insurer was still vulnerable. 

The breach at Crum & Forster was first discovered on 22nd July 2022. The hacking group were able to exploit an unpatched system, resulting in a total of 1.7 gigabytes of sensitive data being released, including medical information, insurance policies, employee data, and customer lists. 

Crum & Forster are by no means an isolated case, there are many examples over the years of companies falling victim to known vulnerabilities. 

History repeating itself

The Heartbleed vulnerability, discovered in 2014, impacted hundreds of thousands of web and email servers worldwide. Among the many systems confirmed to be affected were large organisations such as Yahoo, Eventbrite, and even the FBI’s own website. Many of the big companies confirmed to be affected were able to get their ducks in a row and patch before anything severe happened. 

Others weren’t so quick off the mark and hackers were able to exploit the vulnerability in several cases. The Canadian Revenue Agency was one of the many victims that suffered a breach as hackers exploited the Heartbleed vulnerability. The breach resulted in the theft of hundreds of social ID numbers in a six-hour period before the Canadian Revenue Agency realised and removed public access to its online services. 

In the aftermath of a breach, companies are quick to express that lessons will be learnt. Unfortunately, in a case of history repeating itself, the Canadian Revenue Agency was once again hitting the headlines. In 2017, just 3 years after Heartbleed, the company had to shut down its website for filing federal taxes due to falling victim to the open source Apache Struts2 vulnerability. 

Fail to patch, plan to fail 

Several years on from when Heartbleed was discovered and a patch issued, there are still servers harbouring the Heartbleed vulnerability. In November 2020, a security researcher at the SANS Internet Storms Centre discovered that over 200,00 machines are still vulnerable to Heartbleed. The news cycle may have moved on but that doesn’t mean unpatched vulnerabilities have disappeared. 

Too many headlines are showing that hacks have one thing in common, they are caused by a known vulnerability within an open source component. 

A well know example is the Equifax data breach in 2017, which remains one of the largest cybercrimes related to identity theft. The private records of 147.9 million Americans along with 15.2 million British citizens and approximately 19,000 Canadian citizens were compromised in the breach. 

A key security patch for open source software Apache Struts was released by the Apache Software Foundation on 7 March 2017 after a security exploit was found. All users of the framework were urged to patch immediately. 

For one reason or another, the patching process within Equifax completely broke down, resulting in vulnerable systems being left open to compromise. Subsequent scans conducted by the Equifax IT department to identify any vulnerable systems appears to have failed and, as the saying goes, the rest is history. 

The cost of downplaying security

Recent estimates suggest the 2017 Equifax data breach cost the company at least $1.38 billion, with some sources suggesting the final bill could be closer to $2 billion. The root cause of the data breach was the failure to patch a known open-source web application security flaw. The company effectively left the door open for cyber criminals to walk in and wreak havoc.

In the aftermath of the breach Equifax was condemned for its lax security posture, shambolic emergency response and poor leadership, which led to many senior executives being accused of corruption. The Equifax breach investigation highlighted several security lapses that allowed attackers to enter, allegedly secure, systems and exfiltrate terabytes of data. 

More than five years on, the Equifax data breach remains a cautionary tale in failing to manage cyber security risk effectively and lacking the tools and processes to implement a robust vulnerability and patch management regime.  

Cyber Insurance: prove it or risk losing it

Cybercrime has become a highly lucrative operation; it is not going away and is only set to worsen as companies continue to engage digital technology. Many have taken out cyber insurance to insulate themselves from the punishing costs of cyber-attacks and data breaches. 

However, companies across the world are likely to face increases in the cost of insurance as the number of claims increase year on year. According to research conducted by FitchRatings, US claims volume has risen 100 percent annually over the past three years. 

In part as a result, the cost of cyber insurance has risen steeply in 2022 in both the US and the UK. According to Marsh, the UK cyber insurance market experienced a pricing increase of 102% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2022.

As a result of rising claim costs, the insurance industry is tightening their qualifying requirements and limiting their coverage. Cyber insurers now require organisations to provide information about their security controls if they want coverage. This can include technical, procedural, and human controls. 

Keeping track of your open source exposure

Software Bill of Materials (SBoMs) are an emerging approach to keeping track of your software dependencies, both open source and commercial. SBOMs provide the ingredients list to understanding what code exists within the applications that your business relies upon. 

Only by understanding what exists inside applications can organisations evaluate their exposure to risk. Used effectively, SBOMs enable companies to evaluate and target remediation efforts. But most importantly, companies won’t be blindsided when the next big open source vulnerability is announced. 

Known vulnerabilities are your responsibility 

Many cyber insurers have tightened their standards and are no longer paying out for breaches that have resulted from a known vulnerability. This should serve as a sharp wakeup call to boardrooms that deploy technology, with little thought to the security implications. If companies want to ensure they continue to receive all the benefits of their policy, it’s vital that they have a rigorous patch management system. Corporates may have short memories when it comes to known vulnerabilities but, as the evidence shows, cyber criminals do not. 

Companies must increase visibility and transparency of the components in their open-source software and applications if they are to stay one step ahead of cyber criminals. Without continuous management of your governance, risk, and compliance of open source your company is walking a tight rope, without a safety net. Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Want Cyber Insurance? Better get patching!

Meterian now supports pnpm!

Hello fellow developers!

We are happy to report that now Meterian supports pnpm, a new fast and more efficient alternative to npm. It’s comparably faster, especially when installing packages, compared to npm and it also saves a lot of disk space as it used symlinks to represent modules. Pnpm also supports very well monorepos using workspaces, and it has built-in support for multiple packages in a repository.

Pnpm support is available out of the box now in GitHub Actions, Azure DevOps, Bitbucket Pipes and of course using either the thin CLI or the dockerized CLI, so that you can continue to be informed about any vulnerable, out of date, or non-business friendly node module in your dependencies.

Remember: Meterian is free for open source!

Meterian now supports pnpm!

Alerting a financial services firm to existential security threats and enabling fast, effective remediation

  • Location: UK
  • Industry: Financial Services
  • Customers: Fortune 500 clients around the world
Skyward view from the ground and  4-6 tall buildings pointing up
Credit: Samson-ZGjBuikp_ from Unsplash

A Race Against Malicious Actors

The breaking news in December 2021 of the zero-day vulnerability in the Java logger Log4j 2, known as Log4Shell, sent shockwaves through organisations around the world. Over the last 20 years Log4j has been used globally in billions of software developments and applications for logging incidents. This meant that until the vulnerability could be mitigated, the doors were open to millions of organisations. Attackers could break into systems, steal passwords and logins, extract data, and infect networks with malicious software causing untold damage. The issue was also a major threat to corporate reputations, especially where trust and confidentiality was key, such as in the financial services sector.

In the early hours an alert notification about the Log4j critical vulnerability reached one major financial services organisation based in the UK, with Fortune 500 clients around the world. On hearing the news, the Director of DevOps and Engineering cross-checked other sources for corroboration, including social media, and contacted the organisation’s Lead Technical Security Officer. It was clear that, unchecked, this could be a major problem, but how big an issue would depend on how widely Log4j 2 was embedded into systems used and being developed throughout the corporation.

Often in the race to innovate and implement systems quickly, documentation may not be as comprehensively kept and updated as ideally required. In its absence, it can be difficult for an organisation to discover how widely Log4j is integrated within its application estate, let alone know if it has been previously patched. 

The race was on against the malicious actors poised to automate exploitation of Log4J vulnerabilities, with major impacts for the corporation and potentially for millions of customers around the world.

Mobilising the IT & Security Workforce with Meterian

The organisation moved rapidly by using Meterian’s out-of-the-box reports to enable it to identify where Log4J vulnerabilities were to be found across its application estate, and hence the size of the potential problem. Only then could it be possible to build a remediation plan to mitigate the risks of all the Log4J vulnerabilities.

By 10am, the list of projects utilising the Meterian solution could be seen via the Meterian Dashboard and automated scanning initiated. Scanning the software bills of materials of the affected projects, an indication of the potential impact of Log4J was emerging which could give direction and scope on the follow-up actions. Other projects which had not yet begun to use Meterian as part of their regular processes, found that Meterian’s simplicity of use meant that they could also quickly scan their projects for vulnerabilities.

Working methodically and forensically with the organisation’s development teams across multiple locations, by 5pm it was possible to present to senior management a concise summary of the situation, showing areas of the business at risk; those projects which had already been remediated; and those still needing work. A comprehensive communication plan was then invoked to alert the business to remaining vulnerabilities.

The following Meterian tools were used:

  • Meterian Sentinel notification alerts: an always-on security messaging service which sends notification alerts, emails, or Slack IMs to account administrators about new public vulnerabilities found in open source components used by their projects.
  • Meterian Boost Open Source Security (BOSS) Scanner: which gives instant visibility to the application’s open source dependencies with automated discovery, risk scoring, continuous scanning, and actionable security insights.
  • Meterian Account Dashboard: insight reports show dependent components and related Critical/High/Medium/Low vulnerabilities within the remit of a particular account.

The Meterian toolset alerts key employees to security issues and vulnerabilities; the breadth of the issue for the organisation’s application estate; and the projects impacted. The CISO is then armed with all the information needed to mobilise an effective action plan and comprehensive remediation.

Visibility and Control of Vulnerable Components

Log4J created great upheaval in IT teams across the industry, but for this business unit at this global Financial Services organisation, Meterian tools rapidly delivered a complete view of projects that were susceptible to attack. In comparison, other business units were not able to gather such insights so quickly because there was no single comprehensive reference point which was easy to access and use.

Meterian enabled a speedy time to resolution: 2 hours to implement remediation on projects identified using Meterian as having the Log4J vulnerability.

Meterian freed up employee time from finding the vulnerabilities, enabling them to focus on isolating the application estate from risk and implementing remediations. The Log4J threat demonstrated that critical incident prevention is possible with a more automated, secure-by-design approach. Additional or external staff were not required as existing employees could use smart tools on their application estate, and on a more regular basis to save time and remove headaches.  

Through using Meterian the organisation benefits from:

  • Prompt alerts and early warnings of vulnerabilities in the open source software supply chain
  • Enhanced protection against threats
  • Increased confidence in people and tools working together to protect from organisational risk
  • Decreased stress that vulnerabilities will cause major damage and reputational harm
  • Reduction in “known unknown” risks and number of security fires 

Cultivating Cyber Resilience Consistently and Responsively

The organisation is using the effective response enabled by Meterian as a case study to demonstrate that regulatory and compliance requirements can be met with easy-to-use continuous scanning tools that provide immediate visibility and quicken the development of secure code.

The proven partnership with Meterian will extend and facilitate their further innovation in automation, analytics and cyberresilience, through even more responsive and secure development.

Visit our homepage to learn more about how Meterian can secure your businesses’ open source components—keeping cyber hackers out and your intellectual property in.

Alerting a financial services firm to existential security threats and enabling fast, effective remediation

URGENT AND CRITICAL: REMOTE CODE EXECUTION IN VARIOUS SPRING COMPONENTS NEEDS IMMEDIATE ATTENTION

Red alert! All enterprise software maintainers of software using Java libraries need to check if their systems are affected by the newly discovered vulnerabilities “Spring4Shell” since its announcement, between 29th and 30th March, 2022, affecting various Spring components.

CVE-2022-22963

Vulnerability Score: 9.5 (CVSS: 3.0 / AV:N / AC:L / PR:N / UI:N / S:U / C:H / I:H / A:H)
Platform: Java
Components: org.springframework.cloud:spring-cloud-function-core, org.springframework.cloud:spring-cloud-function-context
Affected versions: 3.1.6, 3.2.2 and older unsupported versions
Fixed in version: 3.1.7, 3.2.3

CVE-2022-22965

Vulnerability Score: 9.5 (CVSS:3.0 / AV: N / AC:L / PR:N / UI:N / S:U / C:H / I:H / A:H)
Platform: Java
Components: org.springframework:spring-beans
Affected versions: all versions before 5.2.20, all versions before 5.3.18 
Fixed in version: 5.2.20, 5.3.18

Please note that this affects also the spring-framework package and the spring-boot package, that both use the offending libraries. New versions of such packages have been made available. You can upgrade spring-framework to version 5.2.20 or 5.3.18, and you can upgrade spring-boot to version 2.5.12 or 2.6.6 (note that spring-boot itself includes spring-framework, no other upgrades necessary).

Which systems does these affect?

CVE-2022-22963 affects any project built using a vulnerable version of Spring Cloud, a framework that provides tools for developers to quickly build some of the common patterns in distributed systems. The “functions” part is a subsystem used to implement serverless functions like AWS lambda or Google Cloud Functions: if you are using such subsystem you are potentially affected.

CVE-2022-22965 affects any project built using a vulnerable version of Spring Framework, Spring Boot or the library spring-beans. A successful attack, however, can only be conducted undere these conditions:

  • JDK 9 or higher is used as the runtime environment
  • Apache Tomcat is used as the Servlet container
  • The application is packaged as a traditional WAR (in contrast to a Spring Boot executable jar)
  • There is a dependency with spring-webmvc or spring-webflux, or an endpoint is used with DataBinder enabled

Please note however that analysis are undergoing and the nature of the vulnerability is quite general: we suggest you keep monitoring this page for further updates.


Why do these threats demand an urgent patch?

Both vulnerabilities allows the attacker to remotely execute code on your system, with the ability to gain complete control of the underlying servers. It’s a simple exploit, as it requires only to send a crafted HTTP header in a request in order to execute code on the remote host. These vulnerabilities are actively exploited in the wild.


How can I check if my system is affected?

If you maintain any software using Java libraries, check if you are using any Spring Cloud Function library. The  Meterian BOSS scanner can be used to scan your codebase to identify all dependent software libraries.  If it is using the offending package, it will find the affected vulnerable versions and provide more information on how to mitigate this risk.

If you are a developer and you have access to the code, you can simply execute this command from your terminal:

CVE-2022-22963:

$ mvn dependency:tree | grep spring-cloud-function | grep compile
[INFO] +- org.springframework.cloud:spring-cloud-function-core:jar:3.1.2:compile

If you see any response lines, check the version: if it’s below 3.1.7 (as in the above example) or, if using 3.2.x, below 3.2.3, you may be affected.

CVE-2022-22965:

$ mvn dependency:tree | grep spring-beans | grep compile
[INFO] +- org.springframework:spring-beans:jar:5.3.11:compile

If you see any response lines, check the version: if it’s below 5.3.18 (as in the above example) or, if using 5.2.x, below 5.2.20, you may be affected.


My system has the vulnerable spring cloud function library — how can I mitigate the risk?

There are now patched versions of the affected components that resolve the issues, they are available via the standard Maven repositories. Upgrade the offending packages using the patched versions, as described in this article.

If the library is coming from a transitive dependency (it’s not one of your direct dependencies, but a dependency of them) you can just include an override in your root pom.xml (or where applicable) and retest that it’s not there anymore with the command shown before.

CVE-2022-22963:

    <dependency>
        <groupId>org.springframework.cloud</groupId>
        <artifactId>spring-cloud-function-core</artifactId>
        <version>3.1.7</version>
    </dependency>

Please be aware that there are multiple packages rooted in "spring-cloud-function": you will need to upgrade all of them, in particular "spring-cloud-function-context" which is also directly affected.

CVE-2022-22965:

    <dependency>
        <groupId>org.springframework</groupId>
        <artifactId>spring-beans</artifactId>
        <version>5.3.18</version>
    </dependency>

Please be aware that you may need / may be better to upgrade the parent pom of the project using an unaffected version of spring boot / spring framework (see at the start of the article).


What can I do to proactively protect from such vulnerabilities?

We always suggest you regularly scan your software code bases. 

  • To do a scan from the command line using the Meterian CLI scanner
  • To include this as part of your continuous improvement efforts to build resilience into your software development lifecycle, see our documentation on the various integrations we support with GitHub ActionsAzure DevOps Pipelines, and others.


Are Meterian applications affected by the spring vulnerability?

We have verified our applications and none are using the offending packages in a vulnerable configuration. We maintain a continuous monitoring system to ensure our development operations are up to date with the latest known vulnerabilities in software components. Given the nature of this vulnerability we will be running a specific monitoring for the following days, while more details are unfolded in regards to those vulnerabilities.   

Related references

CVE-2022-22963

CVE-2022-22965

URGENT AND CRITICAL: REMOTE CODE EXECUTION IN VARIOUS SPRING COMPONENTS NEEDS IMMEDIATE ATTENTION

Visibility is vital if we are to improve safety and trust in open source

Image shows an observation deck, but the panorama is veiled behind white light or mist showing blank skies.  Do we know or see what we are building in our digital world?

Photo by Kate Trysh on Unsplash

Recent high profile cyber security incidents have reinforced the importance of cleaning up the open-source software supply chain. From Heartbleed to the Apache Software Foundation’s Log4j vulnerability, these highly publicised incidents have exposed the threats associated with the software supply chain.

Open source security vulnerabilities are nothing new. Heartbleed was a security bug in the OpenSSL cryptography library that affected many systems. Similarly, Log4Shell is a severe vulnerability, however in the case of Log4j the number of affected systems could well run into potentially billions. Many cybersecurity experts have characterised Log4Shell as the single biggest, most critical vulnerability of the last decade.

These incidents have brought into sharp focus the risks and galvanised a range of responses at national and international level. It even prompted the White House to convene an Open Source Software Security Summit in January that was attended by leaders from global technology companies including Google, Meta, Apple, and Cisco. Members of the open source community were also represented at the summit, as well as US government agencies, including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the National Security Council and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The gathering may have been precipitated by the Log4Shell vulnerability, but the wider context was clear. How do we ensure source code, build, and distribution integrity to achieve effective open source security management?

Open source under the microscope

Technology companies have been using open source for years as it speeds up innovation and time to market. Indeed, most major software developments include open source software – including software used by the national security community.

Open source software brings unique value, but it also has unique security challenges. It is used extensively, however, the responsibility of ongoing security maintenance is carried out by a community of dedicated volunteers. These security incidents have demonstrated that the use of open source is so ubiquitous that no company can blindly continue in the mode of business as usual. Recent research showed that 73% of applications scanned have at least one vulnerability[1]. These can be buried deep in the open source software supply chain that software-driven businesses rely on for basic functionality and security to accelerate their time to market.

The known unknown

The concept of known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns has been widely used as a risk assessment methodology. When it comes to cybersecurity and the voracity of threat actors to exploit vulnerabilities, it is a useful analogy.

Let’s take Apache Log4J as an example. Companies often create products by assembling open source and commercial software components. Almost all software will have some form of ability to journal activity and Log4j is a very common component used for this.

How do you quickly patch what you don’t know you have?

Java logger Log4j 2 – A zero-day vulnerability

Log4J was originally released in 2001, and over the last 20 years it has been used in billions of software developments and applications across the world. For logging incidents within software, Log4j is used by everything from the humble 404 error message, gaming software such as Minecraft, and Cloud providers such as iCloud and Amazon Web Services, as well as for all manner of software and security tools.2 On 9 December 2021, the zero-day vulnerability in the Java logger Log4j 2, known as Log4Shell, sent shockwaves across organisations as security teams scrambled to patch the flaw. If left unfixed, attackers can break into systems, steal passwords and logins, extract data, and infect networks with malicious software causing untold damage, not least to brand reputations.

However, herein lies the problem. How do you quickly patch what you don’t know you have?

Often in the race to innovate, the first thing sacrificed is up-to-date documentation. Without it how does a company know if Log4J is integrated within its application estate, let alone know if it has been previously patched.

Improving safety and trust when speed is of the essence

If we are to increase safety and trust in software, we must improve transparency and visibility across the entire software supply chain. Companies should have the ability to automatically identify open source components in order to monitor and manage security risk from publicly disclosed vulnerabilities. A software bill of materials (SBOM) should be a minimum for any project or development. Without such visibility of all component parts, security teams cannot manage risk and will be unaware, and potentially exposed, to dangers lurking in their software.

Case study – Full Visibility within an Hour

To give an example; one of the largest UK based financial services company with millions of customers across the world discovered it had Log4J embedded within dozens of in-house developed software projects. Having seen the first reports of the vulnerability at the start of the business day, within an hour the security team had identified projects using Log4j and were able to start work on follow up activities. By the end of the day, the entire business had a concise list of projects at risk, some of which were already remediated.

How was this achieved?

The company had automated tooling integrated into their software development environment with comprehensive component security. This enabled them to quickly identify those software projects which depended on the affected log4j component.

This visibility allowed the company to devise remediation plans to mitigate the risks of the vulnerability in Log4J. The company was able to target valuable resources across multiple locations to ensure fixes were applied quickly to critical business applications within just a couple of hours. While they were implementing an action plan based on the organisation’s use of Log4j, some of its competitors without such comprehensive tools were still in the information gathering stage.

Innovating securely

As organisations continue to innovate at pace in order to reduce time to market, the reliance on open source software continues to increase. However, when the security of a widely-used open source component or application is compromised, every company, every country, and every community is impacted.

The White House has taken an important first step in trying to identify the challenges present in the open source software supply chain and encourage the sharing of ideas on ways to mitigate risk and enhance resilience. Organisations can and should take advantage of the many benefits that open source software can deliver, but they must not do it blindly. Ensuring you know the exact make-up of your technology stack including all the component parts is an important first step. Choosing discovery tools that have the widest comprehensive coverage is important, and so too is the flexibility to grade alerts so that only the most pressing threats are highlighted. This avoids ‘alert fatigue’ and enables security teams to focus resource where it matters most, putting organisations in a good position to act fast when vulnerabilities are discovered.

Hackers faced with stronger security defences will continue to turn their attention to the weaker underbelly of the software supply chain. Now is the time for organisations to implement integrated and automated tooling to gain comprehensive risk control of components in their open-source software supply chain. Only by increasing visibility, coverage of known unknowns and transparency can companies stay one step ahead.

1 Meterian research from aggregated and anonymised data of 2044 scanned software applications in 2020.

2 “What is Log4j? A cybersecurity expert explains the latest internet vulnerability”, The Conversation, Dec 21, 2022, https://theconversation.com/what-is-log4j-a-cybersecurity-expert-explains-the-latest-internet-vulnerability-how-bad-it-is-and-whats-at-stake-173896

Visibility is vital if we are to improve safety and trust in open source

Share your software bill of materials safely with Meterian and RKVST SBOM Hub

26 Jan 2022

We’ve been a little busy with some forward thinking security SBOM-meisters over at Jitsuin in recent months. If you’ve not heard of them, they came up with the clever idea to provide a secured system that lets software producers and consumers share software bills of materials (aka SBOMs). Not only does this make it easy to lookup any particular component that has gone haywire or needs to be summoned for review, it also enables fast and easy sharing of such information with your trusted parties. The major benefit of their service is that this adds to the trust and transparency of shared systems. Think about those moments when a critical vulnerability is announced and you need to alert the team (inside/outside your organisation) to find it asap, or when you have to complete an audit. It’s a big benefit in time saved for the effort needed to take action quickly. Searching and trumpeting attention through the software supply chain of interconnected devices and systems will be simpler with your software bills of materials stored on RKVST SBOM Hub.

Learn more about how to create your SBOM on Meterian and get in touch to benefit from the Meterian and RKVST SBOM Hub integration.

Video of automated creation of software bill of materials and safe storage for secure sharing

Abridged press release below.

Jitsuin and Meterian integration automates production and secure distribution of SBOMs

Partnership an early success of Cyber Runway Accelerator launched in November 2021

London, UK and Santa Clara, USA. 26th January 2022. Jitsuin Inc, a pioneer in continuous assurance of critical assets, and Meterian, a leader in software automation and vulnerability detection, have teamed up to offer software publishers automated creation and secure distribution of Software Bills of Material (SBOMs). The integration between Meterian’s Boost Open-Source Software Scanner (BOSS) and Jitsuin’s RKVST SBOM Hub enables software publishers to automatically generate, store and distribute their SBOMs in public or private.

Meterian’s BOSS Scanner is a vulnerability detection and risk management system that delivers comprehensive component licensing and security control while automatically generating SBOMs. Jitsuin’s recently launched RKVST SBOM Hub is the first shared repository for publishers and subscribers to find and fetch the SBOMs they need. The integration of these two products allows software publishers to easily store, retrieve, publish and distribute SBOMs with full governance.

  • Developers, InfoSec and Governance Risk & Compliance teams can collaborate to mitigate vulnerabilities.
  • Authorized SBOM consumers can automatically retrieve the latest updates with full provenance and immutable history.
  • SBOM consumers can act fast on the latest data knowing it is trustworthy.

View source version on: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220126005697/en/Jitsuin-and-Meterian-Integration-Automates-Production-and-Secure-Distribution-of-SBOMs

Share your software bill of materials safely with Meterian and RKVST SBOM Hub

An introduction to the world of SBOMs

3 minute read

We are sure many of you have been hearing about SBOMs. Nowadays, software include some components with code written by your own developers, but 80-90% of the code is typically from third-party developers. How can you know who produced what and when it absolutely needs to be replaced? Since Meterian has been managing SBOMs for awhile, we’re happy to share our know-how so you can consider a comprehensive strategy to manage your open source software supply chain. 

Photo by Raymond Rasmusson on Unsplash

What is an SBOM?

SBOM is an acronym that means Software Bill Of Materials. The concept originates from the manufacturing industry, where a bill of materials lists dependent components in machinery. A SBOM lists all third-party components present in your application. A good SBOM also lists the licences used by each component and, when possible, the specific copyright attribution. An excellent SBOM can also provide further information, such as possible relationships between those components to better understand any supply chain risk. You may have encountered SBOMs in the past, known as “third party notice” documents created to manage legal requirements, such as the one in the image below. 

Altova Third Party Software License Notice

However, modern SBOMs are “machine-readable”.  They follow a strict specification that can be understood by a computer. 

What machine-readable formats are used to publish SBOMs?

The most commonly used formats to define a SBOM are:

  • CycloneDX, a lightweight open-source standard designed for use in application security context and supply chain component analysis. This originated from within the OWASP community.
  • SPDX, an open source format with origins in the Linux Foundation, slightly more complex, and recently approved as ISO/IEC standard in version 2.2.1 as ISO IEC 5962:2021.
  • SWID, another ISO/IEC industry standard used by various commercial software publishers.

All these formats support a variety of use cases, but the first two (CycloneDX and SPDX) are the most versatile. Due to SPDX’s complexity, we think CycloneDX has an edge at this time, but only time can tell which of these formats will be the winner. To learn more about these formats you can also read the official NTIA publication, which drills down into the matter.

Why are SBOMs important? And how are they useful?

As a consumer of software, the main reason why you want to have access to the SBOMs of the systems you are using is to manage risks. When a very commonly used software component becomes vulnerable: how do you know what you need to patch and which subsystems are at risk? This is exactly what happened with the recent Log4Shell debacle. The logging library called Log4j, was suddenly exploitable with a very simple and repeatable attack. How do you know where it is? Which one of the systems you are using is suddenly at risk?  With a correctly managed archive of SBOMs, getting this information reduces to a very simple lookup task. Without it, it can be a real nuisance —a time consuming information hunt that disrupts everyone’s work flow.

As a producer of software, instead, you want to preserve and maintain an archive of all the SBOMs of the system you produce so that you can create and distribute timely patches to your customers. Having a systematic and comprehensive analysis of your most commonly used software packages would be useful indeed. Some companies were very fast in releasing patches to their customers, while others were extremely slow, mostly because they did not have the information.  You probably want to be in the first group of companies 🙂

Governments are also mandating the need for use of SBOMs, realising that software security needs to be regulated.  The U.S. Executive Order 14028 that mandates all federal agencies to require SBOMs from their suppliers.  This not only impacts the companies that have direct sales to the US government but also their own software suppliers.  As so many systems and devices have been connecting to the Internet to send and receive information, consequently our digital world relies on a software supply chain.  This “ripple effect” will be significant for many industries. 

It’s important to consider how software products you produce can meet basic security requirements and how the associated software security information is produced and managed in your organisation.   Similar legislation has already been proposed in Europe since the publication of  “Guidelines for securing the IoT” by ENISA (hint: SBOMs are required) and the ETSI EN 303 645 global standard for consumer IoT security, which is based on the UK government’s Code of Practice.  See also the recently published Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure (PSTI) Bill and more to come from the UK government to improve the UK’s cyber resilience.

How should SBOMs be handled?

Very carefully :), because an SBOM contains the full list of the “ingredients” of your system or application. While open-source projects happily share this information to the world, the same does not apply to private companies. In fact, a malicious actor that gets hold of the SBOM of your system can then check if you are using any vulnerable components. There are public vulnerability databases, such as the NVD, which are very popular. Someone can simply browse in there and compose a list of possible attacks, try them, and maybe get lucky.  Probably 9 out of 10 vulnerabilities affecting components in your system won’t be exploitable, but having the ability to go through the whole list, certainly makes the task of finding an exploit much easier. 

There’s no need to keep SBOMs a complete secret, however, as long as a few simple principles are kept in check:

  • SBOMs need to be shared securely,
  • they need to be accessed only by the authorised parties, across organisational boundaries, and
  • they should not be tampered with.

In summary, it is essential to produce a precise SBOM, and it is just as vital to share it and maintain it securely with the correct (trusted) third parties.  

Why bother with SBOMs now?

In summary, it is essential to produce a precise SBOM, and it is just as vital to share it and maintain it securely with the correct (trusted) third parties.  In our hyper connected world, comprehensive coverage of components is important for preventative strategies and threat detection in supply chain attacks.  Therefore, implementing SBOM management proactively now will be worth something to your organisation when the next critical vulnerability appears and stand your organisation in good stead. All good collections are worth organising. How valuable is your collection of software?

Photo by Susan Q Yin on Unsplash

Get started with SBOMs

The need for SBOMs is already high. Level up your open source software security and implement this requirement. Check out the SBOM capabilities in Meterian-X platform’s approach to DevSecOps.

An introduction to the world of SBOMs

Urgent and Critical: Remote Code Execution in Apache Log4j needs immediate upgrade

Updated: 31 Dec 2021

5 minute read

This is a call to arms. All enterprise software maintainers of software using Java libraries need to check if their systems are affected by the newly discovered Apache Log4j vulnerability since its announcement on Dec 9, 2021. Since then several security vulnerabilities in the wild have been discovered.

CVE-2021-44832

Vulnerability Score: 6.6 (CVSS: 3.0 / AV: N / AC: L / PR: N / UI: N / S: C / C: H / I: H / A: H)
Platform: Java
Component: org.apache.logging.log4j:log4j-core
Affected versions: 2.0-alpha7 to 2.17.0 inclusive, except 2.3.2 and 2.12.4.
Fixed in version: 2.17.1

CVE-2021-44228

Vulnerability Score: 10.0 (CVSS: 3.0 / AV: N / AC: L / PR: N / UI: N / S: C / C: H / I: H / A: H)
Platform: Java
Component: org.apache.logging.log4j:log4j-core
Affected versions: all versions before 2.14.1, inclusive
Fixed in version: 2.15.0 but upgrade to 2.17.0 is required because of CVE-2021-45105

CVE-2021-45046

Vulnerability Score: 9.0 (AV:N/AC:H/PR:N/UI:N/S:C/C:H/I:H/A:H) (updated 18/12/2021)
Platform: Java
Component: org.apache.logging.log4j:log4j-core
Affected versions: all versions up to 2.15.0, excluding 2.12.2
Fixed in version: 2.16.0 but upgrade to 2.17.0 is required because of CVE-2021-45105

CVE-2021-45105

Vulnerability Score: 7.5 (CVSS: 3.0 (AV:N/AC:L/PR:N/UI:N/S:U/C:N/I:N/A:H)
Platform: Java
Component: org.apache.logging.log4j:log4j-core
Affected versions: all versions from 2.0-beta9 to 2.16.0, inclusive
Fixed in version: 2.17.0


Which systems does this affect?

Apache Log4j is probably the most common library used for logging in the Java ecosystem with over 400,000 downloads from its GitHub project. It is used in Java applications to log system and user activities, so there’s a serious possibility your Java software is using it. It is used, internally, by many other Apache frameworks such as Apache Flink, Apache Druid, Apache Flume, Apache Solr, Apache Flink, Apache Kafka, Apache Dubbo. It is also actively used in many other open source projects, like Redis, ElasticSearch, Elastic Logstash, Ghidra and many others.

Among all these open source components, one needs a special mention: Apache Struts. Yes, it is actively using Log4j. There exists a potential to trigger high-impact attacks against a wide variety of apps and services, similar to the scale witnessed in 2017. At that time, due to the vulnerability exploited in the Equifax megahack, 140 million customers’ data in North America and UK were breached. The latest version of Apache Struts, 2.5.28, uses by default Log4j version 2.12.21, which is vulnerable to this attack. This time, however, the scope for damage could be even wider, as Apache Struts is one of many Apache frameworks that use Log4j. 

The Java ecosystem is in very broad use in enterprise systems and web apps and many mainstream services are likely to be vulnerable. Therefore, software maintainers and developers should pay close attention to this vulnerability. 

This has been preliminary filed as CVE-2021-44228, and a subsequent vulnerability was also flagged, now filed under CVE-2021-45046.


Why does this threat demand an urgent patch?

This vulnerability allows the attacker to remotely execute code on your system, with the ability to gain complete control of the underlying servers.

This is actively exploited on the internet now and there is already a simple POC (proof of concept) available on the internet that explains how to do it. 

From https://www.wired.com/story/log4j-flaw-hacking-internet/:

“All an attacker has to do to exploit the flaw is strategically send a malicious code string that eventually gets logged by Log4j version 2.0 or higher. The exploit lets an attacker load arbitrary Java code on a server, allowing them to take control.  […]Minecraft screenshots circulating on forums appear to show players exploiting the vulnerability from the Minecraft chat function. On Friday, some Twitter users began changing their display names to code strings that could trigger the exploit. Another user changed his iPhone name to do the same and submitted the finding to Apple. Researchers told WIRED that the approach could also potentially work using email.”

If you maintain an enterprise system using Java software, you would need to update all affected applications, whether they are maintained directly by your organisation or your supplier organisation.

Within 2 days of the 2017 vulnerability being announced, several systems around the world were breached by exploiting the software weakness.  We do not want more cyber breaches of such scale and all need to react quickly to patch vulnerable systems.


How can I check if my system is affected?

If you maintain any software using Java libraries, check if you are using Apache Log4j.  Meterian BOSS scanner can be used to scan your codebase to identify all dependent software libraries.  If it is using Log4j, it will find the affected vulnerable versions and provide more information on how to mitigate this risk.

If you are a developer and you have access to the code, you can simply execute this command from your terminal:

$ mvn dependency:tree | grep log4j-core | grep compile
[INFO] +- org.apache.logging.log4j:log4j-core:jar:2.12.1:compile

If you see any response lines, check the version: if it’s below 2.16.0 (as in the above example) you may be affected.


My system has the vulnerable log4j library — how can I mitigate the risk?

There is a patched version of the library that resolves the issue.  Released by Apache Software Foundation, the solution is to immediately upgrade log4j to the latest log4j version 2.16.0.  The fixed version is available via Maven

If the library is coming from a transitive dependency (it’s not one of your direct dependencies, but a dependency of them) you can just include an override in your root pom.xml (or where applicable) and retest that it’s not there anymore with the command shown before:

    <dependency>
        <groupId>org.apache.logging.log4j</groupId>
        <artifactId>log4j-core</artifactId>
        <version>2.16.0</version>
    </dependency>

A set of mitigations, specific to the version you are using, are also available on the Apache Log4j website. The Apache Struts team provided specific advice on how to handle the issue.

If you are using an external product that runs with Java, you can also protect your systems by launching the JVM with this special parameter:

-Dlog4j2.formatMsgNoLookups=true

This is useful for tools like Jenkins, where you have control of the installation but you do not have control of the code, but please note that this does not protect against the latest CVE.


What can I do to proactively protect from such vulnerabilities?

We always suggest you regularly scan your software code bases. 


Are Meterian applications affected by the log4j vulnerability?

No. We have verified our applications and none are using log4j.  We maintain a continuous monitoring system to ensure our development operations are up to date with the latest known vulnerabilities in software components.   

Related references

Urgent and Critical: Remote Code Execution in Apache Log4j needs immediate upgrade

Is it a good idea to have vulnerable opensource components in my application?

This may seem to be a trivial question or something more like a joke. Why would one keep a vulnerable component in his tech stack? That said, from time to time, we meet people who simply answer “well, this is not an issue”.

Surprisingly, some are part of the technology leadership, or even the security chapter. Often their answer is usually along the lines of: “Well, you should know there’s a difference between vulnerable and exploitable: the fact that a component is vulnerable does not automatically mean that it’s possible to exploit it”.

There’s a difference between vulnerable and exploitable…”

Yes, that is perfectly correct. We know it, as we do our own analysis as part of our routine.

Do you know what the problem is? You are probably not involved in the project and you are not a developer. I can bet that you are not continuously monitoring and assessing the code that your developers are daily pushing. Are you? Because at the speed innovation is going these days, there’s no guarantee that even tomorrow one of your developers will push a line of code that will enable the exploit. Yes, these exploits may be quite complex but also may be very easy to enable. It’s possible that an application including a vulnerable component is not exploitable today, but what about tomorrow? Your software is changing continuously.

“…but developers push new code daily, software is changing continuously.”

Do you know why Struts in Equifax was hacked? Because of a log message. A simple log message that echoes the content of a header, only that such content contained OGNL code, crafted by an attacker.

Do you know how jackson-databind remote code execution can be exploited? It’s just one configuration property away: enable polymorphic JSON deserialization and you are on.An apparently innocuous JSON message can feed now code to your server to be remotely executed.

So, in your position, I would not sit too complacent on the fact that you have vulnerable components that today cannot be exploited because of the current application code. That code changes continuously, daily, and unless you have in place an incredibly strict validation process, you are at risk, and you are putting your customers at risk. I do not believe such risk is acceptable.

“Most of the times the fix is just one patch away.”

Furthermore, most of the time fixes are just a patch away. We are not talking about a four-week refactoring session, but probably more like a one minute change and a run of the normal test regression suites, And if you had a system in place to continuously check your components against known vulnerabilities, you would have caught such an issue and patched it a while ago.

This is not a commercial plug for Meterian. Yes. this is our bread and butter, and we think we provide tons of value for the money. But some of our competitors do that as well. Maybe you are already using one of them in your company, and that’s great. Plug that in and set your customers free from this risk.

Nobody likes to be hacked.

Is it a good idea to have vulnerable opensource components in my application?

The new social network from Trump may violate the AGPL license.

It looks that everybody can misread a license, even a former President of the United States. The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) concluded that Trump’s new social network, “Truth Social”, violates the terms of the AGPL license. It looks like the code of the system is simply a copy of Mastodon, an existing open-source social network licensed under the AGPLv3 license. That license is a (very infectious) copyleft license, it specifically states that every user is entitled to receive the complete source code of the system. “Truth Social” is not compliant on this aspect, and also violates the license calling their software “proprietary”.

“…an entire open-source platform was just copied with no regard to the license…”

This is a very common mistake: nowadays software is built by hundreds of open-source components and license compliance is a very complex task, you can read an explanation in this article. However, in this instance and based on the SFC analysis, an entire open-source licensed platform was just copied and reused, with no regard to the license.

So what are the options for Truth Social at this time? I believe they can: 

  • release the derived system under a compatible open-source license, most possibly the AGPLv3 itself, and make their code publicly available
  • obtain a license for commercial use from the Mastodon contributors, but I doubt this will be possible, also given Mastodon view on Gab, another right-wing social
  • rewrite everything from scratch and relaunch

Of course, they may also fight this in court, but having seen some of the evidence from Mastodon, I doubt this is going to be a successful choice. It will be interesting to follow how this will evolve.

*** UPDATE ***

The Gab team, threatened by legal action, decided to release the source code publicly!
https://uk.pcmag.com/social-media/137421/trumps-social-media-site-quietly-admits-its-based-on-mastodon

The new social network from Trump may violate the AGPL license.