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
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
“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:
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:
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 Actions, Azure DevOps Pipelines, and others.
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.
In the second of our three part blog series as we lead up to Christmas, the Meterian Team shares with you shortcuts to make the most out of what you already have.
A library, component, piece of code is reusable when it can be re-used in different parts of the same or different project with minimal to no need of code modifications.
Scanning for, identifying, and patching open source dependencies in an application’s codebase is known as dependency management. This is a critical part of modern software development since nearly 100% of codebases are made up of open source components. These dependencies can be directly used by your application or indirectly used through transitive relationships. You can imagine the number of connected components if your software codebase has hundreds of modules.
Many vulnerabilities remain, leaving software applications unsecured
Neither software development nor cybersecurity teams can keep up with all the changes and fixes required to keep the code performant and secure. Therefore, knowing how to leverage the right tools to detect and patch in a timely manner can make a difference in preventing a cyber breach spoiling a company’s business and reputation. In a Ponemon study last year:
60% of respondents said their organisations suffered a breach due to an unpatched known vulnerability where the patch was not applied
62% were unaware that their organisations were vulnerable prior to the data breach
52% of respondents said their organisations were at disadvantage in responding to vulnerabilities because they use manual processes
Earlier this year another Ponemon report highlighted the need for a programmatic approach to managing vulnerabilities as unpatched known vulnerabilities remain a significant risk: “Over six months, an average of 28% of vulnerabilities remain unmitigated, and organizations have a backlog of 57,555 identified vulnerabilities.” Remember, even just one vulnerability exploited could lead to a cyber breach. Furthermore, 60% of open source programs audited had a vulnerability that’s already been patched.
For this blog, we present the top 3 most popular components found from our survey of 1310 web applications past their “best before” date. Below are recommended substitutions for an alternative or updated component that is vulnerability free so you can #BoostOpenSourceSecurity in your software applications:
jQuery 1.12.4 -> Please update to jQuery 3.5.1
handlebars.js 4.0.11 -> Update handlebars module to version >=4.6.0
1 high level threat: Versions of handlebars prior to 3.0.8 or 4.5.3 are vulnerable to prototype pollution. It is possible to add or modify properties to the Object prototype through a malicious template. This may allow attackers to crash the application or execute Arbitrary Code in specific conditions.1 medium level threat: Affected versions of handlebars are vulnerable to Denial of Service. The package's parser may be forced into an endless loop while processing specially-crafted templates. This may allow attackers to exhaust system resources leading to Denial of Service.. Recommendation: Upgrade to version 4.4.5 or later.
Twitter-bootstrap 3.x.x (3.3.7) -> update to the next safe version 3.4.1
1 high level threat:XSS in data-template, data-content and data-title properties of tooltip/popover1 medium level threat: In Bootstrap before 3.4.0, XSS (cross site scripting)is possible in the affix configuration target property.
Remains of the day
At the end of the day, updating your application’s dependencies is easy if you know what to look out for, when to apply the update, and have an automated workflow to help you do this consistently and at scale. Finding the right combination of open source components to help speed and secure your development is one example of how “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Meterian speeds up the task of keeping your open source dependencies up to date easily and continuously so developers can focus on the main course of innovating securely.
In the spirit of giving this Christmas and to fuel the creative cooks out there (perhaps you or that important person in your life who always makes sure a delicious meal is ready for you at dinner time!), here’s how to use leftover Christmas veg to make two speedy suppers:
Linguine with with cavolo nero and bacon
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
6 slices smoked streaky bacon, cut into 1cm or bite size pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
300g cavolo nero, hard stalks removed, and roughly chopped (shortcut: blitz the shallots, garlic and cavolo nero leaves in food processor until finely chopped)
75ml double cream (optional)
2 egg yolks
¼ nutmeg, freshly grated
50g parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt & freshly ground black pepper
Tip: No cavolo nero? Don’t get stuck in a rut. Try any slightly bitter green veg, such as brussels sprouts, broccoli, broccolini, gai lan, or rapini. All lend a lovely nutty flavour balanced with the delightful pungence of parmesan cheese and black pepper.
Cook the linguine in a pan of boiling, salted water following the pack instructions. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan, and cook the bacon for a couple of minutes. Add the shallots and garlic cloves, and finely chopped cavolo nero to stir-fry with the bacon. After 3-4 minutes, take off the heat.
Mix the cream and egg yolks with with the nutmeg, ⅔ of the cheese and some black pepper.
Put the bacon and veg stir fry back on the heat, add a little of the pasta cooking water and simmer down to 2 tbsp.
Drain the cooked pasta, and add the pasta to the pan with the cavolo nero-bacon and cream mixture. Next add the remaining grated parmesan cheese, and season with more salt and pepper to taste.
Cod, Chorizo and Potato Stew
Preparation time:10 minutes
Cooking time:30 minutes
110g chorizo, cut into 2cm slices
1 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 can of chopped tomatoes (220-250g)
500ml fish stock
600g frozen cod fillets, defrosted and cut into 3 - 4cm chunks
20g flat leaf parsley, chopped
1. Heat a large pan over a medium heat and cook the chorizo for 2 - 3 minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside. Drain all but 1 tbsp of fat from the pan and use to cook the onion and garlic over a medium heat for 6 - 8 minutes until soft. Peel potatoes and cut into 3cm chunks. Put the potatoes in the pan with the chorizo and cook for 3 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and fish stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 - 12 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the cooked chorizo. You can freeze the stew at this stage, letting it cool to room temperature first.
3. If cooking from frozen, defrost the stew overnight in the fridge or in a microwave, then reheat. Add the cod to the stew and simmer for 4 - 5 minutes until just cooked. Season and serve immediately, scattered with parsley.
“The evening’s the best part of the day. You’ve done your day’s work. Now you can put your feet up and enjoy it.”
― Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
The tools that boost your efficiency when your coding project has a handful developers may need to be very different from the software that keeps your project humming when you have 1,000 or more. We’ve designed Meterian to evolve with your application security tech stack as your software engineering and digital transformation needs evolve. If your open source dependency management system is not humming smoothly with your software development life cycle, or your open source components are decaying and reducing their life time value for the organisation, consider reusing and securing your software components with Meterian. Get in touch today.
Recipes, ingredients and ideas to make your fuel (food and software!) go further.
In this three part blog series as we lead up to Christmas, the Meterian Team will share with you their work and christmas holiday hacks of life. First and foremost, let’s get our coding projects secured so we can have some peace of mind over the holidays.
Five things to do this December and then forgeddaboutituntil 2021
This last step will require you to put in some time and effort. Our customers have done this in minutes to several hours over 2 days. The best part is that once it’s done and you’ve got it running automatically, you can just leave it running and put your feet up. Or perhaps run off and be there for someone else who needs you. Boost your apps’ open source security — Enjoy!
As the extraordinary situation of the COVID-19 crisis continues and more such supervirus incidents will occur, the benefits that IoT can provide will be even in more demand. We are already seeing how IoT plays a significant role in modernising healthcare and disaster prevention, public safety and security, supply chain, and manufacturing and production.
The Good We’ve Seen
In Hong Kong, the government has deployed smart wristbands to monitor city residents1 quarantined inside their homes. Accelerating the timely discovery of outbreaks, these smart medical devices, powered with internet of things (IoT) technology, play an important role in containment of outbreaks like COVID-19 and prevent future pandemics.
Prior to COVID-19 pandemic, Japan was preparing for Tokyo 20202, the smartest Olympics ever with self-driving cabs to transport guests between sports venues, robotic guides, immersive virtual reality and crowd control directed by artificial intelligence. Getting ready to welcome 11,000 athletes with 4 to 7 million on-site spectators from Japan and all over the world, this would have been a wonderful showcase of IoT tech and applications from a country that is already a technological leader in robotics and consumer electronics. Unfortunately, the event is postponed 12 months, though the Olympic Committee resolves to have the games, it’s not clear how much of IoT tech applications will be used.
As public venues have been opening up in the past several weeks, there is a serious challenge of getting business going and the health and safety of people using the same facilities. How can public toilets be kept safe and clean for everyone to use? A common need at medical centres, restaurants, shopping malls, and any city where visitors would rely on public toilets. One new IoT company on the scene, Inferrix, has a solution for the “COVID Secure Washroom”, as described on their website: Inferrix wireless edge-intelligent sensors on the washroom doors show a red light to alert visitors if the washroom is unsafe to use. Any washroom can be installed in less than 1 hour. We can easily imagine its application to be useful in office spaces near shared kitchen areas or study areas of public or university libraries as well.
When we reflect on the role that IoT played over the course of the pandemic, there are more notable instances. For example, telehealth consultations meant that there was a reduced risk of transmission that would otherwise have been prevalent with face to face consultations. Secondly, robot assistance is used to disinfect contaminated areas and objects, both protecting health carers and giving health carers more time to care for their patients. China was the first country to use Danish made UVD robots using IoT and help to disinfect treatment areas in nursing homes and clean patient rooms.
The Not So Good
In a 2019 study of security of IoT devices3, data revealed that more than twice the number of vulnerabilities were detected compared to six years earlier. As covered in in our last blog post, cyber attacks from IoT risks have surged 300% and the UK and US are catching up on regulations to ensure companies safeguard devices. In March 2020 researchers found4 that more than half of all internet of things (IoT) devices are vulnerable to medium- or high-severity attacks, with 98% of all IoT device traffic being unencrypted.
As we’ve seen during the COVID-19 crisis, even when everyone else was rallying together, cyber criminals targeted vulnerable organizations in the health sector: data-stealing ransomware on US pharma company5 and Europe’s largest private hospital6, Czech republic hospital’s computer systems were attacked when their focus was on running coronavirus tests, and in the UK two construction companies building emergency hospitals were hacked7.
Such attacks can become more sophisticated and more dangerous to individuals using new health technology apps and devices used to provide medication or daily survival needs.
Bringing Tech Out for Good
Connected devices are available using cellular connectivity which are allowing doctors to rely on patients to use connected out-of-the-box devices for special readings to be sent directly to the doctor from the device (temperature, blood pressure, glucose meters). Such technology is not limited to medical practitioners and is already available for anyone. A user created a smart system to monitor his diabetic brother’s blood sugar8 (glucose) levels using an app, a data logging platform that processed data from his brother’s glucose sensor to make his own healthcare monitoring system.
Similarly, Australia saw its first ‘virtual hospital’9 open shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit through Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA) in Sydney. Data from pulse oximeters used to measure oxygen saturation levels and heart rates along with armpit patches to track temperature were transmitted to the hospital. In addition, video-consultations allow coronavirus patients to receive the care they need without the risk of transmission.
Recently, we have seen evidence of health providers recognise the risks surrounding IoT devices and the need to incorporate security standards to protect against malicious hackers. For example, University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust has opted to trust Ordr with providing a systems control engine (SCE)10 which will locate and secure every connected device. This includes Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), Internet of Things (IoT) and Operational Technologies (OT) devices.
Security, safety, and data privacy considerations are important aspects of designing, building and maintaining such systems to protect the identity and well-being of the individual. We’d hate to think about incidents where devices give wrong information due to a malicious actor – getting the wrong medication, dosage, or advice could have serious, even lethal consequences. Having IoT devices and apps to create a safer world requires more scrutiny and protective measures designed as part of the solution. As many of these solutions will be designed for one person’s use, customised to their medical needs or specific daily routines, it’s essential they are maintained, updated, and when no longer maintainable that they are properly turned off and disposed of.
Check out IoT For All Podcast with Christopher Schouten of Kudelski Group11. He talks about necessary considerations to secure IoT projects, making sure they can scale as well as be practical in protecting what is valuable.
Although the transformational journey to an IoT world seems daunting, the capabilities of IoT to bring high-tech care and consultancy out of the clinic and into homes and vulnerable communities across the world presents a thrilling opportunity. Health care and IT experts, technicians, research scientists and security experts are collaborating, as are carers, policy makers and administrators. Altogether, the confluence of tech and human intelligence will continue to evolve and strive to protect all that is worth protecting. COVID-19 and cybercrime are making seismic shifts in worldwide health and safety, threatening our prosperity. Let’s defend the world, use technology for good and build the world we want.
1 Doffman, Zak. “Coronavirus Police Surveillance Tags Are Now Here: Hong Kong First To Deploy.” Forbes, 17 March 2020, https: //www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2020/03/17/alarming-coronavirus-surveillance-bracelets-now-in-peoples-homes-heres-what-they-do/?sh=227b12984533
2 Hallet, Rebecca. “Tokyo on track for smartest Olympics ever”. Raconteur, 20 February 2020, https ://www.raconteur.net/technology/internet-of-things/iot-tokyo-2020/
3 Coble, Sarah. “Vulnerabilities in IoT Devices Have Doubled Since 2013”. Info Security, 17 September 2019, https ://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/news/vulnerabilities-in-iot-devices/.
5 Whittaker, Zack. “Hackers publish ExecuPharm internal data after ransomware”. Tech Crunch, 27 April 2020, https: //techcrunch.com/2020/04/27/execupharm-clop-ransomware/.
6“Europe’s Largest Private Hospital Operator Fresenius Hit by Ransomware”. KrebsonSecurity, 6 May 2020, https: //krebsonsecurity.com/2020/05/europes-largest-private-hospital-operator-fresenius-hit-by-ransomware/.
7 “Coronavirus: Cyber-attacks hit hospital construction companies” BBC News, 13 May 2020, https: //www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-52646808.
8 Anx, Quintessant. “Healthcare IoT: Monitoring Diabetes with Logz.io” Logz.io, 11 December 2018, https: //logz.io/blog/healthcare-iot-monitoring/.
9 Minion, Lynne. “‘Flattening the curve’ with virtual care in Australia'” Healthcare IT News, 30 June 2020, https: //www.healthcareitnews.com/news/europe/flattening-curve-virtual-care-australia
10 Crouch, Hannah. “University Hospitals of North Midlands deploys Ordr cyber security solution”. digital health, 6 May 2021, https: //www.digitalhealth.net/2021/05/university-hospitals-of-north-midlands-ordr/
11 “Security Challenges in the IoT Landscape | Kudelski Group’s Christopher Schouten”. iot for all, 5 May 2020, https: //www.iotforall.com/podcasts/e064-iot-security-considerations.
How can we enjoy social gatherings in restaurants or busy spaces again? This is possible with robots, devices, space partitions and humans occupying the same space. With imagination, we will re-create the bustling spaces redefined with IoT technology.
What is IoT?
If you’re new to IoT, see from Wikipedia: “The Internet of things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.”1
Basically, an IoT device is one that has an internet connection, even though normally it wouldn’t. Your smart boiler and smart thermostat are examples of IoT devices. You talk to them using an app on your smartphone. You tell the smart boiler to heat water so you can take a shower, and the smart thermostat to warm up the room to a cosy temperature by the time you arrive home.
In recent months, as the reach and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic increased, adopting IoT solutions started joining the frontline in many countries outside Asia in order to manage the crisis. With the boost in increased use of digital and remote technologies, videoconferencing has become the norm for office meetings, school lessons and exercise classes. The capabilities of video conferencing, email and messaging technologies has shown just how productive remote work can really be, with studies showing that 65% of pandemic remote workers wished to continue working from home and only 2% wished to return to the office.2
These efforts are likely to take a step further with IoT. Many countries have set up temperature measurement systems at the entrance of public places such as airports and train stations. Restaurant managers are also recording the temperature of staff who are preparing food. If this collected data (temperature) could be transferred and analysed in the cloud through an app, it could result in real-time analysis.
To orchestrate such a system requires planning and a clear understanding of what is most valuable to protect and why. There are many benefits and use cases of IoT.
Benefits of IoT
IoT, artificial intelligence, and the analysis of vast amounts of real-time data sets (aka Big Data) can be used to slow down proliferation of pandemics to avoid future global health crises. Such real-time connected intelligence, dubbed “nowcasting”, could be gained from medical devices connecting over the internet. Trend monitoring of wearable devices could analyse population-level influenza trends daily according to a recent study from Scripps Research scientists.3
As seen during COVID-19 isolation period, this preventive action to stop the virus spread combined with telehealth services lets health care providers advise patients without risking exposure.
Robot surveillance for social distance monitoring can alleviate the stress on police or community patrol since robots don’t get tired of doing repetitive tasks — observe, record, count, report and take action. 4
Key reasons for implementing IoT projects are summarized in Microsoft Azure’s IoT survey featured in their IoT Signals report, which highlight the top three reasons as improving Safety and security, Operations optimization, and Quality assurance.
During COVID-19 crisis, we have seen that doctors and health care providers can maintain some employees’ productivity while social distancing and relying on the right connected devices and computing systems. Logistics companies, supermarkets and the food supply chain can track the quality and quantity of goods and produce from shore to shop or farm to market with minimal manual effort. Eventually, the click-pick-and-collect journey of groceries delivered by Ocado5 will be done entirely with robotics. Another instance in which IoT can act as a useful tool for retail stores is by tracking consumer and employee location data. Michele Pelino, senior analyst in infrastructure and operations research at Forrester said, “The idea is to use information about location: GPS capabilities in phones. Over time, there will be more opportunities to create location-based experiences to interact with a brand”. Possibilities for the next year include the ability for customers to use GPS to check in, allowing them to maintain distance by avoiding queues.
As with all new technology, great progress comes with risks in uncharted fields.
Since the explosion of the internet of things (IoT) across industries, companies providing products or services in any IoT ecosystem must carefully evaluate and examine possible threats of malicious intent.
We have been warned children’s toys6 and baby monitors’7 cameras have been hacked by strangers invading privacy and security of the home. In the UK, regulations for IoT devices are gradually being introduced to catch up with the 300% surge in cyberattacks using IoT devices8, and similarly in the US9.
In the United States, FBI warned 10 the US private sector in February: “Software supply chain companies are believed to be targeted in order to gain access to the victim’s strategic partners and/or customers, including entities supporting Industrial Control Systems (ICS) for global energy generation, transmission, and distribution”. Recently we have seen this exact industry area targeted in oil pipeline system company Colonial Pipeline’s Ransomware attack. This led to the take down of the largest fuel pipeline in the U.S., and Colonial Pipeline paying out a huge $4.4m crypto currency ransome.
In addition to attacks against supply chain software providers, the FBI said the same malware was also deployed in attacks against companies in the healthcare, energy, and financial sectors.
The Most popular supply chain attack is 2017’s NotPetya ransomware attack11. Due to a lack of patches to keep software in their Windows computer systems up to date, cyber criminals were able to gain access to computers and install a malware that spread through the networks of organizations like wildfire. Multinational companies, AP Moller-Maersk, Reckitt Benckiser and FedEx, were crippled and they were not even the target of the state-sponsored attack. Just collateral damage, and the estimated loss is $10 billion12.
Gavin Ashton recently wrote in his personal blog about his insider view of the NotPetya experience, which cost Maersk $300 million: “you should put up a damn good fight to stop these attacks in the first case. … Staying with the home analogy; Yes, there’s security cameras and wizard cloud-connected ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) devices and all kinds of expensive measures and widgets, but a lot of organisations fail simply on the basics. Lock the damn door.”13
The Value Security Adds to Systems
Such risks and misfortunate events are avoidable and can be mitigated.
There is a range of use cases in which security indeed adds value to IoT systems. For example:
Need to prove authentic origin of products such as fresh produce or medications? Eliminate loss by tracking products with encrypted data.
Need to guarantee the integrity of data? Prevent tampering and fraud by ensuring systems have security controls for identification, authentication and authorization.
Prevent cloning/faking/tampering of trackers or meters?
Ensure data of logistics/transport/utility/food services is confidential end-to-end
individual contact tracing. Ensure tracker data is confidential end-to-end
Prevent device/software tampering that could affect pricing and billing
At home and with health care providers,
Safeguard customer privacy by preventing intrusion into home systems
Comply with patient privacy regulations by protecting data at rest (stored on devices/systems) and in motion (when sent from a device over the network to another device/system).
In the IoT ecosystem, it is crucial for organizations to have visibility into all connected devices and systems. As more employees use cloud apps and mobile devices for work, the traditional network security perimeter has lost relevance. This means more attention is needed on endpoint monitoring and protection, which includes not only employees’ devices to perform work, but also devices in the worker’s environment whether at home or at work. At work the environment may be an open plan of office desks, a clinician’s patient room, or on the assembly line of a manufacturing plant. Each environment will have its unique characteristics. For more on the role of IoT and the fight against COVID-19 in sensitive areas, read our blog: Cyber Security and IoT: Health Care and Well-Being in our Shared Spaces.
The user/actor in the environment may also vary and the device’s mobility would affect its position and environment. IoT system design must take many of these factors into consideration and use secure-by-design principles to protect the value of the information that is being moved around the ecosystem. There is no panacea to protect all aspects because in the IoT ecosystem the hardware, software, and services are provided by different vendors. Each aspect will need to be secured to be fit for its purpose within the context of its environment and ecosystem. Methods to update and/or remove devices are required to keep up with the pace of business and technological advancements.
Just as hardware devices come with basic security benefits that can be used and will need to be updated over time, the software of open source components used by IoT devices must also be maintained. Continuous updates are essential. New aspects of information and human security will need to be included. In the context of autonomous vehicles, software must be resilient against both malicious actors as terrorists as well as unauthorised but friendly users, such as a child who could use a smartphone to direct the car to go to school, for example.
Look Out Ahead for CyberSecurity in IoT
The future is not promising to be better in terms of cybersecurity threats and malicious attacks. Globally there were nearly 27.5 billion installed IoT devices number of installed IoT devices at the end of 2020, which is set to rise to 45.9 billion by 202514. So, with both of these figures growing, it is clear to see that IoT devices are the perfect vessel for cyber criminals to carry out attacks.
80% of data breaches can be prevented with basic actions, such as vulnerability assessments, patching, and proper configurations. Getting basic cyber hygiene right is critical to help prevent cyber attacks. There are always those who destroy unity and stifle positive progress. Cyber criminals unfortunately will continue to innovate with artificial intelligence to increase their attacks at machine speed from anywhere in the world and on a scale comparable to that of a pandemic.
How a Software Bill Of Materials can help prevent cyber attacks
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) defines a Software Bill Of Materials (SBOM) as “a complete, formally structured list of components, libraries, and modules that are required to build (i.e. compile and link) a given piece of software and the supply chain relationships between them. These components can be open source or proprietary, free or paid, and widely available or restricted access.” A bill of materials such as this acts as a comprehensive compilation of all internal parts of the software, including third party contributions. This would facilitate the tracking of individual components such as libraries or source code within software programs. With a complete and traceable inventory, companies can see and manage the risks associated with open source libraries by identifying vulnerable systems as early as possible. Furthermore, it allows developers to monitor what components they use by vetting the code in their projects. Finally, this level of transparency would allow for a more informed purchasing experience for consumers. President Biden recently formalized the importance of SBOMs through the Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity15, in which it was made mandatory that all software used by the US government came with its own SBOM— so as to prevent from SolarWinds type hacks in the future.
If you are interested in automated auditing of your software applications for open source compliance risks and security vulnerabilities, get in touch.
2 Mlitz, Kimberly. “Work from home & remote work- Statistics and Facts”. Statistica, 30 March 2021, https: //www.statista.com/topics/6565/work-from-home-and-remote-work/.
3 “Fitness wearables may improve real-time tracking of seasonal influenza outbreaks.” Scripps Research, 16 January 2020, https ://www.scripps.edu/news-and-events/press-room/2020/20200116-wearable-flu.html.
4 Stieg, Cory. “This $75,000 Boston Dynamics robot ‘dog’ is for sale—take a look”. Make it, 22 June 2020, https ://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/22/75000-boston-dynamics-robot-dog-for-sale-take-a-look.html.
5 Banks, Martin. “Google Solving Together – Ocado Technology readies clients for more changes to online retail’s ‘new normal”. 15 June 2020, https ://diginomica.com/google-solving-together-ocado-technology-readies-clients-more-changes-online-retails-new-normal
6 “What did she say?! Talking doll Cayla is hacked”. 30 January 2015, https ://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/technology-31059893 .
7 “Smart camera and baby monitor warning given by UK’s cyber-defender”. BBC News, 3 March 2020, https ://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-51706631.
8 Kelly Early. “What do the UK’s newly proposed IoT laws look like?”. Silicone Republic, 28 January 2020, https ://www.siliconrepublic.com/enterprise/uk-iot-internet-of-things-regulation-laws.
9 https ://www.nist.gov/internet-things-iot
11 Cimpanu, Catalin. “FBI warns about ongoing attacks against software supply chain companies”. ZD Net, 10 February 2020, https ://www.zdnet.com/article/fbi-warns-about-ongoing-attacks-against-software-supply-chain-companies/
12 Hall, Kat. “Largest advertising company in the world still wincing after NotPetya punch”. The Register, 7 July 2017, https ://www.theregister.com/2017/07/07/ad_giant_recovering_from_notpetya/.
13 Ashton, Gavin. GVNSHTN, Maersk, me & notPetya, 21 June 2020, https ://gvnshtn.com/maersk-me-notpetya/.
14 Belton, Padraig. “In 2021, as you work from home hackers eye your IoT”. Light Reading, 1 April 2021, https ://www.lightreading.com/iot/in-2021-as-you-work-from-home-hackers-eye-your-iot/d/d-id/766350
15 “Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity”. The White House, 12 May 2021, https ://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/05/12/executive-order-on-improving-the-nations-cybersecurity/.