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

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?

Meterian Spotlight: A quick look at Honda’s open source software supply chain

Photo of front view of white honda car with headlights on at dusk
Photo by Douglas Bagg on Unsplash

Earlier this month, Honda announced it has suffered a cyber attack on its network.  It was affecting its operations around the world: their manufacturing plants have shut down, customer service work has been forced to stop, and their internal communication systems were affected.  Additionally, systems outside of Japan were affected due to a “virus” that spread through the network.  No further details on the root cause of the attack yet, but at Meterian we have done a quick surface scan of their websites honda.com and www.honda.co.uk.  Similar issues were found on both.  We’ll focus our blog post on Honda UK’s site.

From the summary report above, we see their website’s security scored 0 From the summary report above, we see their website’s security scored 0 out of 100 because it has 19 vulnerabilities, including jquery 1.4.2 which is vulnerable and outdated.  Honda.co.uk’s basic cybersecurity hygiene could be improved by making sure to not launch the website with vulnerable and old components — jquery 1.4.2 is from 2010.  Similar issues were found after analysing honda.com.

Although we don’t know if these two components’ weaknesses contributed to the hack of Honda’s systems, while investigations are private, we know every software application is part of a company’s digital estate.  Altogether, front end systems (like websites and mobile apps) and back end systems (like databases, servers, APIs that store or access a company’s customer data, intellectual property — the real business logic of the services) make up the digital estate.  Any security hole is a vulnerable entry point for cyber criminals to exploit and gain unauthorized access to information or systems to cause damage.  Last year in 2019, over 40GB of Honda’s data were breached, exposing details about internal systems and devices on their network. Cyber criminals have strategically targeted Honda again.  

There are many strategies to build up an organization’s cyber resilience, including cybersecurity cultural awareness among employees and operational and software development best practices.  Meterian helps customers reduce the time to detect, mitigate and resolve issues in applications’ software supply chain. These known vulnerabilities are easy to fix with Meterian because:

1. Safe coding practices can be easily adopted into the software development lifecycle  

2. Automated controls fit directly into the software development workflow for continuous monitoring

3. Meterian can be set up to run continuously and prevent such vulnerabilities from going live 

Most importantly, developers are empowered to recognise and address the issue early with information at their fingertips.  As stewards of software, they can automatically cyber-proof their apps with Meterian so the business can run continuously and avert giving unwanted prying eyes unauthorized access to systems and data.

To this day, Equifax’s mistake for not fixing a known security hole in its software application’s open source component still has consequences since the 2017 mega breach they suffered.  See TechRadar’s lackluster review of Equifax’s identity theft protection service, which they did not include in their article “Best identity theft protection for 2020.”   

Good practices in cybersecurity can help protect a company’s reputation and growth.  As we’ve also seen following the EasyJet hack incident revealed in May, business productivity and customer satisfaction can be adversely affected due to any cyber hack incident.  You can read our recent analysis on easyjet.com’s website.  

To see if your own public assets have open source vulnerabilities that anyone could find out about (and exploit to enter your systems), try our webscanner or project scanner.

Meterian Spotlight: A quick look at Honda’s open source software supply chain

A recent Scala vulnerability emerges

Last month a new vulnerability was discovered that affects several versions of http4s, a prominent Scala HTTP library for client and server applications. The vulnerability is of a high severity nature hence it poses substantial risks.  Therefore be sure to read on and find out what these risks are and how to safely resolve them.

CVE-2020-5280

Vulnerability Score: 7.5

Platform: Scala

Component: http4s versions

  • 0.8.0 – 0.18.25
  • 0.19.0
  • 0.20.0 – 0.20.19
  • 0.21.0 – 0.21.1

Http4s allows Scala developers to create native client and server applications while favouring the pure functional side of the programming language.

In versions prior to 0.18.26, 0.20.20 and 0.21.2, the library has been found to be prone to local file inclusion (LFI) vulnerabilities caused by an erroneous URI normalization process that takes place when requests are performed. URI normalization is a very common process.  For example, browsers and web crawlers use it to modify and standardise URIs in order to determine whether two syntactically different ones are equivalent.

In vulnerable http4s versions, a malicious request could allow a potential attacker to gain access to resources on the server filesystem. This is known as a local file inclusion attack and it can lead to remote code execution (RCE) vulnerabilities.

File inclusions are part of every advanced server side scripting language on the web. In addition to keeping web application’s code tidy and maintainable, they are also used to parse files (e.g. configuration files) from the file system to be evaluated in the application’s code. Issues arise when these are not properly implemented, thus making the system vulnerable to exploits.

A typical exploit scenario could be the following. Assume you modularise your app so that required modules are defined in separate files, which are included and interpreted through a function that allows to specify the path to said modules. If the appropriate security checks are not present, the attacker could specify the path to sensitive files (e.g. the passwd file which stores passwords on Unix systems) or even worse, inject malicious code on the server and specify the path to successfully perform arbitrary remote code execution. A relatively trivial way to do so could be by abusing the web app’s upload functionality to upload an image containing this malicious code in its source.

How to fix this issue?

The recommended course is to upgrade:

  • v0.18.26 (compatible with the 0.18.x series)
  • v0.20.20 (compatible with the 0.20.x series)
  • v0.21.2 (compatible with the 0.21.x series)

If you can not perform an upgrade due to compatibility issues, it is advised to temporarily replace FileService.scala, ResourceService.scala and WebjarService.scala in your project with their non-vulnerable versions from the appropriate release series specified above.

As they say, prevention is better than cure. Don’t delay! Take remedial actions as specified above now. Integrate your system with Meterian to be informed when similar vulnerabilities arise and eliminate possible threats!

A recent Scala vulnerability emerges

jQuery, Javascript vulnerability of the month

Artwork by Marco Sciortino

Here we are! Guess what’s vulnerable again?
On April 10th 2020 it was made public that a vulnerability has been exploited in the most popular Javascript library ever implemented: jQuery 3.4.1.

Why is jQuery 3.4.1 vulnerable?

Vulnerability score: 5
Platform: Javascript
Components: jQuery, all versions before 3.5.0

When jQuery is invoked, it reads the HTML document and returns requested fragments of it.
Now, while reading the document it might find that the one or more requested fragments are not in the correct format, so it tries to translate them. Although most of the times the translation is correctly performed, it’s been demonstrated that in particular cases the conversion (or parsing) could lead to an XSS cross-site scripting vulnerability.

An XSS cross-site scripting is a type of code vulnerability that allows attackers to insert malicious code into the web pages viewed by other users. It might be exploited to steal information such as access tokens or other sensitive information. This is what a criminal or Black Hat hacker would do.

This is what a criminal or Black Hat hacker would do. White Hat hackers, on the other hand, would behave ethically and use their software White Hat hackers, on the other hand, would behave ethically. Using their software engineering knowledge, White Hat hackers would show how to exploit a vulnerability: publish useful information about it to make sure both users and owners of the vulnerable library could take actions to prevent attacks.

What actions are required to safely update?

The first thing to know is that all the old versions of jQuery have some sort of vulnerability.  Up until April 10th, version 3.4.1 was the only safe version available.  Fortunately, the new minor release 3.5.0 has been published to fix the XSS security vulnerability.

As suggested in the jQuery release note, updating to this latest version might break your code as, to prevent the abuse of this vulnerability, the HTML element phrase is no longer converted.
Therefore, a code review might be in order.

There is a lot of time-consuming effort involved in staying on track with all the latest code vulnerabilities as they are discovered but, fortunately, Meterian can help you with that.

When added to the CI/CD pipeline of any application, Meterian will automatically detect such vulnerabilities, or even fix them for you, and it will help you avoid the risk of an attack before it becomes a problem.

Beat open source vulnerabilities with Meterian.

jQuery, Javascript vulnerability of the month

Vulnerability Focus: Javascript

Welcome back to Meterian’s next Vulnerability Focus report edition. This week we are talking about Javascript vulnerabilities which need to be addressed. Both have been published in recent months and have a medium severity threat. The first vulnerability could result in a cross-site scripting attack whilst the second is to do with a cryptographic issue. There are over 1.6 billion websites in the world, and JavaScript is used on 95% of them, be sure to check if you could be affected.

  • CVE-2019-12043: there is a vulnerability in remarkable 1.7.1 affecting the unknown processing in the library lib/parser_inline.js of the component URL Handler. Manipulation of this component can lead to cross-site-scripting.
  • CVE-2019-9155: OpenPGP.js has a cryptographic issue which could allow attackers to conduct an invalid curve attack and gain the victim’s ECDH private key

CVE-2019-12043

Vulnerability Score: 6.1

Platform: Javascript

Components: remarkable version 1.7.1

Read up Javascript users! This vulnerability was posted last year in 2019, yet because of the significant amount of people using Javascript for their web apps, we thought it would be useful to inform people who might not have had time to address the issue. 

This vulnerability has been found in remarkable 1.7.1 and is considered problematic. The component mishandles URL filtering, which allows attackers to trigger an XSS attack via unprintable characters.

Cross site scripting is an injection of malicious code into a trusted web app. As described above, this happens when the user input is not sufficiently validated either on the client or server side. The scripts injected will have malware which then allows the hacker to do a series of exploits. What is more concerning is that the attack could then alter the appearance of the web app and also commence attacks on users visiting that site.

An image of a computer with three people huddled around it, pointing at the screen.
https://unsplash.com/photos/2FPjlAyMQTA

The solution for this vulnerability is to replace remarkable 1.7.1 with versions 1.7.4 to 2.0.0.

CVE-2019-9155

Vulnerability Score: 5.9

Platform: Javascript openpgp

Components: openpgp versions up to 4.2.0 included

This Javascript vulnerability was published in September 2019 and has a medium severity score of 5.9. 

The vulnerability is a cryptographic issue in OpenPGP.js up to and including 4.2.0. This is a library in Javascript and therefore can be used on nearly any device. Users do not have to install a gpg on their machines in order to use this library, and therefore it can be reused in other projects that have browser extensions or server apps. Its main function is to sign, encrypt, decrypt and verify any kind of text, specifically emails. 

The problem allows hackers, who can provide forged messages and get feedback on whether decryption of these messages succeeded, to eventually figure out and extract the victim’s private key.

An image of a key.
https://unsplash.com/photos/Nel8STCcWy8

To avoid this type of attack in the future, developers should identify sensitive data and encrypt them, even if stored on a hard drive. There should also be an effort to ensure the data cannot be overwritten by overwriting sensitive memory locations straight after the data is no longer needed in memory. 

In regards to this specific vulnerability, it is suggested to upgrade openpgp to version 4.3.0 or above. 

That is it from us…for now! Make sure to spread the word on these Javascript vulnerabilities in order to help protect your apps or the apps you develop. Read also our post about javascript vulnerabilities and remote code execution

As you all know, open-source vulnerabilities are discovered daily, so you can expect us to be back with new vulnerabilities very soon!

Knowing is half the battle. The other half is doing. Let Meterian help your dev team stay in the know and on top of the latest updates to secure your apps continuously. Sign up here to download the Meterian client today. You’ll get an instant analysis of your first project for free.  See the risks immediately and know which components to remove or upgrade to secure your app.

Vulnerability Focus: Javascript