Log4J Recap - Preventing, Detecting, and Hunting with Microsoft



January 3, 2022 recap – The Log4j vulnerabilities represent a complex and high-risk situation for companies across the globe. This open-source component is widely used across many suppliers’ software and services. By nature of Log4j being a component, the vulnerabilities affect not only applications that use vulnerable libraries, but also any services that use these applications, so customers may not readily know how widespread the issue is in their environment. Customers are encouraged to utilize scripts and scanning tools to assess their risk and impact. Microsoft has observed attackers using many of the same inventory techniques to locate targets. Sophisticated adversaries (like nation-state actors) and commodity attackers alike have been observed taking advantage of these vulnerabilities. There is high potential for the expanded use of the vulnerabilities.

Exploitation attempts and testing have remained high during the last weeks of December. We have observed many existing attackers adding exploits of these vulnerabilities in their existing malware kits and tactics, from coin miners to hands-on-keyboard attacks. Organizations may not realize their environments may already be compromised. Microsoft recommends customers to do additional review of devices where vulnerable installations are discovered. At this juncture, customers should assume broad availability of exploit code and scanning capabilities to be a real and present danger to their environments. Due to the many software and services that are impacted and given the pace of updates, this is expected to have a long tail for remediation, requiring ongoing, sustainable vigilance.

The remote code execution (RCE) vulnerabilities in Apache Log4j 2 referred to as “Log4Shell” (CVE-2021-44228, CVE-2021-45046, CVE-2021-44832) has presented a new attack vector and gained broad attention due to its severity and potential for widespread exploitation. The majority of attacks we have observed so far have been mainly mass-scanning, coin mining, establishing remote shells, and red-team activity, but it’s highly likely that attackers will continue adding exploits for these vulnerabilities to their toolkits.

With nation-state actors testing and implementing the exploit and known ransomware-associated access brokers using it, we highly recommend applying security patches and updating affected products and services as soon as possible. Refer to the Microsoft Security Response Center blog for technical information about the vulnerabilities and mitigation recommendations.

Meanwhile, defenders need to be diligent in detecting, hunting for, and investigating related threats. This blog reports our observations and analysis of attacks that take advantage of the Log4j 2 vulnerabilities. It also provides our recommendations for using Microsoft security solutions to (1) find and remediate vulnerable services and systems and (2) detect, investigate, and respond to attacks.

The full blog, which can be accessed here, covers the following topics:

Attack vectors and observed activity

Finding and remediating vulnerable apps and systems

Detecting and responding to exploitation attempts and other related attacker activity

Indicators of compromise (IoCs)