Spring4Shell: Zero-Day Vulnerability in Spring Framework

What Happened?

On March 30, 2022, we received word through our channels of a remote code execution vulnerability in Spring Framework when a Chinese-speaking researcher published a GitHub commit that contained proof-of-concept (PoC) exploit code.

This uploaded exploit targeted a zero-day vulnerability in the Spring Core module of the Spring Framework. Spring is maintained by Spring.io (a subsidiary of VMWare) and is used by many Java-based enterprise software frameworks. The vulnerability in the leaked proof-of-concept, which appeared to allow unauthenticated attackers to execute code on target systems, was exploited quickly.

What Are We Doing?

1. Actively monitoring public data streams pertaining to this situation. We are also researching with Rapid7’s research team who can confirm the zero-day vulnerability is real and provides unauthenticated remote code execution.

Proof-of-concept exploits exist, but it’s currently unclear which real-world applications use the vulnerable functionality. As of March 31, Spring has also confirmed the vulnerability and has released Spring Framework versions 5.3.18 and 5.2.20 to address it.

It affects Spring MVC and Spring WebFlux applications running on JDK 9+. As additional information becomes available, we will evaluate the feasibility of vulnerability checks, attack modules, detections, and Metasploit modules.

While Rapid7 does not have a direct detection in place for this exploit, they do have behavior- based detection mechanisms in place to alert on common follow-on attacker activity.

2. Informing our SOC Analysts of the investigation and providing them with the necessary briefings to deploy any defenses provided by our partners.

3. Reinforcing our recommendations by communicating the need for layered security and applying rock solid standards provided by public vendor neutral agencies like the Center for Internet Security. The goal of these standards is a stronger, robust layering of protective measures for our FIT clients.

What You Can Do

The vulnerability affects SpringMVC and Spring WebFlux applications running on JDK 9+. As of 10AM, EDT March 31, 2022, CVE-2022-22965 has been assigned to this vulnerability.

Spring has confirmed the zero-day vulnerability and has released Spring Framework versions 5.3.18 and 5.2.20 to address it.

https://spring.io/blog/2022/03/31/spring-framework-rce-early-announcement

Evaluate your environment for this vulnerability and patch as needed. We are big fans of the work performed by the Center for Internet Security (CIS). CIS is a nonprofit organization, formed in October 2000.

Its mission is to make the connected world a safer place by developing, validating, and promoting timely best practice solutions that help people, businesses, and governments protect themselves against pervasive cyber threats.

Spring4J would be best mitigated by applying the CIS Controls:

Control 02 – Inventory and Control of Software Assets

Actively manage (inventory, track, and correct) all software (operating systems and applications) on the network so that only authorized software is installed and can execute, and that unauthorized and unmanaged software is found and prevented from installation or execution.

Control 08 – Audit Log Management

Collect, alert, review, and retain audit logs of events that could help detect, understand, or recover from an attack.

Control 12 – Network Monitoring & Defense

Operate processes and tooling to establish and maintain comprehensive network monitoring and defense against security threats across the enterprise’s network infrastructure and user base.

If you have any questions about how to further implement these controls in your environment, FIT Cybersecurity would love to provide guidance and help you improve your security posture.

 

— The FIT Cyber Team

Serious Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities: Apache Log4j & SMA-3217

UPDATE — 12/18/21

There have been more developments in the ongoing remediation of the Log4j logging library and connected vulnerabilities.

The initial patch, version 2.15.0, that aimed to resolve the remote code execution vulnerability described in CVE-2021-44228 was found to be incomplete and led to the discovery of CVE-2021-45046. Initially thought to be a minor DoS vulnerability, CVE-2021-45046 was assigned a CVSS of 3.7. As of late yesterday, CVE-2021-45046 was elevated to a CVSS of 9 due to newly discovered attack vectors that would allow bad actors to exfiltrate data. A patch was quickly released in version 2.16.0 to remediate it.  Earlier this morning, a new flaw was identified in the patch version 2.16.0 that has required a new patch release (version 2.17.0) and a new vulnerability tracking ID of CVE-2021-45105. The identified flaw is a severe DoS vulnerability that would allow bad actors to perpetrate Denial-of-Service attacks against affected assets. CVE-2021-45105 has been assigned a CVSS of 7.5.

The risk with these vulnerabilities not only rests in active use of the Log4j library within production applications developed by your company, but also in several standard workplace applications and solutions that also utilize it. Log4j is one of the most ubiquitous logging libraries and is used in a plethora of applications and solutions. It is likely that some of the applications you use in your environment are affected and therefore vulnerable. These are called nested vulnerabilities as they stem from a utility that is used within standardly deployed applications and are dependent on patch releases from the vendor to remediate.

 

FIT’s Response:

FIT is continuing to monitor the situation closely and apply patches as they become available. FIT engineering will be reaching out as patches are released to setup emergency patching windows for FIT IT managed clients.

 

Recommendations:

If you are currently utilizing Log4j in your development or infrastructure, FIT recommends immediately applying the patch in version 2.17.0 (Java 8).

Additionally, these vulnerabilities have highlighted the importance of running a full application inventory of your environment and monitoring attack surface lists of affected applications to compare. It is critical to apply patches when available to all affected applications in your environment. The primary attack surface list in use by FIT Cybersecurity is published by Rumble and can be found here – Finding applications that use Log4J (rumble.run). It is updated daily, if not twice daily, and maintains the most complete list of applications affected by these vulnerabilities.

 

UPDATE — 12/17/21

CVE-2021-44228 & CVE-2021-45046

VMWare is starting to release patches for both vulnerabilities. Please reference this article against your environment to determine what patches are available for your infrastructure: VMSA-2021-0028.3 (vmware.com)

FIT Managed IT clients will be hearing from your engineering team as patches for your environment become available.

FIT Cloud Clients, emergency patches are being applied to your infrastructures this weekend.

Please Note: This is just the first round of patches and not everything has had a patch released yet. We anticipate this process continuing for the next few weeks at least. Depending on your environment, it is very possible you will need several emergency patching windows as more and more patches become available.

 

UPDATE —  12/16/21

We’d like to provide a status update of where we stand with the remediation efforts of the Log4j vulnerabilities (CVE-2021-44228 and CVE-2021-45046).

CVE-2021-44228

FIT Solutions’ Managed IT clients are 95% patched for on-premise assets that are affected by this vulnerability, and the last 5% are actively being worked on by the engineering team. This vulnerability scope is evolving as new applications and services are identified to be vulnerable. FIT Solutions is actively investigating and monitoring all client infrastructures to identify and address any newly discovered vulnerable systems.

CVE-2021-45046

This new vulnerability that was produced from the remediation of CVE-2021-44228 remains in the monitoring state. A few patches have been released to address this, but a majority of software and solution providers are still working on updated patches to address it. FIT Cybersecurity is actively monitoring the situation and engaging the engineering team as soon as patches become available to implement in client environments.

Updated Recommendation

FIT Cybersecurity is recommending an additional layer of protection that can assist in defending against the Log4j vulnerabilities. If it is possible in the environment, we recommend that Outbound LDAP communications be blocked on the firewall. This will not completely protect your environment from the Log4j vulnerability, but will hamper attempts by bad actors to exploit the vulnerability by utilizing LDAP. FIT Cybersecurity and FIT Solutions will continue to collaborate on monitoring the situation and remediating client environments. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to info@fitsolutions.biz.

 

UPDATE — 12/15/21

A new vulnerability was discovered that impacts all assets affected by the initial Log4j Vulnerability (CVE-2021-44228). This new vulnerability (CVE-2021-45046) is less severe than CVE-2021-44228 coming in with a CVSS score of 3.7 out of 10. Do not let the lower CVSS score fool you, the vulnerability is still something that requires immediate attention.

The initial patch released for Log4j will prevent an attacker from gaining complete control over an affected asset, but that same patch can be abused by attackers resulting in a denial-of-service (DoS) attack on the affected asset. These DoS attacks have the ability to take an affected asset down by flooding the asset with requests at such a volume that the asset cannot handle the load.

Currently, software and solution providers are scrambling to release new patches of their software that address this new vulnerability. Apache, the initial source of both these vulnerabilities, has released a new version of the Log4j logging library that fixes this issue. If you actively use Log4j, please make sure you update your version to 2.16.0 which resolves both vulnerabilities.

Here are some additional resources for more information on the new vulnerability CVE-2021-45046:

Apache’s Fix for Log4Shell Can Lead to DoS Attacks | Threatpost

Second Log4j Vulnerability (CVE-2021-45046) Discovered — New Patch Released (thehackernews.com)

FIT Cybersecurity and FIT Solutions Response

FIT Cybersecurity and FIT Solutions are collaborating actively to patch all FIT Solutions IT clients and advise all cybersecurity clients on next steps. As more patches become available, FIT Solutions will reach out to IT clients for emergency patching windows. It is important to note, about 90% of affected assets from FIT Managed IT clients have been patched with the initial patch or a workaround has been implemented. The remaining 10% are actively being worked on to complete patching of the initial CVE-2021-44228.

 

UPDATE — 12/14/21

Only about 30% of the software vendors impacted have released patches thus far. We urge decision-makers to approve emergency patching all week if possible as updates come out during the week. Though patching updates can be disruptive to work, the interruption would be far less than that caused by a breach. Our cybersecurity team built custom monitoring alerts to increase threat hunting while we wait for patches to be released. Our team is also trained on emergency response actions to stop the exploit from being leveraged. We are working with all our clients to strategically make plans to minimize risk to their businesses. For users of FIT Cloud, we have applied the work-around fixes to VMware while a patch is being developed to protect the Cloud infrastructure.

 

INITIAL 12/13/21

Late last week, two vulnerabilities came to light that have made large waves in the cybersecurity space. We wanted to make sure you are informed of these new and potentially dangerous vulnerabilities. FIT Solutions stands ready to assist in any way we can as we go through the remediation of these new vulnerabilities. Please do not hesitate to reach out to support@fitsolutions.biz with any questions or concerns you may have.

 

Apache Log4j Logging Library Vulnerability | CVE-2021-44228 | CVSS 10.0

The Apache Log4j vulnerability was released late on Friday, December 10, and has a large attack surface with potentially dangerous effects. This vulnerability allows attackers to gain complete control of affected systems. The Log4j logging library is widely used and can be found in different services from Apple, Twitter, Steam, Tesla, Elastic Search, and more. Ranking as a CVSS 10.0 out of 10, this vulnerability poses a significant threat to those that utilize or interact with the Apache Log4j Logging Library, and it is already being exploited in the wild.

This is a high criticality vulnerability and deserves your immediate attention. Recommended remediation is to immediately upgrade any direct use of the Log4j library to log4j-2.15.0.rc2. Log4j is also utilized in several tools for logging, monitoring, alerting, and dashboard solutions. This means the issue may not be that you are directly using the library, but your tools are, which would also leave you vulnerable. In these instances, update your tools to the latest version and monitor their publishers’ releases to ensure you update to the release meant to fix CVE-2021-44228.

Log4j is also a dependency in large number of applications for business and personal use. In these circumstances, we must wait for the application provider to update the Log4j library. With the intense scrutiny and attention this vulnerability has received, we anticipate patching within the next couple days if the issue has not been patched already.

If you are not sure if you or one of the tools you utilize use Log4j, Huntress has come out with a utility to check if you are vulnerable – Huntress – Log4Shell Tester

Here are some additional resources for CVE-2021-44228:

Critical RCE Vulnerability: log4j – CVE-2021-44228 (huntress.com)

Security warning: New zero-day in the Log4j Java library is already being exploited | ZDNet

NVD – CVE-2021-44228 (nist.gov)

 

SMA-3217 – SMA100 Unauthenticated Stack-based Buffer Overflow| CVE-2021-20038 | CVSS 9.8

The Unauthenticated Stack-based Buffer Overflow vulnerability is significant but in much smaller scope than the Log4j vulnerability. Affecting SMA 100 series appliances, this vulnerability can allow an unauthenticated attacker to execute commands as the nobody user, giving complete control of the device to the attacker.

Currently, there are no reports of this vulnerability being exploited in the wild, but it still warrants patching if you utilize any of these appliances. A patch has already been deployed by SonicWall and is readily available to all organizations that utilize these appliances. Our remediation recommendation is to immediately apply this patch to all affected SMA appliances.

Here are some more resources for CVE-2021-20038:

Security Advisory (sonicwall.com)

NVD – CVE-2021-20038 (nist.gov)

Patch Now: Sonicwall Fixes Multiple Vulnerabilities in SMA 100 Devices | Rapid7 Blog

FIT Cybersecurity & FIT Solutions Response

FIT Cybersecurity already has monitoring deployed to watch for Log4j exploitation attempts and is closely monitoring all logs for evidence of these attempts on our clients. We are collaborating with the engineering teams for FIT Solutions customers to ensure any available patches are applied to your environment immediately.

We are ready to assist and answer any questions you may have concerning these vulnerabilities.

Why “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” Doesn’t Work for IT

Let’s say you have network equipment that’s been in place for years and is working with minimal or no issues. Paying to maintain service and support on those items might seem like an unnecessary expense. Certainly that’s the way many businesses look at it when scrutinizing the IT budget and looking for items to cut. The logic to justify de-funding those contracts is pretty simple: “If it isn’t broke, why pay to fix it?” However, that is a risky position to take.

Late in 2019, a manufacturer of wireless access points announced that a number of security vulnerabilities — some with a “critical” rating — had been found in its products. They fixed the vulnerabilities in short order and distributed the fixes in the form of software upgrades to the affected products. Here’s the rub: businesses without active support contracts didn’t have access to the upgrades.

Why Service Contracts Are Vital for Critical Infrastructure

The access points in question are widely used in installations that call for reliable, widespread business-class wireless coverage. In other words, they’re an extremely critical element of the infrastructure for organizations that rely on Wi-Fi to run their business. With the prospect of a security vulnerability that would allow an intruder access and potentially bring the entire wireless network down, the seemingly minor risk of letting the service contracts lapse turned into a major risk overnight. All of a sudden, companies were faced with an unbudgeted expense. They either had to re-up the contracts for all of the controllers and access points, or else replace their entire wireless infrastructure.

The same scenario and risks apply to all manner of critical network infrastructure, including switches, routers, firewalls, VPNs and servers. Vulnerabilities are constantly being discovered and patched with updates. We often think of these devices as appliances or hardware, but the reality is, they have software inside that’s meant to be upgraded to improve performance, add features or address security problems. Those devices are at the heart of the network and hold the keys to keeping the business running.

Is the Gamble Worth It?

Many companies do take the risk of running without maintenance agreements on key pieces of network equipment. They have weighed the risks against the costs and reached the conclusion that the gamble is worth taking. While at FIT Solutions we don’t recommend this approach, we do respect that it is a business decision. We are more concerned with businesses that simply allow their service and support contracts to lapse as a cost-cutting measure, without fully understanding the risks and taking them into account.

At FIT Solutions, part of our service is knowing what the vendor policies are with regard to upgrades, support, and service agreements, and keeping track of whether your agreements are active. We use this information to help you understand the risks of running your critical network infrastructure without the benefit of a safety net. Want a true picture of these hidden risks? Give us a call at 888-339-5694 today.

Patch Tuesday & Hack Wednesday—Why Software Patching Is A Necessity

Applying software patches to fix security vulnerabilities is a key piece of system hygiene and protection against criminal computer attacks. Windows 10 is by default set up to handle this automatically. Unfortunately, for many users the prospect of having to stop the task at hand, wait for the updates to download and install, and hold off while the system restarts is too inconvenient. That leads many to delay the updates or tweak the settings so the updates can’t execute. This can be a big mistake—especially now.

The second Tuesday of every month is “Patch Tuesday”, when Microsoft rolls out the latest set of security patches to its operating systems and software. The set of patches first made available on April 14 closes many, many vulnerabilities. Every hour delayed in applying them leaves unpatched systems susceptible to attack.

A Whopper of a Patch Tuesday

This last Patch Tuesday was unusually large. It included:

  • 113 patches overall
  • 3 that close zero-day vulnerabilities/exploits for which no defense exists
  • 3 known to be actively used to infect systems “in the wild”
  • 17 deemed “critical”, which means a criminal can gain complete control over the system without any user interaction
  • 96 deemed “important”, which means that some user action is involved (with or without warning prompts)

The products impacted include the Microsoft Windows operating system itself, the Edge and Internet Explorer browsers, various Microsoft Office applications, Microsoft Office Services and Web Apps, Windows Defender, Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft Apps for Android, and Microsoft Apps for Mac.

Why Prompt Patching is Vital

To help you quickly grasp the importance of patching, we’ll first define a few terms. The first two have specific meanings when applied to computer software security.

  • Vulnerability: A weakness or oversight in the way software is coded or structured. It allows the code to be overwritten or tampered with so that it performs some action other than what it was intended to do.
  • Exploit: Rogue software code that a criminal uses to take advantage of a vulnerability. Such an exploit could allow a criminal to gain unauthorized access to a system or gain administrator privileges. The aim is often to inject malicious software code into a running process, leading to the criminal gaining control of the system.
  • Zero-day:  A combination of a vulnerability and an exploit that either is unknown to the security community, or is so new that no defenses have been developed against it. A patch isn’t available to close the vulnerability. Security software hasn’t been updated or is unable to recognize the exploit and prevent it from being introduced into systems and executing.
  • In the wild: An exploit that’s out of the realm of being theoretical or a possibility. It’s being actively used to infect and take over systems.
  • Patch Tuesday: Microsoft’s monthly distribution of patches that close known vulnerabilities.
  • Hack Wednesday: What the security community calls the day after Patch Tuesday. When Microsoft releases the patches, criminal programmers are able to use the patches to understand the vulnerabilities. Within a day or two, the related exploits begin appearing for sale on the underground marketplaces of the “dark web”.

Put the above together, and you can see the importance of applying patches as soon as they’re available. The instant that the patches are released, criminals are racing to create the new exploits and infect as many machines as possible before the systems’ owners can get around to installing the patches.

How to Ensure Systems are Properly Patched

Assuming you’re running Windows 10, click on the Start button, then Settings, open Update & Security, then Windows Update. Here you can immediately check for updates, as well as review your settings to make sure you’re not effectively blocking the update process.

If you’re running a business with multiple machines, managing the update process to be sure that essential patches have been applied can be a time-consuming headache. As a managed service provider (MSP), here at FIT Solutions we use sophisticated tools to administer your systems and ensure your systems are up-to-date with the current patches—without inconveniencing your users. If you could use help with patch management, give us a call at 888-339-5694.

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