Log4j. No that’s not logger John’s social media handle. It’s a popular piece of software that was found to be hacked in mid-December 2021.
Okay, okay, we get it. Hacks are a dime a dozen now, right? But this one is actually a really big deal.
What Happened, and What Is Apache Log4j?
Apache Log4j is kind of like sugar—it’s in almost everything. It’s a piece of software that’s part of the Java programming language used in video games, hospital equipment, cloud services and all kinds of digital devices (think TVs, security cameras, etc.). It’s “open source,” meaning it’s free software any programmer can use. Developers use it to help software applications keep a “log” of past activities, including sensitive personal details.
And on December 9, the good guys discovered the bad guys had put a bug into Log4j. Jen Easterly, director of the U.S. government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said it was “the most serious vulnerability that I have seen in my decades-long career.”1 She also warned, “Everyone should assume that they are exposed and vulnerable.”
The Log4j bug makes it possible for hackers to steal our data or cause other mayhem. Check Point, a cybersecurity company, estimates that people have already tried to do just that 4.3 million times since the bug was found!2
What Is Log4shell?
Log4shell is simply the name given to the Apache Log4j bug—also called a vulnerability in the tech world. Log4j is the software, while Log4shell is the specific vulnerability. Or to use even more plain English, Log4j would be like the house that was broken into. Log4shell would be the open window the thieves entered.
The Log4j breach is what’s known in the tech world as a “zero-day” vulnerability. This just means it was announced publicly before it was fixed. Zero-day vulnerabilities are considered high-risk because they’re out in the open but not yet patched (so while you’re reading about the breach, so are the bad guys). It’s now a race against the clock for cybersecurity experts to patch all the digital holes before too much damage is done.
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What Is Vulnerability Remediation and Why Is It Important?
Vulnerability remediation is the process of fixing (patching) digital security weaknesses. These days, the process is a lot more automated as cybersecurity experts get better at knowing which gaps need plugging first.
Suppose the doors to a high-security prison suddenly unlocked at the same time. Which doors would you want to lock down first? (Hint: It’s not the prison wing housing all the bubble-gum thieves.) Vulnerability remediation answers that question for the digital world so the most important parts are protected first. That’s why, for some businesses like payment processing, the government requires companies to have some form of vulnerability remediation in place.
What You Can Do
When it comes to things like hacks and privacy, it’s easy to just give up and let the chips fall where they may. But there are things you can do to protect yourself from data breaches.
Here’s what you can do in the wake of the Log4j breach:
- Watch out for phishing email scams. Experts warn that hackers will probably be more active than ever in phishing attempts. If you don’t recognize the sender, and there’s a link or attachment, don’t click on it.
- Do not open attachments or click on any links if you get an email that your message failed to send. If you have a relationship with that company or person, call them or reach out to the company’s customer service directly. Again, don’t click on links!
- Update apps to the latest version as soon as they’re available. These updates have security patches that will keep you better protected.
But even if you’re as careful as you possibly can be, your data and identity are still at risk. That’s why we recommend leveling up your game with identity theft protection.
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