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Preparing for the Next Log4j in the Face of the Cyber Talent Gap

Sep 2022
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When the Log4j vulnerability emerged in December 2021, Synack and our clients’ security teams immediately sensed its urgency. The Synack Red Team began testing within hours of the initial discovery for our customer base. 

Almost a year later, Log4j continues to show up in our pentesting results. Here are some quick stats from our findings:

  • 750+ instances of the Log4j (CVE-2021-44228) missions run by SRT researchers since 2021 as part of our zero day response coverage
  • 100+ susceptible instances found so far as part of Synack Penetration Testing
  • Over 2 million IPs checked to date  

Log4j Is “Endemic,” Says Federal Cyber Board

The Cyber Safety Review Board (CSRB) called Log4j (CVE-2021-44228) an “endemic” vulnerability in the board’s first published report. The group of public and private sector cybersecurity leaders stated that the vulnerability is expected to continue to be a prominent threat for “a decade or longer.”

The CSRB’s consideration of Log4j as a persistent threat points to the critical nature of such zero days. They are not something to be solved in the week they appear, with security teams “working through the weekend” and then moving on. They highlight the larger need for readily available talent and emergency response processes across a longer span of time.

Luckily, there have been no successful Log4j-based attacks to critical infrastructure, according to the CSRB. However, the board urges organizations to continue to mitigate risk related to Log4j and prepare for future zero day vulnerabilities of similar criticality. 

Log4j and the Cyber Talent Gap – Surge Capacity

Nearly two in three organizations say they are understaffed in cybersecurity. But even for those that report having enough cyber talent on hand, the surge demand needed to respond to a vulnerability like Log4j can still be taxing. The CSRB report states:

“Perhaps most significantly, the force exerted on the urgent response and the challenges in managing risk also contributed to professional “burnout” among defenders that may, compounded with the generally intense pace of many cybersecurity jobs, have a long-term impact on the availability of cybersecurity talent.”

Chris Hallenbeck writes for VentureBeat about lessons learned in the face of Log4j, including the fact that the “skills shortage is an existential threat.” If organizations are to effectively prepare for future CVEs and zero days, they must consider their hiring strategies in the face of the cyber talent shortage, while also considering how to deal with potential burnout and stress from surge demand in the face of emergency. 

Preparing for Zero Day Response with Human Talent

The CSRB issued recommendations to mitigate zero day risks, including the documentation of a vulnerability management and response program, and consideration of “cultural shifts” that are “necessary to solve for the nation’s digital security.”

Synack believes that the most effective way to test for a zero day vulnerability is with human expertise. Scanners are not able to detect zero day vulnerabilities until they are updated with a signature for the vulnerability. 

In the face of the cybersecurity talent gap, testing with humans to meet the surge demand of a zero day can be challenging. That’s why on-demand access to a community of researchers is paramount. Synack provides access to such a community, the Synack Red Team, through a SaaS platform, for on-demand zero day response. This talent augmentation can be a key cultural shift for companies struggling to hire or retain cyber talent, and can help prevent an in-house team from experiencing the severe burnout alluded to above.

Within the Synack Platform is a catalog of CVEs that can be tested on-demand by skilled SRT researchers. When Log4j first emerged, it was added to the catalog within hours, and top researchers began testing and collaborating on methodologies. 

After only a few days, Synack had checked over half a million IP addresses confirming the status of thousands of CVE-2021-44228 checks and providing detailed reports containing proof of work and methodologies. 

Contact us today for a conversation about how we can help you mitigate Log4j risk or prepare for future zero days.