Log4j Vulnerability: A Lesson in Third Party Cybersecurity Risk

4 minute read

December 2021

A vulnerability was recently detected in Log4j, an open-source logging framework web developers use to record activity within an application. The software is ubiquitous worldwide, integrated into thousands of websites and applications to run mundane tasks. Hackers exploit the vulnerability to install malware, steal data or take control of vulnerable systems remotely. It’s a cybersecurity crisis that affects countless organizations and their supply chains.  

The Log4j incident brings attention to an emerging cybersecurity risk area: third party vulnerabilities. In today’s cybersecurity threat landscape, your organization’s security rests on the security of your vendors. What makes the Log4j vulnerability particularly concerning is how widespread it is – it proves that it’s no longer enough for organizations to only have their pulse on internal cybersecurity. A cyber attacker can easily cause a devastating ripple effect throughout the supply chain by exploiting a security gap in one of your third parties.  

Using the vulnerability in the Log4j software as a “back door” to your high-value assets, cyber attackers can steal sensitive data, access or otherwise disrupt your systems. Even more frightening, they can do this indirectly through your third parties.  

Your organization must gain visibility into its internal and external cybersecurity posture to prepare for incidents like Log4j. Learn more about the implications of the vulnerability and what your organization can do to improve cybersecurity preparedness throughout the supply chain in the sections below. 

Implications of the Log4j Vulnerability on Internal Cybersecurity 

Most obviously, the Log4j vulnerability directly impacts the cybersecurity of organizations that rely on the software in their IT infrastructure. Major companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon.com, IBM, Twitter and Cloudflare have been affected by the vulnerability.  

Internal cybersecurity teams need to respond to these incidents – and fast – to prevent a breach or disruption. The Log4j incident demonstrates how quickly systems can be taken down when a critical piece of software is embedded in the organization’s IT infrastructure. The best cybersecurity programs should be able to mount a response in a matter of hours to assess the damage and execute mitigating controls. 

Implications of the Log4j breach on the Supply Chain

To make matters more complicated, your organization could also experience the effects of the Log4j incident through a third party. Cyberattackers could access your organization through the “back door” of a third party. Or they could disrupt a supplier that provides a critical service to your organization. Either scenario is highly likely given the ubiquitous nature of the Log4j software.

Your organization needs to understand its third party vulnerabilities ahead of security incidents. Taking a reactive approach to third party cyber risk can make it difficult to respond to incidents in a timely manner. It is also challenging to evaluate the entire supply chain for vulnerabilities retroactively. Understanding the cybersecurity posture of your third parties allows you to prioritize issue response when incidents occur.

How Your Organization Can Address Third Party Cyber Risk:

The Log4j vulnerability is a sobering wake-up call to “get your house in order” when it comes to internal and external cybersecurity risk. Review the best practices below to understand how your organization can prepare for future incidents with holistic visibility into cyber risk:  

  1. Integrate third party risk management into your cybersecurity practices: The last thing your organization wants is to be caught unawares by a vulnerability in a third party vendor. Understand the cybersecurity practices, policies and controls that your third parties have in place. Validate that these standards are upheld throughout the relationship and raise issues as needed. Lastly, know which aspects of your IT infrastructure a third party supports or engages with. This knowledge can help you target a response after an incident. 
  2. Establish cybersecurity accountability throughout the supply chain: Similarly, to expedite issue response, assign ownership to the appropriate stakeholders for assets, controls and third parties. These owners should understand and communicate cybersecurity priorities throughout the extended enterprise. Additionally, owners should be responsible for monitoring cybersecurity and reporting on performance.  
  3. Regularly assess high-value assets: Identify your organization’s crown jewels and know their vulnerabilities. Ensure that they are protected with the proper controls, regularly verify that these controls are well implemented. You may also consider tiering the criticality of your assets based on the data they contain to help you prioritize issue response.  
  4. Adopt a Cybersecurity Program Management Solution: An automated cybersecurity program management solution like ProcessUnity Cybersecurity Program Management (CPM) can help you gain comprehensive visibility into third-party cyber risks throughout the extended enterprise. The solution enables you to centrally gather and document evidence of your third parties’ cybersecurity controls. The right cybersecurity tools are necessary for managing internal and external cybersecurity risks. 

How ProcessUnity Cybersecurity Program Management Can Help

To prevent your organization from becoming victim to a third-party vulnerability like the Log4j breach, you need comprehensive insight into cybersecurity throughout the supply chain. ProcessUnity Cybersecurity Program Management helps you gain that much-needed visibility to protect your crown jewels and respond to incidents quickly. To learn more about how ProcessUnity Cybersecurity Program Management can help you better protect your organization, schedule a demo today. 

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About Us

ProcessUnity is a leading provider of cloud-based applications for risk and compliance management. The company’s software as a service (SaaS) platform gives organizations the control to assess, measure, and mitigate risk and to ensure the optimal performance of key business processes. ProcessUnity’s flagship solution, ProcessUnity Vendor Risk Management, protects companies and their brands by reducing risks from third-party vendors and suppliers. ProcessUnity helps customers effectively and efficiently assess and monitor both new and existing vendors – from initial due diligence and onboarding through termination. Headquartered outside of Boston, Massachusetts, ProcessUnity is used by the world’s leading financial service firms and commercial enterprises. For more information, visit www.processunity.com.