Log4j is a ubiquitous piece of software used to record activities in a wide range of systems found in consumer-facing products and services. Recently, a serious vulnerability in the popular Java logging package, Log4j (CVE-2021-44228) was disclosed, posing a severe risk to millions of consumer products to enterprise software and web applications. This vulnerability is being widely exploited by a growing set of attackers.
When vulnerabilities are discovered and exploited, it risks a loss or breach of personal information, financial loss, and other irreversible harms. The duty to take reasonable steps to mitigate known software vulnerabilities implicates laws including, among others, the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Gramm Leach Bliley Act. It is critical that companies and their vendors relying on Log4j act now, in order to reduce the likelihood of harm to consumers, and to avoid FTC legal action. According to the complaint in Equifax, a failure to patch a known vulnerability irreversibly exposed the personal information of 147 million consumers. Equifax agreed to pay $700 million to settle actions by the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and all fifty states. The FTC intends to use its full legal authority to pursue companies that fail to take reasonable steps to protect consumer data from exposure as a result of Log4j, or similar known vulnerabilities in the future.
Check if you use the Log4j software library by consulting the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) guidance: https://www.cisa.gov/uscert/apache-log4j-vulnerability-guidance. If you do use it:
- Update your Log4j software package to the most current version found here: https://logging.apache.org/log4j/2.x/security.html
- Consult CISA guidance to mitigate this vulnerability.
- Ensure remedial steps are taken to ensure that your company’s practices do not violate the law. Failure to identify and patch instances of this software may violate the FTC Act.
- Distribute this information to any relevant third-party subsidiaries that sell products or services to consumers who may be vulnerable.
The Log4j vulnerability is part of a broader set of structural issues. It is one of thousands of unheralded but critically important open-source services that are used across a near-innumerable variety of internet companies. These projects are often created and maintained by volunteers, who don’t always have adequate resources and personnel for incident response and proactive maintenance even as their projects are critical to the internet economy. This overall dynamic is something the FTC will consider as we work to address the root issues that endanger user security.
 Patrick Howell O'Neill, The Internet Runs on Free Open-Source Software. Who Pays to Fix It?, MIT Technology Review (Dec 21 2021) https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/12/17/1042692/log4j-internet-open-source-hacking/