After the Log4j vulnerabilities threw a wrench into the holiday plans of IT and cybersecurity folks last month, the federal government has taken swift action to address the issue, including instructing federal agencies to quickly patch and mitigate the vulnerability and making other resources available to the larger IT community.
Now, the issue has been elevated to the White House, which hosted an open-source software summit on Thursday to discuss the security of open-source software in the wake of the bug that expert say will take months or years to fully remediate.
Leading tech companies including Microsoft, Meta (formerly Facebook), Apple, Amazon, Google, Cloudflare, IBM, Linux Open Source Foundation, Oracle, IBM, Red Hat, VMWare, GitHub and the developers and maintainers of Log4j, the Apache Foundation.
CyberScoop, citing a “senior administration official,” reported that the objective of the meeting was to facilitate a discussion to improve the security of open-source software and brainstorm how new collaboration could rapidly drive improvements.
Elevating this issue to the highest levels of government was necessary, as the Log4j vulnerabilities could have an impact on the IT ecosystem and cybersecurity—not to mention national security—for a long time, since the list of software impacted by the flaws continues to grow.
The meeting was not made public before Thursday, so here is how some companies that attended are responding:
Google’s response: create a market place for open-source maintenance
In a blog post, Kent Walker, Google’s president of global affairs and chief legal officer, said while open-source code helps facilitate innovation and new technologies, there is no official resource allocation and few standards for maintaining its security. That limited amount of work is generally done by volunteers.
“For too long, the software community has taken comfort in the assumption that open source software is generally secure due to its transparency and the assumption that ‘many eyes’ were watching to detect and resolve problems,” Walker says. “But in fact, while some projects do have many eyes on them, others have few or none at all.”
In addition to raising awareness and contributing resources to protect the open -source movement and better secure it, Google proposed setting up a marketplace for open-source maintenance, “matching volunteers from companies with the critical projects that most need support,” Walker writes.
“Given the importance of digital infrastructure in our lives, it’s time to start thinking of it in the same way we do our physical infrastructure. Open source software is a connective tissue for much of the online world — it deserves the same focus and funding we give to our roads and bridges.”
GitHub’s Response: a collaborative approach
According to Mike Hanley, chief security officer of GitHub, 99% of the world’s software has at least some open source code, so nearly all of the technology people use is due to the hard work of open source developers.
Hanley, who attended the summit, writes in a blog post that any security flaws in open source code “have a global ripple effect across the billions of developers and services that rely on it.”
He cited the Log4j flaw and the SolarWinds supply chain compromise as two glaring examples of the importance of securing critical code.
“We’ve seen how just one or two lines of vulnerable code can have a dramatic impact on the health, safety, and trustworthiness of entire systems in the blink of an eye. And while this is not a new issue, as we saw with Heartbleed, the recent events further underscored two ways the tech industry can come together and help.”
Hanley called for the global tech community to collaboratively secure the software supply chain and better support open-source maintainers to make it easier for them to secure their code.
The Apache Foundation: the entire supply chain
In a blog post about the summit, The Apache Foundation committed to finding ways to improve security, and that involves everyone that touches open-source software.
“This means that we believe the path forward will require upstream collaboration by the companies and organizations that consume and ship open-source software,” the Foundation writes. “There’s no single “silver bullet” to get there, and it will take all of our organizations working together to improve the open-source supply chain.”
While not in attendance at the Summitt, DevSecOps automation company Rezilion—which has released several resources designed to help organizations find and mitigate vulnerable instances of Log4j—released a statement calling for the need to track code through a software bill of materials (SBOM).
CEO Liran Tancman says open-source software is free and accessible, but also poses risk as organizations continue to adopt technology developed with open-source software.
“Through transparency, when a vulnerability like Log4J appears, they can more efficiently detect it and remediate it,” Tancman says. “But you cannot remediate what you can’t see – which is why they are pushing for an effective way for security leaders to be able to provide that transparency. It’s about visibility for quick fixes.”