Log4j remediation is a massive challenge for all industries. But in healthcare, those challenges are compounded by ongoing patch management challenges that could put patient safety at risk. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

The Department of Health and Human Services Cybersecurity Coordination Center (HC3) issued a nearly 50-page guide on the threat and potential impact of the Log4j vulnerability found in the Apache Foundation logging tool.

The critical Log4j vulnerability was first disclosed in November, with the first known exploitation reported on Dec. 1. Since that time, a number of new threats have emerged that directly target the flaw, as well as new malware variants and additional uncovered vulnerabilities.

Despite a number of released fixes, remediation has been an uphill battle due to visibility challenges to assess the bug’s impact. As previously reported, ongoing patch management issues and reliance on legacy platforms has compounded the healthcare sector’s ability to remediate the flaw.

The new HC3 insights aim to tackle these challenges and support providers with determining the best course of action from remediation from a non-technical and technical viewpoint. 

While the guidance shows there have been no major healthcare compromises to date, the sector remains highly vulnerable as healthcare adversaries are actively leveraging Log4j. Though “updating can be a time-consuming and tedious process,” remediation is crucial as similar issues will arise in ubiquitous apps in the future.

The U.S. is the largest target for exploit attempts, accounting for 43.5% of targeted attacks. The insights contain information on each of the five Log4j vulnerabilities. But it’s likely more Log4j vulnerabilities will soon be identified.

The guidance provides basic descriptions of key terminologies needed to understand the potential scope and to inform efforts to gain visibility into where to find Log4j instances within the healthcare environment. Provided infographics can inform potential attack flows, as well as observed attack methods used by the various hacking groups targeting the vulnerabilities.

Healthcare security leaders and administrators should leverage the guide for insights into short-term mitigations, indicators-of-compromise, and long-term mitigations that center around asset inventory, vulnerability management, defense-in depth, resilience, and acquisitions. The guide also contains a laundry list of resources for reference purposes.

In short, the message is clear: Log4j must be a key priority for healthcare organizations, as this is likely a sign of what’s to come. “Do not assume upgrading is sufficient! Assume you’ve been compromised,” according to the guide.