China's internet regulator, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), has temporarily suspended a partnership with Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing subsidiary of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, for six months on account of the fact that it failed to promptly inform the government about a critical security vulnerability affecting the broadly used Log4j logging library.
The development was disclosed by Reuters and South China Morning Post, citing a report from 21st Century Business Herald, a Chinese business-news daily newspaper.
"Alibaba Cloud did not immediately report vulnerabilities in the popular, open-source logging framework Apache Log4j2 to China's telecommunications regulator," Reuters said. "In response, MIIT suspended a cooperative partnership with the cloud unit regarding cybersecurity threats and information-sharing platforms."
Tracked as CVE-2021-44228 (CVSS score: 10.0) and codenamed Log4Shell or LogJam, the catastrophic security shortcoming allows malicious actors to remotely execute arbitrary code by getting a specially crafted string logged by the software.
Log4Shell came to light after Chen Zhaojun of Alibaba cloud security team sent an email alerting the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) on November 24 about the flaw, adding that it "has a major impact." But just as the fix was being put in place, details of the vulnerability were shared on a Chinese blogging platform by an unidentified actor on December 8, sending the Apache team scrambling to release a patch on December 10.
Post the bug's public disclosure, Log4Shell has been subjected to widespread exploitation by threat actors to take control of susceptible servers, thanks to the near-ubiquitous use of the library, which can be found in a variety of consumer and enterprise services, websites, and applications — as well as in operational technology products — that rely on it to log security and performance information.
In the ensuing days, further investigation into Log4j by the cybersecurity community has since uncovered three more weaknesses in the Java-based tool, prompting the project maintainers to ship a series of security updates to contain real-world attacks exploiting the flaws.
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Israeli security firm Check Point noted that it has blocked over 4.3 million exploitation attempts so far, with 46% of those intrusions made by known malicious groups. "This vulnerability may cause the device to be remotely controlled, which will cause serious hazards such as theft of sensitive information and device service interruption," the MIIT had previously said in a public statement published on December 17, adding it was only made aware of the flaw on December 9, 15 days after the initial disclosure.
The pushback from MIIT arrives months after the Chinese government issued new stricter vulnerability disclosure regulations that mandate software and networking vendors affected with critical flaws, alongside entities or individuals engaged in network product security vulnerability discovery, to report them first-hand to the government authorities mandatorily within two days.
In September, the government also followed it up by launching "cyberspace security and vulnerability professional databases" for the reporting of security vulnerabilities in networks, mobile apps, industrial control systems, smart cars, IoT devices, and other internet products that could be targeted by threat actors.
Update: After China's internet security regulator dropped Alibaba Cloud from its cyber threat intelligence partnership for six months, the cloud computing company on Thursday said it would work towards improving its risk management and compliance, according to a new report from the South China Morning Post. Alibaba Cloud also said it did not fully comprehend the severity of the flaw and that it did not share the details with the government in a timely fashion.