Global outbreak of Log4Shell

Executive summary

Log4Shell is a high severity vulnerability (CVE-2021-44228) impacting Apache Log4j versions 2.0 to 2.14.1. It was discovered by Chen Zhaojun of Alibaba Cloud Security Team and disclosed via the project´s GitHub repository on December 9, 2021.

Key takeaways:
  • Prevalent utility Log4j across the industry allows unauthenticated remote code execution.
  • The publicly available proof-of-concept and vulnerability’s easy exploitability make this vulnerability particularly dangerous.
  • Different opportunistic campaigns are taking advantage of the vulnerability to spread malware like botnets and miners.


Log4j is an open-source Java logging utility developed by the Apache Foundation. It is widely used as a prevalent dependency in many applications and services. If exploited, the vulnerability allows for unauthenticated remote code execution, leaving services particularly exposed .

An attacker that can forge log messages or their parameters may manage to execute arbitrary code loaded from malicious LDAP servers if message lookup substitution is enabled. (LDAP, or lightweight directory access protocol, is a protocol that makes it possible for applications to query user information rapidly.) Log4j disabled this feature in version 2.15.0 in early December 2021.


Log4j includes a lookup mechanism to retrieve information like “${java:runtime}” and “${java:os}” from the system, but also to make requests using Java Naming and Directory Interface (JNDI). The key issue is that many services may log user provided information without proper input validation. For example, URLs requested or any of its headers, such as the User-Agent used in a HTTP request, are commonly logged.

JNDI can use different service provider interfaces (SPIs) like LDAP to find and invoke objects, and as the logging information can be forged by an unauthenticated user, a vulnerable service may reach an arbitrary LDAP server under control of the attacker to invoke a malicious payload.

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