Security Experts:

GitHub Security Alerts Lead to Fewer Vulnerable Code Libraries

GitHub says the introduction of security alerts last year has led to a significantly smaller number of vulnerable code libraries on the platform.

The code hosting service announced in mid-November 2017 the introduction of a new security feature designed to warn developers if the software libraries used by their projects contain any known vulnerabilities.

The new feature looks for vulnerable Ruby gems and JavaScript NPM packages based on MITRE’s Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) list. When a new flaw is added to this list, all repositories that use the affected version are identified and their maintainers informed. Users can choose to be notified via the GitHub user interface or via email.

When it introduced security alerts, GitHub compared the list of vulnerable libraries to the Dependency Graph in all public code repositories.

The Dependency Graph is a feature in the Insights section of GitHub that lists the libraries used by a project. Since the introduction of security alerts, this section also informs users about vulnerable dependencies, including CVE identifiers and severity of the flaws, and provides advice on how to address the issues.

The initial scan conducted by GitHub revealed more than 4 million vulnerabilities in over 500,000 repositories. Affected users were immediately notified and by December 1, roughly two weeks after the launch of the new feature, more than 450,000 of the flaws were addressed either by updating the affected library or removing it altogether.

According to GitHub, vulnerabilities are in a vast majority of cases addressed within a week by active developers.

“Since [December 1], our rate of vulnerabilities resolved in the first seven days of detection has been about 30 percent,” GitHub said. “Additionally, 15 percent of alerts are dismissed within seven days—that means nearly half of all alerts are responded to within a week. Of the remaining alerts that are unaddressed or unresolved, the majority belong to repositories that have not had a contribution in the last 90 days.”

GitHub was recently hit by a record-breaking distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that peaked at 1.3 Tbps, but the service was down for less than 10 minutes.

Related: GitHub Enforces Stronger Encryption

Related: Slack Tokens Leaked on GitHub Put Companies at Risk

view counter
Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.