GitLab last week announced the release of a new open source tool designed to help software developers identify malicious code in their projects’ dependencies.
Code reuse is a central approach to today’s programming, but implementing open-source libraries in software comes with inherent risks. One of these is related to the use of packages that might contain malicious code, either due to the package getting compromised or due to reliance on compromised dependencies.
With some applications depending on hundreds of packages, including some that haven’t been vetted, identifying vulnerable or malicious code is essential to ensuring the security of software and users, especially since cases where threat actors compromise the open source supply chain are increasing.
What GitLab sets out to achieve with the new tool — named Package Hunter — is the detection of malicious code that would execute within an application’s dependencies, and which might not be identified by other scanners.
For that, the new tool installs the dependencies in a sandbox and keeps a close watch on the system calls executed during the installation, to identify any that might be suspicious and report them to the user, for further examination.
The tool has been used internally at GitLab since November 2020, and is now available for the public, in open source. For the time being, Package Hunter only includes support for NodeJS modules and Ruby Gems.
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