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New GitHub Security Lab Aims to Secure Open Source Software

GitHub this week announced GitHub Security Lab, a new initiative aimed at making open source software more secure. 

GitHub this week announced GitHub Security Lab, a new initiative aimed at making open source software more secure. 

While GitHub Security Lab will help identify and report security flaws, developers and maintainers will be able to leverage GitHub to create fixes, coordinate disclosure, and update projects. 

The effort from Microsoft-owned GitHub is already enjoying support from numerous tech companies, which are committed to providing tools, resources, and bounties, along with security research to help secure the open source ecosystem.

The initial partners are F5, Google, HackerOne, Intel, IOActive, J.P. Morgan, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Mozilla, NCC Group, Oracle, Trail of Bits, Uber, and VMWare. 

As part of the announcement, GitHub said that it is making code analysis engine CodeQL freely available for security researchers looking to discover vulnerabilities in open source code. 

The tool helps research teams perform semantic analysis of code, allowing them to query code as though it were data. With it, developers can write queries to find all variants of code that is causing vulnerabilities in their software. 

Additionally, the Microsoft-owned open source software-hosting platform introduced GitHub Advisory Database, a publicly-accessible database of advisories created on GitHub, and which also includes data related to packages tracked by the GitHub dependency graph.

GitHub Advisory Database can be explored in a browser, contributors can link directly to records with CVE identifiers in comments, and can also access data programmatically using the Security Advisory API endpoint.

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The Security Advisories, the company says, allow maintainers to work privately with researchers on delivering fixes, to apply for a CVE directly from GitHub, and specify structured details about the vulnerability. GitHub will deliver alerts to affected projects when an advisory is ready to be published. 

As part of the newly announced initiative, GitHub is providing maintainers and developers with the possibility to work directly with the platform to ensure vulnerabilities are only disclosed when maintainers are ready, and that updates and fixes are released quickly and easily.

The platform also creates automated security updates (pull requests that update vulnerable dependencies to fixed versions), to help developers respond quickly to new security bugs. The automated security updates are now generally available to all active repositories with security alerts enabled.

GitHub also added four new partners to its service that scans commits for hard-coded tokens or credentials from 20 different cloud providers, namely GoCardless, HashiCorp, Postman, and Tencent. 

In line with GitHub’s announcement and after using CodeQL for a couple of years, Mozilla today revealed that it is adding a new area to its bug bounty program, to encourage security researchers to use the tool. 

Mozilla is setting up special bounties “for static analysis work that identifies present or historical flaws in Firefox,” and says its bug bounties are not exclusive of GitHub’s, meaning that researchers could receive bounties from both companies, provided they meet requirements. 

Static analysis queries written in CodeQL will be eligible, the same as the newly discovered vulnerabilities. Queries that match historical issues will be also eligible, even if new vulnerabilities are not found.

Microsoft acquired GitHub in a deal valued at $7.5 billion in 2018.

Related: GitHub Becomes CVE Numbering Authority, Acquires Semmle

Related: GitHub Now Scans Commits for Atlassian, Dropbox, Discord Tokens

Related: GitHub Helps Developers Keep Dependencies Secure via Dependabot

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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