GitHub helped facilitate a boon for open-source software upon its founding 10 years ago, but the platform has not been without its drawbacks. For many organizations, their primary concern lies with how secure their data is on GitHub's online source code repositories and where human error has played a role in such data breaches. 

Luckily, security operations specialists, chief information security officers, and other players involved in the source code and cybersecurity industries can rest easy— security experts have created an automated solution to ease their fears and secure companies' GitHub repositories. Let's take a look at why security experts have expressed concerns over GitHub's security and what solutions could solve this problem.

Why could GitHub be a threat and potential weak link in company security?

For the uninitiated, the GitHub online platform enables developers to find, share, build, and collaborate on software, primarily through the distribution and management of computer code.

The site hosts public and private folders, or repositories, through which remote developers can upload source code and share it with collaborators. Such a site and service immediately appealed to open-source software developers, but many organizations have also used the site for collaborative code development since the company's founding a decade ago.

Per GitHub's structure, these public repositories are copies of private folders stored on a developer's computer. This allows developers to work independently on code and then commit finalized code to the shared public repository only when it is ready. 

Security issues arose several years ago as realities of the platform—and its user behavior—emerged. Per GitHub's commitment to open-source software, public repositories are searchable, so visitors can use GitHub's search function to search for repositories and source code within them.

However, developers were at times unknowingly sharing their own or their company's private files from their personal computers to GitHub and its user base via these public repositories. This could stem purely from user error. The user may not realize the distinction between public versus private repositories, or which data should not appear in unsecured, searchable public repositories.

One of the most problematic types of files accidentally shared this way were SSH keys. Such keys normally reside on a user's home directory, but many users were inadvertently including SSH keys while copying other source code files into their public, searchable GitHub repositories. Other times, developers were using GitHub public repos to collaborate on code that embedded the keys within the codebase.

Besides providing hackers with easier access to such code, hackers could also infiltrate the services once guarded by those SSH keys to compromise other sensitive data stored by those services.  For example, there was of course the much publicized breach at Uber that compromised 57 million customers’ personal information.  

SSH keys are just one of many different types of sensitive data files and code that have accidentally wound up on GitHub public repos due to human error. But regardless of how code came to be on GitHub, it is now more easily accessible to hackers or other players who may want to exploit that access or information.

How to Solve Your Company's Security Concerns About GitHub

GitHub's security concerns don't necessarily outweigh its utility for companies. A new generation of cybersecurity solutions are now making it possible to ease the security and protection of platforms such as GitHub.

Such security solutions can automate the process of identifying and monitoring potential security threats on GitHub repositories without having to dedicate as much of a security team's time, resources, or expertise. With thousands of log events to parse through, any security team would be overwhelmed by the sheer volume and complexity of that log data.

Automation software in this arena can more quickly and accurately identify potential threats and then rank the highest-risk threats for companies to prioritize.

These automated platforms ultimately enable companies to better secure their GitHub repositories, minimize business risk, and assuage fears of sensitive customer and enterprise data becoming compromised.

How Educating Yourself and Your Organization Can Protect Your GitHub Repositories

Better protecting your organization and its sensitive data and source code begins with improving education and training opportunities for all levels of management and development involved with GitHub projects. GitHub itself offers a number of resources for general customers and enterprise customers, specifically. Browsing these articles, whitepapers, videos, and webcasts could offer you and your team additional insights into functionality and security that can better protect the source code you choose to upload to this platform.

Dev forums are another popular resource for developers and information security executives looking for more nuanced answers to specific problems from other experienced professionals. However, be wary of the accuracy of information you source from these forums, and follow up with other internal or external experts before taking decisive action.

GitHub continues to battle cybersecurity pitfalls, but organizations and their security teams can rest easier by ensuring they better inform themselves about where GitHub security breaches might originate and how to manage and resolve them. When an organization’s security needs overwhelms its security team’s ability to keep up with new threats, investing in automated software can restore security—and confidence—to the organization’s GitHub development projects.

Finally, be sure to check out this webinar on how to secure your GitHub repositories with the latest in automation