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GitHub security alerts now support Java and .NET projects

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Code hosting service GitHub has updated its platform this week, and among the many developer-centric changes, the company also rolled out three new security features for project owners.

The most important of these new security improvements is the expansion of the Security Alerts feature, which now also supports Java and .NET projects, on top of the original JavaScript, Ruby, and Python.

GitHub launched this feature last year, and it works by scanning a project’s dependencies for outdated libraries and modules for which known vulnerabilities exist.

If GitHub’s scanner finds that a developer has used an old library that’s affected by a known security bug, it will show or send an alert, urging the developer to update his project’s dependencies.

GitHub launched this feature to great success in November 2017 for JavaScript and Ruby projects and later expanded it to Python projects in July 2018.

Industry experts anticipated that GitHub would expand support for Java –one of the most used programming languages thanks to the success of the Android OS– and .NET –expected move after Microsoft bought GitHub earlier this year.

By default, GitHub will scan manifest files such as package.json (for JavaScript projects), gemfiles (for Ruby projects), requirements.txt or Pipfile.lock (for Python projects), pom.xml (for Java projects), and one of the many .NET manifest files such as app.manifest, project.json, .csproj files, and .MSBuild files –so make sure your project uses one.

The security alerts feature is available for all users, and they can find it in each GitHub project’s “Insights” tab, under the “Alert” option.


Image: GitHub

In case developers manage a large number of projects and don’t have the time to manually visit each project’s GitHub page, GitHub also lets developers set different notification methods such as:

  • A banner in the GitHub interface
  • Web notifications on the GitHub domain
  • Email notifications for each new vulnerability
  • Daily or weekly email digests of all new vulnerabilities

GitHub’s security alerts system isn’t perfect, as it can only detect vulnerabilities that have received a CVE identifier and have been indexed in the DHS’s NVD portal. Some vulnerabilities are expected to slip through the cracks, but GitHub’s alerts system has already proven to be very effective.

In a blog post in March, GitHub said that within a month of its launch last year, developers acted on security alerts and removed 450,000 vulnerabilities from their projects.

But the expanded security alerts weren’t the only security-themed updates that GitHub announced. The company also rolled out something called GitHub Token Scanning.

This new tool is still in beta. GitHub says Token Scanning will help maintainers of public code repositories. The tool works by scanning users’ public source code in search of API or other authentication tokens.

These tokens are the equivalent of leaving a server password in the code, and GitHub plans to alert users if they accidentally leave one inside their projects.

Currently, GitHub Token Scanning supports token formats for services like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, GitHub, Google Cloud, Slack, and Stripe.

Besides alerting the user, GitHub says this new service will also alert the provider as well, so they can invalidate or revoke the token to prevent abuse.

Last but not least, GitHub also announced the Security Advisory API. This new API will provide developers with an API that aggregates all security-related information for their accounts. This not only includes security alerts for vulnerabilities in project dependencies, but also alerts for accounts that use weak or already-compromised passwords, alerts for attempts to break into a GitHub account, and more.

The API is intended for developers that manage a large number of projects or for companies who want to make sure their projects and employee access live up to its internal security standards.

Readers who are interested in finding out more about the other changes made to the GitHub platform can read about developer and business-related updates, here.

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Phish Fight: Securing Enterprise Communications

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Yes, much of the world may have moved on from email to social media and culturally dubious TikTok dances, yet traditional electronic mail remains a foundation of business communication. And sadly, it remains a prime vector for malware, data leakage, and phishing attacks that can undermine enterprise protections. It doesn’t have to be that way.

In a just released report titled “GigaOm Radar for Phishing Prevention and Detection,” GigaOm Analyst Simon Gibson surveyed more than a dozen enterprise-focused email security solutions. He found a range of approaches to securing communications that often can be fitted together to provide critical, defense-in-depth protection against even determined attackers.

Figure 1. GigaOm Radar for Email Phishing Prevention and Detection

“When evaluating these vendors and their solutions, it is important to consider your own business and workflow,” Gibson writes in the report, stressing the need to deploy solutions that best address your organization’s business workflow and email traffic. “For some it may be preferable to settle on one comprehensive solution, while for others building a best-of-breed architecture from multiple vendors may be preferable.”

In a field of competent solutions, Gibson found that Forcepoint, purchased recently by Raytheon, stood apart thanks to the layered protections provided by its Advanced Classification Engine. Area 1 and Zimperium, meanwhile, are both leaders that exhibit significant momentum, with Area 1 boosted by its recent solution partnership with Virtru, and Zimperium excelling in its deep commitment to mobile message security.

A mobile focus is timely, Gibson says in a video interview for GigaOm. He says companies are “tuning the spigot on” and enabling unprecedented access and reliance on mobile devices, which is creating an urgent need to get ahead of threats.

Gibson’s conclusion in the report? He singles out three things: Defense in depth, awareness of existing patterns and infrastructure, and a healthy respect for the “human factor” that can make security so hard to lock down.

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When Is a DevSecOps Vendor Not a DevSecOps Vendor?

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DevOps’ general aim is to enable a more efficient process for producing software and technology solutions and bringing stakeholders together to speed up delivery. But we know from experience that this inherently creative, outcome-driven approach often forgets about one thing until too late in the process—security. Too often, security is brought into the timeline just before deployment, risking last minute headaches and major delays. The security team is pushed into being the Greek chorus of the process, “ruining everyone’s fun” by demanding changes and slowing things down.

But as we know, in the complex, multi-cloud and containerized environment we find ourselves in, security is becoming more important and challenging than ever. And the costs of security failure are not only measured in slower deployment, but in compliance breaches and reputational damage.

The term “DevSecOps” has been coined to characterize how security needs to be at the heart of the DevOps process. This is in part principle and part tools. As a principle, DevSecOps fits with the concept of “shifting left,” that is, ensuring that security is treated as early as possible in the development process. So far, so simple.

From a tooling perspective, however, things get more complicated, not least because the market has seen a number of platforms marketing themselves as DevSecOps. As we have been writing our Key Criteria report on the subject, we have learned that not all DevSecOps vendors are necessarily DevSecOps vendors. Specifically, we have learned to distinguish capabilities that directly enable the goals of DevSecOps from a process perspective, from those designed to support DevSecOps practices. We could define them as: “Those that do, and those that help.”

This is how to tell the two types of vendor apart and how to use them.

Vendors Enabling DevSecOps: “Tools That Do”

A number of tools work to facilitate the DevSecOps process -– let’s bite the bullet and call them DevSecOps tools. They help teams set out each stage of software development, bringing siloed teams together behind a unified vision that allows fast, high-quality development, with security considerations at its core. DevSecOps tools work across the development process, for example:

  • Create: Help to set and implement policy
  • Develop: Apply guidance to the process and aid its implementation
  • Test: Facilitate and guide security testing procedures
  • Deploy: Provide reports to assure confidence to deploy the application

The key element that sets these tool sets apart is the ability to automate and reduce friction within the development process. They will prompt action, stop a team from moving from one stage to another if the process has not adequately addressed security concerns, and guide the roadmap for the development from start to finish.

Supporting DevSecOps: “Tools That Help”

In this category we place those tools which aid the execution, and monitoring, of good DevSecOps principles. Security scanning and application/infrastructure hardening tools are a key element of these processes: Software composition analysis (SCA) forms a part of the development stage, static/dynamic application security testing (SAST/DAST) is integral to the test stage and runtime app protection (RASP) is a key to the Deploy stage.

Tools like this are a vital part of the security layer of security tooling, especially just before deployment – and they often come with APIs so they can be plugged into the CI/CD process. However, while these capabilities are very important to DevSecOps, they can be seen in more of a supporting role, rather than being DevSecOps tools per se.

DevSecOps-washing is not a good idea for the enterprise

While one might argue that security should never have been shifted right, DevSecOps exists to ensure that security best practices take place across the development lifecycle. A corollary exists to the idea of “tools that help,” namely that organizations implementing these tools are not “doing DevSecOps,” any more than vendors providing these tools are DevSecOps vendors.

The only way to “do” DevSecOps is to fully embrace security at a process management and governance level: This means assessing risk, defining policy, setting review gates, and disallowing progress for insecure deliverables. Organizations that embrace DevSecOps can get help from what we are calling DevSecOps tools, as well as from scanning and hardening tools that help support its goals.

At the end of the day, all security and governance boils down to risk: If you buy a scanning tool so you can check a box that says “DevSecOps,” you are potentially adding to your risk posture, rather than mitigating it. So, get your DevSecOps strategy fixed first, then consider how you can add automation, visibility, and control using “tools that do,” as well as benefit from “tools that help.”

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High Performance Application Security Testing

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This free 1-hour webinar from GigaOm Research. It is hosted by an expert in Application and API testing, and GigaOm analyst, Jake Dolezal. His presentation will focus on the results of high performance testing we completed against two security mechanisms: ModSecurity on NGINX and NGINX App Protect. Additionally, we tested the AWS Web Application Firewall (WAF) as a fully managed security offering.

While performance is important, it is only one criterion for a Web Application Firewall selection. The results of the report are revealing about these platforms. The methodology will be shown with clarity and transparency on how you might replicate these tests to mimic your own workloads and requirements.

Register now to join GigaOm and sponsor NGINX for this free expert webinar.

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