4 Reasons MSPs Should Monitor Their GitHub Footprint

4 Reasons MSPs Should Monitor Their GitHub Footprint

In recent years, resorting to MSPs has become very popular for companies wanting to accelerate the digitization of their businesses. With this surge in popularity, MSPs are broadening their range of responsibilities and now face the question: how to ensure we can meet our cybersecurity responsibilities?

In this article, we will see why monitoring in real-time code sharing platforms such as GitHub should be a top priority for any MSP.

What is a MSP?

Managed service providers or MSPs provide outsourced IT services to many companies around the globe. They often employ hundreds or even thousands of developers.

Why Should MSPs Care About Security?

MSPs are responsible for ensuring that IT security is correctly implemented, as far as the services they provide are concerned: this means that, in theory, they should be better equipped than most IT companies to prevent and respond to cyber threats.

But the reality is quite different: a recent survey by LogicMonitor, The next-gen managed service provider, revealed that 80% of MSPs' customers had been affected by cyber-attacks and that MSPs admitted they were “not very confident” in their ability to successfully address one.

They can hardly be blamed though: the development lifecycle in the software world has evolved into a very complex supply chain involving a lot of different third parties. Security needs to be enforced on a much larger attack surface than it used to be. In fact, software supply chains may be the top security priority right now for software companies (basically, every company).

One big difference in the development world of today, and therefore one big part of this attack surface, is the code-sharing platform GitHub. This leads us to the reasons why MSPs should absolutely be monitoring GitHub:

1. Catch Leaked Customer Secrets Before Hackers Do

As you must already know if you are a regular reader of this blog, secrets are digital authentication credentials (API keys, certificates, tokens, etc.) that are used in applications, services, or infrastructures. Developers working with code will often keep keys and passwords for various resources in an insecure location to make it easier to change the code, but doing so often results in the information mistakenly being published.

In our 2021 edition of the State of Secrets Sprawl, we actually found more than 6 million secrets exposed during 2021 alone, doubling the number from the previous year. Many of these credentials are unfortunately valuable corporate secrets that represent a serious cyber threat.
Here is the point: even if an MSP doesn't contribute to any open source repository, chances are its developers do. An organization does not need to have an official presence on GitHub to be vulnerable!

Therefore a service provider puts its clients at significant risk if it ignores the attack surface of publicly accessible source code. From a reputational point of view, a leaked credential on GitHub giving access to customer data, services, or any kind of infrastructure could be one of the worst scenario. Failing to assess the threats existing out on the open Internet and manage their exposure could represent an existential risk to MSPs.

2. Future-Proof Their Compliance

In the coming years, MSPs will have to satisfy increasingly concerned customers about their IT cyber resilience. Being able to prove a certain level of maturity will inevitably become strategic for the deployment of secure services in the future.

In addition, cybersecurity compliance frameworks such as NIST SSDF or Google’s SLSA are being consolidated and will be requiring security to be baked in from the start in IT products in the coming years. NIST, under Executive Order (EO) 14028, has launched an initiative to define minimum testing standards for software vendors or developers, which include performing static analysis to find hardcoded secrets.

3. Make-Up for the Lack of Centralized Security Controls

MSPs' security monitoring is especially challenging because, unlike other companies, they can lack a centralized IT structure to monitor all their activity across their client portfolio.

For instance, they cannot supervise all the source code that is produced by their developers since it is hosted in a myriad of private repositories belonging to their customers. Therefore, it is nearly impossible for them to have the same level of observability and automation as provided by "internal" SOCs.

On the other hand, monitoring a public platform such as GitHub can help their SOC analysts build threat intelligence processes to detect suspicious activity. A textbook case would be a former employee pushing code with a professional email, indicating that his account wasn't properly deactivated.

4. Detect Source Code Leaks

In the past years, we've seen a surge in corporate repositories being leaked online. While many incidents are criminally-motivated — a hacker’s motive is to put pressure on corporations by showing he has hacked them and had access to data — let’s not forget that mistakes do happen more often than we please to think and without making a noise: a developer inadvertently pushing to a public repository while thinking (s)he's working on a private environment is enough.

For an MSP, such an error on the part of an employee could have big repercussions not only for its reputation but also financially and juridically. Source code can hold a lot of sensitive data, including trade secrets, copyrights, patents, or personally identifiable information (PII).

Failing to prevent or take action to remove problematic source code from GitHub (in the case of copyright material, the procedure is called a DMCA takedown notice) could be used against the MSP in case a leak occurs.

To help companies identify potential source code leaks, GitGuardian has made available a free tool, HasMyCodeLeaked, that can perform an exact lookup of code "fingerprints" in GitHub's public history. Identifying repositories at high risk of copyright infringement and carrying out preliminary investigation before deciding whether to file a DMCA takedown notice on GitHub.


MSPs will have a big role in securing IT operations in the coming years. This is why they should be aware that the more developers they manage, the bigger their footprint on GitHub.

Source code is a liability they are responsible for protecting. It is both one of the most valuable assets held by a company, and a potential weapon (hence a high-value target) for attackers.

For instance, secrets exposed in code-sharing platforms are being actively leveraged by attackers, as demonstrated by various breaches play-by-plays in the past. Leaked secrets can lead to the cascading compromise of an MSP's entire customer base. As we have seen, these are not well-equipped to face the expanding attack surface of the modern DevSecOps world.

Monitoring GitHub, in this context, is an efficient manner to pro-actively gather intelligence to circumvent inherent limitations and hedge against the worst scenarios. The stakes are high, and it’s time to take action. Failure to do so may result in damages being brought against them.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from GitGuardian Blog - Automated Secrets Detection authored by Thomas Segura. Read the original post at:

Avatar photo

Thomas Segura

What You Need to Scale AppSec Thomas Segura - Content Writer @ GitGuardian Author Bio Thomas has worked both as an analyst and as a software engineer consultant for various big French companies. His passion for tech and open source led him to join GitGuardian as technical content writer. He focuses now on clarifying the transformative changes that cybersecurity and software are going through. Website: Twitter handle: Linkedin: Introduction Security is a dilemma for many leaders. On the one hand, it is largely recognized as an essential feature. On the other hand, it does not drive business. Of course, as we mature, security can become a business enabler. But the roadmap is unclear. With the rise of agile practices, DevOps and the cloud, development timeframes have been considerably compressed, but application security remains essentially the same. DevSecOps emerged as an answer to this dilemma. Its promise consists literally in inserting security principles, practices, and tools into the DevOps activity stream, reducing risk without compromising deliverability. Therefore there is a question that many are asking: why isn't DevSecOps already the norm? As we analyzed in our latest report DevSecOps: Protecting the Modern Software Factory, the answer can be summarized as follows: only by enabling new capacities across Dev, Sec and Ops teams can the culture be changed. This post will help provide a high-level overview of the prerequisite steps needed to scale up application security across departments and enable such capabilities. From requirements to expectations Scaling application security is a company-wide project that requires thorough thinking before an y decision is made. A first-hand requirement is to talk to product and engineering teams to understand the current global AppSec maturity. The objective at this point is to be sure to have a comprehensive understanding of how your products are made (the processes, tools, components, and stacks involved). Mapping development tools and practices will require time to have the best visibility possible. They should include product development practices and the perceived risk awareness/appetite from managers. One of your objectives would be to nudge them so they take into account security in every decision they make for their products, and maybe end up thinking like adversaries. You should be able to derive security requirements from the different perceptual risks you are going to encounter. Your job is to consolidate these into a common set for all applications, setting goals to align the different teams collaborating to build your product(s). Communicating transparently with all relevant stakeholders (CISO, technical security, product owner, and development leads) about goals and expectations is essential to create a common ground for improvement. It will be absolutely necessary to ensure alignment throughout the implementation too. Open and accessible guardrails Guardrails are the cornerstone of security requirements. Their nature and implementation are completely up to the needs of your organization and can be potentially very different from one company to the other (if starting from scratch, look no further than the OWASP Top10). What is most important, however, is that these guardrails are open to the ones that need them. A good example of this would be to centralize a common, security-approved library of open-source components that can be pulled from by any team. Keep users' accessibility and useability as a priority. Designing an AppSec program at scale requires asking “how can we build confidence and visibility with trusted tools in our ecosystem?”. For instance, control gates should never be implemented without considering a break-glass option (“what happens if the control is blocking in an emergency situation?”). State-of-the-art security is to have off-the-shelf secure solutions chosen by the developers, approved by security, and maintained by ops. This will be a big leap forward in preventing vulnerabilities from creeping into source code. It will bring security to the masses at a very low cost (low friction). But to truly scale application security, it would be silly not to use the software engineer's best ally: the continuous integration pipeline. Embed controls in the CI/CD AppSec testing across all development pipelines is the implementation step. If your organization has multiple development teams, it is very likely that different CI/CD pipelines configurations exist in parallel. They may use different tools, or simply define different steps in the build process. This is not a problem per se, but to scale application security, centralization and harmonization are needed. As illustrated in the following example CI/CD pipeline, you can have a lot of security control steps: secrets detection, SAST, artifact signing, access controls, but also container or Infrastructure as Code scanning (not shown in the example) (taken from the DevSecOps whitepaper) The idea is that you can progressively activate more and more control steps, fine-tune the existing ones and scale both horizontally and vertically your “AppSec infrastructure”, at one condition: you need to centralize metrics and controls in a stand-alone platform able to handle the load corresponding to your organization’s size. Security processes can only be automated when you have metrics and proper visibility across your development targets, otherwise, it is just more burden on the AppSec team's shoulders. In turn, metrics and visibility help drive change and provide the spark to ignite a cultural change within your organization. Security ownership shifts to every engineer involved in the delivery process, and each one is able to leverage its own deep (yet partial) knowledge of the system to support the effort. This unlocks a world of possibilities: most security flaws can be treated like regular tickets, rule sets can be optimized for each pipeline based on criticality, capabilities or regulatory compliance, and progress can be tracked (saved time, avoided vulnerabilities etc.). In simpler terms, security can finally move at the DevOps speed. Conclusion Security can’t scale if it’s siloed, and slowing down the development process is no longer an option in a world led by DevOps innovation. The design and implementation of security controls are bound to evolve. In this article, we’ve depicted a high-level overview of the steps to be considered to scale AppSec. This starts with establishing a set of security requirements that involve all the departments, in particular product-related ones. From there it becomes possible to design guardrails to make security truly accessible with a mix of hard and soft gates. By carefully selecting automated detection and remediation that provide visibility and control, you will be laying a solid foundation for a real model of shared responsibility for security. Finally, embedding checks in the CI/CD system can be rolled out in multiple phases to progressively scale your security operations. With automated feedback in place, you can start incrementally adjusting your policies. A centralized platform creates a common interface to facilitate the exchange between application security and developer teams while enforcing processes. It is a huge opportunity to automate and propagate best practices across teams. Developers are empowered to develop faster with more ownership. When security is rethought as a partnership between software-building stakeholders, a flywheel effect can take place: reduced friction leads to better communication and visibility, automating of more best practices, easing the work of each other while improving security with fewer defects. This is how application security will finally be able to scale through continuous improvement.

thomas-segura has 34 posts and counting.See all posts by thomas-segura