GitHub Security Best Practices For Your Organization

Github Security Best Practices

Whether new to software development or not, you would have heard about the popular GitHub platform. GitHub is the largest source-code host worldwide. It hosts over 330+ million repositories, and more than 4 million organizations use it. As an organization tries to navigate the world of software development, it needs to understand GitHub security practices. 

GitHub has played its part in ensuring its source code platform is secure for users. However, there might be threats to repositories if GitHub security practices are not followed. To help companies stay secure, this blog post will discuss the benefits of using GitHub and the recommended security best practices.

What Is GitHub? 

GitHub is a cloud-based platform on which developers can create, store, track, and share code. On GitHub, developers can network and collaborate with one another’s projects. It works in sync with Git. While GitHub is the platform for creating codes and doing other stuff, Git is the version control system that monitors and saves changes to GitHub repositories. 

The GitHub package hosts all software packages, dependencies, and containers. It can host these resources both privately and publicly. Packages also help centralize resources by placing the source code and package in the same location. 

Benefits of Using GitHub

Listed below are the benefits of using GitHub:

  1. Clear Repository Management 

Regardless of the number of repositories, it’s easy to manage them all using GitHub. GitHub repositories are also accessible on any device because the platform is cloud-based. Users can download and make changes to them from the devices on which they access them.

  1. Easy Package Installation

The GitHub package is a hosting service for all your software packages, dependencies, and containers. It helps to host these resources both privately and publicly. Likewise, it centralizes the resources by placing your source code and package in the same location.

Installing a package for your software, dependencies, and containers is easy on GitHub. To successfully do so, use a package client. The first step is to authenticate to GitHub packages. Then, you can install the package. You can do both by using the instructions your package client provides. 

  1. Networking

Developers worldwide can form social and professional contacts on GitHub. Once developers find repositories they can collaborate with, they create pull requests. If accepted, they can work with the owners of those repositories. The platform also serves as a portfolio for developers to share with prospective employers. 

  1. Collaboration

GitHub allows developers to collaborate on different software projects. This collaboration process also allows version and access control. For example, a developer can give access to a project in their repository to another developer and let them fork it. Additionally, the owner of the project can create a branch for the collaborator if they need to work independently. 

By gaining access, the collaborator can interact with all related files and versions of the project. When the collaborator is done, they can make a pull request to merge their branch with the owner. The owner can either approve or reject the pull request. 

GitHub Security Best Practices

Listed below are the recommended GitHub security best practices:

  1. Use Private Repositories

Use a private account to prevent indiscriminate access and forking of your organization’s repositories. This will prevent an account from being exposed to security threats and risks. To use a private account, go to profile picture > organizations > settings > member privileges > repository creation > private. Then click “save.”

  1. Enable 2FA (Two-factor Authentication)

It’s not enough to use passwords for repositories. Use 2FA to add an extra layer of security to an account. Choose any of the different ways to configure 2FA to maintain GitHub security. First, use a cloud-based TOTP (time-based one-time password) app. Additionally, SMS options are also available (for users in the United States). Other options are GitHub mobile and security key. 

  1. Remove Sensitive Data 

Leaving sensitive data (such as user names, passwords, and API keys) in a repository is unsafe, even if it is owned by a private account. Anyone with access to a specific repository can steal sensitive information.  

  1. Disallow Forking

To ensure GitHub security in an account, disable the forking option. Not everyone should have access to fork a repository to their accounts. If it is a private account, it is much easier to guard against indiscriminate forking. Allowing anyone within an organization to fork repositories poses GitHub security threats. 

This can lead to sensitive data leaks and other security risks. To disable this feature, go to profile photo > organizations > settings > member privileges > repository forking. Then, disable the feature. If you need to allow the forking of certain repositories, it should be for the team members or other trusted developers.

  1. Secure Branches

Vetting a branch before merging is crucial to GitHub security. It protects the repo and allows the owner to review if another developer’s work is good enough to merge with. Enabling branch protection on an account allows users to disable automatic merging. That is, collaborators have to make a pull request and wait for approval to merge. This GitHub security feature also requires collaborators to update their branches and successfully deploy them before merging.

You can use GuardRails to ensure that only Pull Requests without security vulnerabilities can be merged.

  1. Control Access

Manage access to your organization’s repositories. Give admin access to key security team members only. They should be reserved access to read, fork, review, enable branch protection, approve pull requests, etc. This access should not be available to other members of the organization. Also, remove inactive users or those no longer needed from a repo. In addition, maintain endpoint security and limit access to IP addresses of permitted users. 

  1. Scan 

Scan your repos continuously. It will help developers identify and fix security threats quickly. Ensure to only use trusted open-source libraries that don’t contain vulnerabilities in your repos.

GuardRails Integration With GitHub and Other VCS (Version Control Systems)

At GuardRails, we prioritize security and efficiency for DevSecOps teams. This is why we integrate with platforms like GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket. To ensure maximum GitHub security, we help teams become efficient by automating and integrating security scanning with their development process. Our automated security scanning tool helps you catch bugs and vulnerabilities in your repositories and alerts you. 

Our DevSecOps integration supports the GitHub version control system and has no setup complexities. GuardRails allows you to code on GitHub with your preferred language. It supports Python, Javascript, PHP, Ruby, etc. You can check for more information on our DevSecOps integration.

Teams must intentionally maintain security processes. This mindset should also extend to ensuring GitHub security. As your team uses GitHub, it must stick to the GitHub security best practices outlined above. This will prevent security risks that could make your development efforts go down the drain. GuardRails is always available to provide you with other security needs, like importing your team securely from GitHub without wasting time.

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