The State of Secrets Sprawl 2023

The State of Secrets Sprawl 2023

For the third year running, GitGuardian is proud to announce the release of our State of Secrets Sprawl report, the most extensive analysis of secrets exposed on GitHub and beyond.

Our team of experts scanned and analyzed 1.027B new commits in 2022 (+20% compared to 2021) to uncover the latest trends and identify the most pressing challenges facing developers today.

The main question we seek to answer each year is, "How many new secrets were exposed on GitHub in the preceding year?" The answer is staggering: our analysis reveals 10 million new secrets occurrences were exposed on GitHub in 2022. That's a 67% increase compared to 2021.

The State of Secrets Sprawl 2023
From GitGuardian's State of Secrets Sprawl report

GitGuardian also discovered that 1 GitHub code author out of 10 exposed a secret in 2022. This number is a serious blow to the common belief that hard-coded secrets are primarily the result of inexperienced developers. The reality is that this can happen to any developer, regardless of their experience or seniority.

But the risks associated with exposed secrets go far beyond just GitHub. In fact, secrets were found in one way or another in most of the security incidents that happened in 2022.

For example, last September, an attacker pulled a full account takeover on Uber's internal tools and productivity applications by leveraging hard-coded admin credentials. Numerous breaches have resulted in the theft of source code from companies such as LastPass, Okta, Toyota, Microsoft, Samsung, and more, exposing secrets that should never have been there.

Secrets are not just any kind of credentials; they securely hold together the components of the modern software supply chain, from code to the cloud. Indeed, infrastructure as code is one of the focuses of this edition. The report details that IaC-related contributions increased by 28% in 2022, with HCL (Hashicorp Configuration Language, used in Terraform) being the fastest-growing language on GitHub.

This sudden popularity is, of course, not without its shortcomings: we found that Terraform files had an average of 5.57 occurrences of secrets (2.11 unique secrets) per 1,000 patches, which is 3x the average for all file extensions. Beyond hard-coded secrets, GitGuardian estimates that 21.52% of all Terraform repositories have one or more security policy vulnerabilities.

But far from stopping there, the report explores much more:

  • Which types of credentials were most frequently found last year?
  • What were the biggest trends on public GitHub?
  • How secret sprawl threatens supply-chain security?
  • How much time elapses between the exposure of a secret on GitHub and its compromise?
  • Are there credentials for sale on the darknet?
  • How to tame secrets sprawl in the SDLC?

To find out the answers,

Download the State of Secrets Sprawl 2023 report here.

Read the Press Release

"Our mission is to secure code and the SDLC. We want to do it with a transparent, simple, and pragmatic approach starting first with one of the most important issues in appsec: secrets in code." Eric Fourrier, CEO & Co-Founder

This report will serve as a valuable resource for developers, security professionals, and decision-makers committed to ensuring the security and integrity of their applications and data.

Stay tuned for more updates from GitGuardian as we continue to monitor the ever-changing threat landscape and provide the latest insights and recommendations to help you stay ahead of the curve.

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

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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.

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