NewsAugust 7, 2017 @ 12:45 PM

GitPwnd Shows How Threat Actors Could Hijack Git Repositories in Software Development

Researchers have created a tool that uses Git repositories to demonstrate how Agile and other accelerated software development approaches could have a serious trade-off in terms of enterprise security.

GitPwnd Highlights Vulnerabilities in Git Repositories

In a presentation at the recent Black Hat security conference, experts from NCC Group and Datadog discussed how repositories, which store software histories as code is being written, could be used to communicate malicious commands from threat actors. As proof, they developed GitPwnd, an open source penetration testing resource that takes advantage of popular services such as GitHub, GitLab or BitBucket.

Security Affairs explained how such attacks would work: Cybercriminals could use something like GitPwnd to host their Git repositories on GitHub, for instance. Then, as commands are sent to an infiltrated system, they could be easily disguised as legitimate traffic coming from a software developer, which use the same transport layer for legitimate work.

Though malicious actors could theoretically turn GitPwnd into a weapon, the researchers only made it to show that some companies are too lax in the trust they offer to third parties as they race to create innovative software.

Practice Security Over Speed

As SecurityWeek explained, trends in application development have tended to favor approaches, such as Agile, that drive teams to meet short-term deadlines and a series of fast iterations. When security controls may get in the way of speedy Agile techniques, firms could put themselves at risk by temporarily removing them and leaving Git repositories open to abuse.

Awareness of this issue seems to be growing. Just a few weeks ago, a columnist on Dark Reading called out the opportunities cybercriminals see in GitHub and similar services to infect many machines at once. He recommended private cloud environments as the best way to secure Git repositories. And earlier this year, TechTarget profiled a utility called Truffle Hog, which can search through Git repos for old text that could be exploited as a security key.

Neither of those things completely addresses the trust relationships that were the focus of the Black Hat session, of course. But the moral here is that no software project should be fast tracked to such an extent that major risks get introduced.

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Shane Schick

Writer & Editor

Shane Schick is a writer, editor and speaker who focuses on how information technology creates business value. He lives in Toronto.