File Under: Security, Web Services

Users Scramble as GitHub Search Exposes Passwords, Security Details

Inspectocat says “never store private stuff in public places.” Image: Github

GitHub has temporarily shut down some parts of the site-wide search update it launched yesterday. As we mentioned in our earlier post, the new search tools made it much easier to find passwords, private ssh keys and security tokens stored in GitHub repos.

GitHub hasn’t officially addressed the issue, but it appears to be blocking some of the security-related searches that were posted earlier in this Hacker News thread.

GitHub’s status site also says that “search remains unavailable,” though in my testing searching worked just fine so long as you weren’t entering words like “RSA,” “password,” “secret_token” or the like.

Most of the passwords and other security data exposed were personal — typically private ssh keys to someone’s server or a Gmail password — which is bad enough, but at least one appeared to reveal a password for an account on Chromium.org, the repository that holds the source code for Google’s open-source web browser. Another reportedly exposed an ssh password to a production server of a “major, MAJOR website in China.”

Unfortunately for people that have been storing their private security credentials in public GitHub repos what GitHub’s search engine revealed is nothing new. Google long ago indexed that data and a targeted site:github.com search will turn up the same exposed security info, which makes GitHub’s temporarily crippled search a token gesture at best.

If you accidentally stored sensitive data on GitHub the most important thing to do is change your passwords, keys and tokens. After you’ve created new security credentials for any exposed servers and accounts then you can go back and delete your old data from GitHub.

Given that Git, the version control system behind GitHub, is specifically designed to prevent data from disappearing, deleting your sensitive data takes more than just the Git command rm. GitHub has full details on how to get your sensitive data off the site. As GitHub’s instructions say, “if you committed a password, change it! If you committed a key, generate a new one. Once the commit has been pushed you should consider the data to be compromised.”