User-level software has become embedded in the day-to-day operations of most modern businesses. For cybercriminals, proprietary source code is a prime target that can be used to discover and exploit data vulnerabilities at the user level.
Extortion groups such as Lapsus$ have made it a mission to discover and release highly sensitive, proprietary source code on the dark web. Their victims include several prominent fortune 100 companies and their efforts have resulted in millions of dollars in damages.
Leaked source code can enable malicious actors to identify and exploit vulnerabilities, blackmail software companies, and publicize trade secrets. In addition, when a company’s source code is successfully leaked by malicious actors, it raises reputational concerns about its cybersecurity practices. Did the attackers access other highly sensitive information such as encryption keys or user account data that could be used for further attacks?
Preventing and identifying source code leaks is essential for improving software and application security. CISOs and fraud analysts can ensure they protect their businesses from compliance issues and retain clients through thick and thin.
What Are Source Code Leaks?
Gaining access to commercial software source code allows hackers and other malicious attackers to take advantage of existing security vulnerabilities and create exploits. This can be particularly dangerous when companies are unaware that their source code has been leaked in the first place, giving malicious actors the first-mover advantage.
From a marketing/PR standpoint, a source code leak can raise serious questions about a company’s cybersecurity acumen. From a product development standpoint, leaked source code can allow competitors to recreate core elements of code, or for actors in hostile nation-states to create identical applications.
What Are the Causes of Source Code Leaks?
Generally, important source-level code is obfuscated from users so that important data processing operations can’t be taken advantage of or exploited. Cyber risks arise due to the malicious intent of individuals who know and understand code well enough to find and penetrate weaknesses in proprietary software.
Source code leaks have been distributed by:
- Government entities
- Non-state, malicious actors
Whether they’re due to poor code quality, user error, or deceitful intent, source code leaks leave CISOs and fraud analysts with few choices for recovery. This risk means it’s essential to understand how source code leaks occur and the best prevention methods.
Vulnerabilities in Code Repositories
There will always be inherent cyber risks when using any type of software. Developers usually take the necessary steps to reduce the potential for bugs, but unexpected use-cases can arise that give hackers access. In addition, 0-day exploits and vulnerabilities can provide enormous opportunities for malicious actors to gain privileged access, and view proprietary information such as source code.
Poor IAM Practices
Effective Identity and Access Management policy is one of the core elements of a competent and mature cybersecurity program. Bad access management practices can easily lead to source code (and other highly valuable information) being leaked. As an example, in 2021 Nissan North America suffered a source code leak as a result of having their Git server credentials set the default admin/admin.
Sometimes the biggest cyber risk to securing source code comes from within. Bad handling of data on the part of users can lead to exposure of credentials or other important information. Emailing source code, sharing sensitive code on Pastebin, and account sharing can all entail a significant risk of proprietary information leaking.
As more businesses rely on the cloud and use other external resources for important internal operations, the number of opportunities for source code to be lost or stolen only increases. The ongoing fight to secure and protect private data is often compromised by poor decisions when storing or sharing source code. The more areas that source code is stored, the more opportunities malicious actors have to exploit it.
How to Prevent Source Code Leaks
For organizations that rely on proprietary source code, it’s essential to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of that code. Integrity is often overlooked but can be pivotal. While a source code leak can be extremely damaging, malicious actors managing to change code can be absolutely devastating, both to the software company and to their clients.
Reducing the potential harm from source code leaks means using secure authentication methods, being aware of the dangers posed by sharing and transit of information, developing strong software and hardware ecosystems, creating better methods for employee training, and improving internal operations over time.
Use Secure Authentication
Proper handling of secrets is essential for keeping source code protected from unwanted access. Secure user credentials mean that source code and other sensitive information are much harder for malicious actors to gain access to. This hardening often means that they will look for other easier targets.
Secure authentication methods provide a strong first-level defense against malicious attacks. CISOs and fraud analysts should ensure strong and complicated passwords, GitHub Tokens, and other forms of authentication are used, so that source code leaks don’t become a problem.
Encrypt and Monitor Access
When malicious actors gain access to vital systems, it’s much more likely that they will be able to steal and use source code for their own ends. For developers who share and distribute code across multiple platforms, it’s essential to encrypt data.
This approach offers a stronger level of protection to data that is in transit or otherwise outside the safety of a specific device or network.
Encrypted data ensures confidentiality for CISOs and fraud analysts. By monitoring the regular use and distribution of vital data flows, decision-makers have better control over who has access to private information, how it’s used, and where it goes.
Manage Critical Infrastructure
Cybercriminals attempting to exploit source code for their own ends often probe for and target weak network infrastructure and security. Those systems that they find lacking become a prime target for malicious attacks. This targeting means that viruses, malware, and other potentially hazardous exploits can lead to source code leaks.
For CISOs and fraud analysts who want better protection mechanisms for their critical systems, it’s important to invest in cybersecurity infrastructure properly. This approach means taking the needed steps to update important software and hardware.
Good endpoint security means looking at user devices and other essential network nodes and considering how best to protect them from potential criminal activities.
Provide Ongoing Training and Development
For businesses that rely on secure practices to prevent source code leaks, simple user errors can be catastrophic. Constant attention should be given to calls, emails, and other forms of social engineering that attempt to exploit employee knowledge to gain access to source code.
When doing internal data management, CISOs and fraud analysts should make sure employees understand secure coding practices. Using properly maintained libraries, trusted sources, and repositories with restricted access can give developers safer ways of creating, testing, and distributing code.
Improve Strategic Decision-Making
Sharing and accessing code is essential for the ongoing development of practical software systems. Decision-makers who fail to consider the complexities of software development leave their users and employees open to source code leaks.
Misconfigured or faulty code can leave source data vulnerable and can cause data leakage. CISOs and fraud analysts who deal with important code should work to create safe and effective strategies for finding and dealing with potential source code leaks.
Businesses that want to keep their source code safe should take a comprehensive approach to data protection. By monitoring internal sharing practices with audits and risk assessments, it’s possible to limit access to control threat vectors.
Prioritizing critical data with ongoing testing, monitoring, and improvement of strategic decision-making will allow companies to keep their source code safe.
How to Identify Source Code Leaks
Even the most well-protected systems are still at risk of having their source code compromised. This risk means that proper detection and identification of source code leaks is an important part of data management.
Proactively search and scan software and related plugins or components for malicious or harmful code. Look at public repositories for suspicious activities. Target users and systems that create risks to internal operations. Continually scanning sites such as pastebin and monitoring the dark web can also prove to be invaluable in quickly identifying security gaps that may have led to source code leaking.
Prevent and Identify Source Code Leaks with Flare Systems
Are you a CISO or fraud analyst concerned about potential source code leaks within your company or organization? Flare Systems is a SaaS company offering comprehensive digital risk detection and protection for companies working with sensitive data.
Whether you’re in finance, eCommerce, software, or another sector, Flare Systems can offer an outside-in view of your cybersecurity posture.
At Flare Systems, we offer actionable monitoring and intelligence so you can manage cyber fraud and limit potential liabilities. If you want to prevent your digital footprint from getting out of control, we provide surveillance for the dark web, Pastebin sites, GitHub environments, and other areas of interest.
Our comprehensive information security services take a proactive approach to finding leaked credentials, confidential information, and proprietary data so that you can perform security remediation.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use platform for preventing and identifying source code leaks, Flare Systems is here for you. Book a walkthrough with Flare to see how we can improve your digital risk management.