GitHub bug saw users logged into others users’ accounts

GitHub code on a dark background
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

GitHub was forced to log out some of its users to protect others against a potentially serious security flaw.

According to a GitHub blog post on March 8, it invalidated all authenticated sessions on GitHub “out of an abundance of caution” to protect users.

Earlier in the month, GitHub received an external report of anomalous behavior for their authenticated GitHub user session. Once GitHub received the report, its security and engineering teams began to investigate the bug’s cause and impact.

GitHub found the bug was due to a rare condition in a backend request handling process that could have misrouted a user’s session to a different authenticated user’s browser, giving them another user’s valid and authenticated session cookie.

GitHub said the problem wasn’t the result of compromised account passwords, SSH keys, or personal access tokens (PATs), and there’s no evidence to suggest this was the result of a compromise of any other GitHub systems.

“Instead, this issue was due to the rare and isolated improper handling of authenticated sessions. Further, this issue could not be intentionally triggered or directed by a malicious user,” said Mike Hanley, CSO at GitHub.

He added that the underlying bug existed on GitHub for a cumulative period of fewer than two weeks at various times between February 8 and March 5.

“Once the root cause was identified and a fix developed, we immediately patched on March 5. A second patch was deployed on March 8 to implement additional measures to further harden our application from this type of bug,” added Hanley.

He said that there was no indication the bug affected any other GitHub properties or products, including GitHub Enterprise Server, and added the session misrouting occurred in fewer than 0.001% of authenticated sessions on GitHub.

Hanley said for the few users who the bug affected, GitHub has contacted them with additional information and guidance. He added that users should now log back in and follow the company’s security best practices for users and organizations.

GitHub promised to share the findings of its investigations and the issue’s root cause analysis “in the coming weeks.”

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.