GitHub Says Vulnerabilities in Some Ecosystems Take Years to Fix

Developers often need years to address some of the vulnerabilities introduced in their software, a new GitHub report reveals.

The report, which is based on the analysis of more than 45,000 active repositories, shows that it typically takes 7 years to address vulnerabilities in Ruby, while those in npm are usually patched in five years. This is due to the fact that they often remain undetected or unnoticed.

Repositories taken into consideration for the report use one of six supported package ecosystems (Composer, Maven, npm, NuGet, PyPI, or RubyGems) and have dependency graph enabled, the Microsoft-owned platform explains.

According to the report, open source dependencies in JavaScript (94%), Ruby (90%), and .NET (90%) are used the most. Over the past 12 months, Ruby (81%) and JavaScript (73%) repositories had the highest chance to receive a security alert from GitHub’s Dependabot.

“Security vulnerabilities often go undetected for more than four years before being disclosed. Once they are identified, the package maintainer and security community typically create and release a fix in just over four weeks,” GitHub notes.

The software hosting platform also notes that most of the vulnerabilities identified in software are the result of coding mistakes, and do not represent malicious attacks. However, the analysis of 521 advisories revealed that 17% of advisories were related to malicious behavior.

“Security vulnerabilities can impact software directly or through its dependencies—any code referenced and bundled to make a software package work. That is, code may be vulnerable either because it contains vulnerabilities, or because it relies on dependencies that contain vulnerabilities,” the report reads.

When direct dependencies are taken into consideration, JavaScript was found to have the highest number of median dependencies, at ten, with Ruby and PHP next in line at nine, Java at eight, and .NET and Python at six.

The report also notes that the vulnerability that could be considered the most-impactful bug of the year is CVE-2020-8203 (Prototype Pollution in lodash, one of the most widely used npm packages), as it triggered more than five million Dependabot alerts.

Related: Google Discloses Details of GitHub Actions Vulnerability

Related: Serious Vulnerability in GitHub Enterprise Earns Researcher $20,000

Related: GitHub Helps Developers Keep Dependencies Secure via Dependabot

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Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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