In the modern software landscape, security can’t be an afterthought. Unfortunately, it often still is. 

A growing number of organizations we help at Coveros are looking to weave security into the entire development process to prevent vulnerabilities and potential disasters, but aren’t sure which tools and strategies to use.

This is where GitHub Advanced Security (GHAS) can be a game-changer. GHAS offers a robust suite of tools to fortify your code against vulnerabilities and data leaks. 

Teams who have used GHAS have seen significant security improvements, including the ability to fix 72% of security errors before moving to production, compared to the industry standard of less than 30% of security flaws fixed without the tool. Enterprise organizations using GHAS have saved approximately $5.2 million in remediation costs due to the platform’s early detection of vulnerabilities.

So how exactly does GHAS work? And, with numerous DevSecOps tools on the market, why choose GHAS? 

Here are some crucial features we’ve found especially beneficial in our work helping organizations improve their software security.

1. Code Scanning: Unearthing Vulnerabilities Before They Bite

Imagine a virtual security guard scrutinizing your code line by line. That’s what GHAS code scanning provides, automatically analyzing your codebase for potential vulnerabilities based on known patterns and machine learning algorithms. 

GHAS uses CodeQL, a powerful query language that enables developers to write custom queries for even deeper checks. This proactive approach empowers leaders to prioritize security early on, while developers can fix issues before they reach production, saving time and resources.

GHAS accelerates a team’s ability to shift left by identifying and addressing issues early in the development cycle, preventing costly problems later. 

GHAS code scanning goes beyond the ordinary, offering:

  • Advanced static analysis: Unearthing vulnerabilities like SQL injection and cross-site scripting which helps safeguard your users and data.
  • Secret detection: Preventing accidental exposure of sensitive information like passwords and API keys keeps your secrets under lock and key.
  • Supply chain security: Scanning dependencies for known vulnerabilities ensures your software rests on a secure foundation.
  • Language coverage: Supporting a vast array of languages leaves no code corner unexplored.

2. Secret Scanning: Keeping Hidden Keys Under Lock and Key

Accidental exposure of sensitive secrets like API keys and passwords can wreak havoc on an organization’s productivity and reputation. 

GHAS tackles this threat with secret scanning, meticulously scouring your codebase for any hard-coded secrets. If detected, alerts are triggered and push protection can even prevent vulnerable code from being committed. This empowers business and technical leaders to enforce stricter security policies while testers and developers can gain peace of mind knowing their critical secrets are safe.

GHAS goes beyond basic protection by delivering a zero-trust approach to secrets management, where sensitive information is only accessible to authorized entities.GHAS scans your code for any trace of vulnerable information and alerts you instantly. This proactive, automated approach prevents accidental exposure, keeping your data from prying eyes.

GHAS further empowers teams with:

  • Token scanning: Detecting and alerting you to hardcoded tokens eliminates a common approach for attack.
  • Customizable rules: Define your own sensitive information patterns to ensure even the most obscure secrets are caught.
  • Integrations: Seamlessly connecting with popular secret management tools streamlines your security workflow.

3. Security Overview: Seeing the Bigger Picture of Code Health

GHAS’s Security Overview offers a consolidated dashboard view of vulnerabilities, secrets, and code coverage. 

This holistic perspective empowers business and technical leaders to monitor their application security program’s health, to make informed decisions about resource allocation, to encourage collaboration across roles and teams, to prioritize security initiatives, and to have solid benchmarking data. Testers can leverage the overview to identify high-risk areas for more focused testing, while developers can track their progress in improving code security.

GHAS’s Security Overview includes:

  • Actionable insights: Clear, concise reports that highlight vulnerabilities and guide remediation efforts.
  • Data Trends: Alert counts and activity over time.
  • Current State: Insight into your security posture right now with a security snapshot. The age of alerts and their status are also shown.
  • Secret Information: Information about secrets that have been bypassed or blocked to understand code health, risk exposure, and policy compliance.
  • Impact Analysis: Details on the highest potential security risk repositories to understand where to apply resources for the best outcome.

4. Dependency Review: Vetting Third-Party Code with Scrutiny

Software today relies heavily on open-source libraries and dependencies. While convenient, they can also introduce vulnerabilities. 

GHAS offers dependency review, analyzing the security posture of your dependencies, including known vulnerabilities and license compliance. This empowers leaders to make informed decisions about using specific dependencies, while developers can proactively address potential security risks before integrating external code.

Supply chain security is important. Knowing which dependencies have issues and how they impact your various software offerings can help you make good prioritization decisions around which issues to address and when.

GHAS provides supply chain security information through a number of features, including:

  • Dependabot Alerts: Receive notifications that your software depends on an insecure package.
  • Dependabot Security Updates: Keep packages you use updated to the latest versions.
  • Dependabot Version Updates: Fix vulnerable dependencies by raising pull requests with the latest security updates.
  • Dependency Graph: Identify all of a software project’s dependencies and all of the software projects that depend on that project. 
  • Ongoing updating: CodeQL queries and Dependabot dependency scanning utilize continuously updated information to keep you aware of the latest vulnerabilities or known issues.

5. Advanced Features: Tailoring Security to Your Needs

Your development pipeline must have security seamlessly integrated into every step. 

GHAS’s automated workflows allow you to set up scans that run whenever you commit code, ensuring vulnerabilities are caught early and don’t slow you down.

GHAS provides additional features for organizations seeking extra control and customization. These include:

  • Push protection: Real-time checks prevent vulnerable code from being committed.
  • Custom queries: Craft tailored CodeQL queries for specific security concerns or vulnerabilities and guide remediation efforts.
  • Integrations: Integrate GHAS with your existing security ecosystem for seamless workflows. Choose between pre-built or customizable workflows tailored to your specific needs.

What do these features mean for the different roles in your software organization?

Different roles on your team approach software from different perspectives and goals. 

GHAS helps these roles work together collaboratively to give your solutions the comprehensive security they require and your business and customers deserve.

Business and Technical Leaders

  • Proactively manage security risks: Gain visibility into the overall security posture and prioritize resources accordingly.
  • Make data-driven decisions: Leverage reports and insights to make informed decisions about security investments.
  • Demonstrate security commitment: Show stakeholders a proactive approach to code security.

Testers

  • Focus on high-risk areas: Use the Security Overview to identify code requiring in-depth testing.
  • Collaborate with developers: Work hand-in-hand with developers to fix vulnerabilities efficiently.
  • Increase test coverage: Ensure comprehensive security testing across the codebase.

Developers

  • Write more secure code: Real-time feedback helps identify and fix vulnerabilities early.
  • Improve code quality: Security becomes an integral part of development, not an afterthought.
  • Be more productive: Automated checks save time and effort compared to manual security reviews.

GitHub Advanced Security is more than just a set of tools; it’s a cultural shift towards proactive security within development teams. By embracing its features, business and technical leaders, testers, and developers can work together to build more secure, robust, and future-proof applications.

Need Help Implementing or Perfecting Your Use of GHAS

Coveros is a premier services partner of GitHub, providing consulting, training, and coaching services to help you implement or enhance your use of GHAS and other crucial GitHub tools. Click the button below to talk to an expert about your challenges and how Coveros can help.

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