GitHub gobbles biz used by NASA, Google, etc to search code for bugs and security holes in Mars rovers, apps...

Semmle's flaw-finding queries can be shared and used on multiple projects

On Wednesday, Microsoft's GitHub said it has acquired Semmle, a San Francisco-based software analysis platform for finding vulnerabilities in code. No price was disclosed.

GitHub CEO Nat Friedman said Semmle's code analysis engine provides developers with a way to write queries for code patterns and variations, which allows flaws to be identified and fixed.

The gobbled biz's platform, LGTM (short for Looks Good To Me), is used by Google, Mozilla, NASA and Uber, among others. It has helped find more than 100 CVE-listed security holes in open-source projects to date.

LGTM relies on QL queries, and these declarative queries, once written, can be shared, so bad patterns found in one project can be easily spotted elsewhere. Here's QL query NASA's JPL used to find variations on a manually identified bug in the space agency's Curiosity’s entry, descent and landing software:

import cpp

from Function f, FunctionCall c, int i, int a, int b
where f = c.getTarget()
  and a = ((ArrayType)c.getArgument(i).getType()).getArraySize()
  and b = ((ArrayType)f.getParameter(i).getType()).getArraySize()
  and a < b
select c.getArgument(i), "Array of size " + a
       + " passed to $@, which expects an array of size " + b + ".",
       f, f.getName()

The ability to share QL queries turns out to be a good fit for GitHub's developer community and for the sort of collaboration that improves security. And in time, it should augment GitHub's automated security fixes.

"Software security is a community effort; no single company can find every vulnerability or secure the open source supply chain behind everyone’s code," said Friedman. "Semmle’s community-driven approach to identifying and preventing security vulnerabilities is the very best way forward."

GitHub's stated goal is to make the entire security process, from vulnerability identification to repair, more like a pull request – simple and potentially automated.

"The combination of GitHub and Semmle is, for lack of a better term, synergistic," said Stephen O'Grady, co-founder of IT consultancy RedMonk, in an email to The Register. "Semmle’s value add has been about reducing the time to discovery of vulnerabilities and increasing the reach of that same discovery. Integrating that into GitHub should result in more secure outputs from GitHub hosted projects."

O'Grady said Semmle should benefit from the deal too, through access to telemetry from GitHub's systems, which he expects will enhance Semmle's code analysis.

GitHub says it's in the early stages of integrating Semmle with its systems. In preparation for expected security enhancements, GitHub has been approved as a CVE Numbering Authority for open source projects. This will allow it to issue CVEs for security advisories opened on GitHub, ensuring greater dissemination of vulnerability information. ®

Other stories you might like

  • North Korea pulled in $400m in cryptocurrency heists last year – report

    Plus: FIFA 22 players lose their identity and Texas gets phony QR codes

    In brief Thieves operating for the North Korean government made off with almost $400m in digicash last year in a concerted attack to steal and launder as much currency as they could.

    A report from blockchain biz Chainalysis found that attackers were going after investment houses and currency exchanges in a bid to purloin funds and send them back to the Glorious Leader's coffers. They then use mixing software to make masses of micropayments to new wallets, before consolidating them all again into a new account and moving the funds.

    Bitcoin used to be a top target but Ether is now the most stolen currency, say the researchers, accounting for 58 per cent of the funds filched. Bitcoin accounted for just 20 per cent, a fall of more than 50 per cent since 2019 - although part of the reason might be that they are now so valuable people are taking more care with them.

    Continue reading
  • Tesla Full Self-Driving videos prompt California's DMV to rethink policy on accidents

    Plus: AI systems can identify different chess players by their moves and more

    In brief California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said it’s “revisiting” its opinion of whether Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving feature needs more oversight after a series of videos demonstrate how the technology can be dangerous.

    “Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space,” have made the DMV think twice about Tesla, according to a letter sent to California’s Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, and first reported by the LA Times.

    Tesla isn’t required to report the number of crashes to California’s DMV unlike other self-driving car companies like Waymo or Cruise because it operates at lower levels of autonomy and requires human supervision. But that may change after videos like drivers having to take over to avoid accidentally swerving into pedestrians crossing the road or failing to detect a truck in the middle of the road continue circulating.

    Continue reading
  • Alien life on Super-Earth can survive longer than us due to long-lasting protection from cosmic rays

    Laser experiments show their magnetic fields shielding their surfaces from radiation last longer

    Life on Super-Earths may have more time to develop and evolve, thanks to their long-lasting magnetic fields protecting them against harmful cosmic rays, according to new research published in Science.

    Space is a hazardous environment. Streams of charged particles traveling at very close to the speed of light, ejected from stars and distant galaxies, bombard planets. The intense radiation can strip atmospheres and cause oceans on planetary surfaces to dry up over time, leaving them arid and incapable of supporting habitable life. Cosmic rays, however, are deflected away from Earth, however, since it’s shielded by its magnetic field.

    Now, a team of researchers led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) believe that Super-Earths - planets that are more massive than Earth but less than Neptune - may have magnetic fields too. Their defensive bubbles, in fact, are estimated to stay intact for longer than the one around Earth, meaning life on their surfaces will have more time to develop and survive.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022