Oct 6, 2020 - Wayne Haber    

GitLab's security trends report – our latest look at what's most vulnerable

From triage to containers and secrets storage, we took a look at the most vulnerable areas across thousands of hosted projects on GitLab.com. Here's what you need to know.

In this second GitLab security trends report, we analyzed security vulnerability trends across thousands of projects hosted on GitLab.com. Doing the analysis allowed us to identify trends and patterns that security practitioners can use to benchmark against their organizations.

Recommendations for security practitioners


Category Recommendation
Security issue triage Regularly review and prioritize security issues that were identified (such as in the Gitlab Security Dashboard)
Apply security fixes for containers Automatically scan, rebuild, test and deploy containers using CI/CD pipelines so that they always have the latest patches.
Apply security fixes for project dependencies Scan project dependencies during builds and periodically for the use of libraries with known vulnerabilities, and update the dependencies accordingly.
Static analysis Implement static security scanning while tuning for false positives so that developers can focus on what is truly important. Pay attention in particular to scanning automated tests with a different configuration than production code in order to reduce wasted time on false-positives.
Secret storage Ensure that developers store secrets such as private keys, passwords, and API keys in a secret vault rather than in the codebase itself. This is a typical security anti-pattern. During builds, use scanners that can detect secrets that were accidentally stored in the codebase.
Dynamic analysis Implement dynamic analysis, and periodically confirm it can both authenticate the applications being scanned and fully spider them. This is a common challenge and when misconfigured causes the scanners to test only a small portion of the application.
Web application security Evaulate applications for common attack vectors such as reverse tabnabbing and x-frame-options that are not implemented.
Fuzz testing Track the latest techniques used by bad actors to find vulnerabilities and use those same tactics to find issues, preferably before they discover them.

Trends by CWE

For this section of the analysis, all detected vulnerabilities across all scanners were mapped against their primary CWE: Common Weakness Enumeration. The pertinent CVEs (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) are included with each vulnerable library or component.

The top three CWEs in August were:

CWE-20: Improper input validation

Improper input validation allows for potential injection attacks (SQL, code, etc). The top findings were from the container scanner which found issues with out of date software, most notably for:

The dependency scanner also found issues for libraries in use including:

CWE-787: Out of bounds write of intended buffer

This allows for potential remote code execution. The top findings were from the container scanner which found the below software to be out of date and vulnerable:

The dependency scanner also found issues for dependant libraries in use, with the top one being execa.

CWE-400: Uncontrolled resource consumption

Uncontrolled resource consumption allows for potential denial of service attacks against specific software. The top findings were from the dependency scanner for the Mixin-deep library.

The container scanner also found issues with:

  • mysql-5.7 - CVE-2020-14547, CVE-2020-14540, CVE-2020-14576, and 4 others
  • nghttp2 - CVE-2019-9513 and CVE-2019-9511

Dependency scanner trends

Dependency by month

The percentage of projects finding issues with dependent libraries in use has significantly increased over the last year, from 26% to 69%. This reinforces that updating dependent libraries should be prioritized based on the risks those libraries pose. GitLab dependency scanning can be used to scan project dependencies for vulnerabilities.

By Library

As new vulnerabilities are discovered in libraries, and projects using them have their dependencies scanned, the libraries rise in prevalence. As the dependencies are updated later, they drop in prevalence. However, not all teams reliably prioritize and resolve issues, so many vulnerable dependent libraries continue to be in use for a long period of time.

The top libraries in use with vulnerabilities in August were:

Library Top vulnerability
Lodash Object prototype pollution
Execa OS command injection
Mixin-deep Prototype pollution
Kind-of Type checking
Sockjs Cross-site scripting
Ajv Improper input validation
Minimist Improper input validation
Yargs-parser Improper input validation
JQuery 3rd party CORS request may execute
Dot-prop Direct request forced browsing

Container scanner trends

Container by month

The percentage of projects finding issues with containers has decreased over the last year, from 52% to 41%. While we have seen a small decrease, it is still relatively high. Keeping container registries up-to-date and rebuilding/redeploying the containers that use them continues to be essential to reduce security risk. GitLab container scanning can be used to scan Docker images for known vulnerabilities.

By Component

Similarly to the trends in dependent libraries, as new vulnerabilities are discovered in containers, and the containers are scanned, the vulnerabilities rise in prevalence. As the containers are updated, the vulnerabilities drop; however many are not updated, leaving the vulnerabilities in place and potentially exploitable in the long-term.

By Discovery Year

Container by year

While many projects update containers, a significant number of projects use containers with vulnerabilities that were discovered many years prior. Being diligent in identifying and updating all containers in use is essential to maintain the appropriate level of security vigilance.

Static analysis trends

SAST by month

The percentage of projects finding vulnerabilities via static scanning over the last year has remained mostly unchanged (from 49% to 52%). This shows that static scanning continues to be quite effective in identifying security vulnerabilities. GitLab can be used for static application security testing (SAST) and secret detection.

Many SAST checks can have a false positive rate, especially when scanning code for automated tests (which, for example, may contain non-production secrets). It is crucial to tune the SAST scanners to reduce false positives, allowing the developers to focus on other issues that have a higher likelihood of being a real problem.

The top vulnerabilities in this category were:

  • Password in URL - Passwords are sent in the URL, allowing the password to be more easily stored in the local browser cache and in any proxy servers between the web browser and web server. Passwords should be sent via secure methods such as the POST method (vs. using GET, which puts the password in the URL.)
  • Insecure usage of temporary file or directory - a temporary file does not have proper permissions, allowing data to be exposed and possibly allowing for remote code execution.
  • Predictable pseudorandom number generator (PRNG) - if a predictable seed is used for encryption, it makes it much easier for the encryption to be defeated. A cryptographically secure PRNG should be used instead.
  • Cipher with no integrity - code does not validate that when decrypting data, the data has not been altered. A solution for this is to add an encrypted hash to the message.
  • No file extension found in an include - allows for potential remote code execution.

Secret handling vulnerabilities

The top types of secrets/keys identified were:

  • PKCS - Public Key Cryptography Standard
  • RSA Key

For security reasons, secrets (such as keys, passwords, etc) should never be stored in the codebase. However, it is very convenient for developers to do this making it a common security anti-pattern. Secrets should be stored in a storage mechanism designed for security, such as vault.


DAST by month

The percentage of projects finding vulnerabilities via dynamic scanning over the last year went from 7% to a high of 20% and then back down to 9%. After initial scanning and issue resolution, dynamic scanning tends to primarily only find low priority vulnerabilities unless the scanners are configured to authenticate the web applications and successfully spider the entire application. Security practitioners must periodically confirm the results as the configuration tends to stop working over time.

GitLab can be configured to do dynamic application security testing (DAST).

By vulnerability

The top vulnerabilities in this category were:

  • X-frame-options header not set - allows a web application to be embedded inside another (malicious) web application.
  • Reverse tabnabbing - allows a page linked from the target page to be able to rewrite the page (such as to replace it with a phishing site)
  • Vulnerable JavaScript Library - see the dependent library section above.
  • Cross-domain misconfiguration - web browser data loading may be possible, due to a Cross Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) misconfiguration on the webserver
  • PII (personally identifiable information) disclosure - security scanners have difficulty accurately determining if data is truly PII. The PII rules should be tuned per organization.
  • CSP (content site protection) wildcard directive - There is a lack of proper content site protection, potentially allowing for cross-site scripting and other similar attacks.
  • Application error disclosure - when attacker-accessible applications expose error messages, they give the attacker significant clues on how to attack the application. Allow these errors to be shown only in non-production environments.


Fuzzing is a new feature recently released by GitLab. Fuzz testing can be configured in the GitLab UI.

The top vulnerabilities detected in this new feature include:

  • Heap-buffer-overflow on read
  • Index-out-of-bounds

Data sources

The trends report's underlying data is sourced from projects hosted on GitLab.com and does not include data from our self-managed customers. It is comprised of medium or higher severity vulnerabilities appearing in five or more projects that occurred between September 2019 and October 2020. All project-specific data was anonymized.

Read more about security:

Thanks to David DeSanto, Todd Stadelhofer, Nicole Schwartz, Nico Meisenzahl, and Sean Wright for the feedback on the blog content.

Pietro Jeng on Unsplash

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