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Comcast's latest open source contribution centers on cybersecurity

Comcast's 'xGitGuard' tool uses AI and machine learning techniques to detect 'secrets' – such as API tokens and passwords – that might be inadvertently lurking in open source code.

Jeff Baumgartner

March 23, 2022

3 Min Read
Comcast's latest open source contribution centers on cybersecurity

Comcast's latest open source contribution takes a distinct cybersecurity angle in the form of a software tool that uses a blend of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques to uncover and expose "secrets" that are inadvertently left in open source code.

Such secrets in open source repositories could include credentials, such as passwords, as well as API keys and tokens.

Figure 1:  (Source: Marcos Alvarado/Alamy Stock Photo)
(Source: Marcos Alvarado/Alamy Stock Photo)

Comcast originally developed this open source data security tool, called "xGitGuard," to ensure the company was not exposing its own secrets in software placed in GitHub repositories. The tool, which has been in use at Comcast since 2020, also utilizes natural language processing and text processing algorithms developed in-house.

Under both models supported by xGitGuard (passwords/credentials and API keys and tokens), the tool follows a six-step process: search GitHub at scale, filter results, detect and extract secrets, developer identification, validate secrets and then submit for remediation.

Figure 2: Click here for a larger version of this image. (Source: Comcast's xGitGuard page. Used with permission) Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: Comcast's xGitGuard page. Used with permission)

A general aim is to detect those secrets at scale and with a high level of accuracy when compared to other, similar tools available in the open source world, according to Dr. Bahman Rashidi, director of Comcast Cable's Cybersecurity and Privacy Engineering Research team.

Comcast estimates in this blog post that the validation element of the tool is over 90% accurate in recognizing secrets from non-secret texts.

But the broader goal is to help developers and organizations be in a better position to detect credentials and other secrets that might have been unknowingly and inadvertently exposed publicly. The tool can be used to detect those secrets in code already posted to GitHub or in a preventative and proactive manner before code ever makes its way to GitHub.

"If [passwords and API tokens] are in the wrong hands, that's going to have some consequences for organizations," explained Rashidi, the developer of xGitGuard. He said potential exposure to passwords and API tokens in open source code is a "very known problem in the industry. It happens frequently."

Comcast's work on xGitGuard emerges from a group at the company that spearheads and streamlines various open source projects. Last year, Comcast had two open source projects – Kuberhealthy and Trickster – accepted as "Sandbox" projects by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

Kuberhealthy performs real-time monitoring of the health of Kubernetes clusters and streams that data into a Prometheus dashboard that tracks cloud native applications. Trickster accelerates how dashboards are rendered to Comcast from Prometheus.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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