Tuesday, February 21, 2023

OpenSSF Scorecard

OpenSSF Scorecard is a tool that assesses your project against a number of security best practices and assigns a score (out of 10). It is a really useful thing to run on any open-source project you might contribute to, to try to improve the overall security posture of the project, or even to assess how secure a third-party project is that you might want to use. In this post I'll describe how I improved the security posture of a number of ASF projects I contribute to using OpenSSF Scorecard.

Getting Started

The first step is to install the OpenSSF Scorecard GitHub Action. This can be done in the GitHub dashboard, by going to "Actions", then "New Workflow" and searching for "OpenSSF Scorecard". Once this is committed to source control and runs successfully, the findings appear in the GitHub dashboard under "Security" and then "Code scanning". After the first run, you can add a Scorecard badge to the README of your project to display the current score. For example, for Apache Santuario.

Improving the score

After doing the initial run to get the base score, it's time to try to improve the score a bit. Here are some of the actions I performed:

  • Enable dependabot. This involves adding dependabot.yml (for example) to your project to automatically create PRs for updated dependencies. As in the example, it should cover both the package ecosystem of the project (e.g. Maven) as well as GitHub Actions, to keep any GitHub actions up to date as well.
  • Automated builds. Any pull request should have the full suite of project tests run on it before being committed. I made sure that all of the projects had Jenkins projects set up to build both maintained branches whenever new commits were made, as well as dedicated jobs to run on PRs. Note that at the ASF, the dependabot user needs to be explicitly allow-listed in a .asf.yaml file to automatically run Jenkins jobs on submitted PRs. The combination of dependabot and automated builds makes it easy to have confidence in automatically updating your project dependencies, assuming a good test-suite.
  • Adding CodeQL (and fixing the findings). CodeQL is a SAST tool that can be run on your project via a GitHub action by searching for "CodeQL". It should be run on the maintained branches of the project, as well as on any pull requests for the maintained branches.
  • Adding SECURITY.md. A SECURITY.md (for example) should be added to source control to describe the supported versions of the project, and how to submit security issues.
  • Pin GitHub action commits. It's best practice to pin GitHub action commits so that new updates don't break your project or even introduce a security regression. https://app.stepsecurity.io/securerepo can be used as a tool to analyse the GitHub actions of your project and to create pull requests with the correct versions pinned. Dependabot is then clever enough to be able to update your GitHub actions based on the pinned commit.
  • Adding OpenSSF Best Practices Badge. https://bestpractices.coreinfrastructure.org/en allows you to obtain a best practices badge for your project and to embed it in the README.

ASF Projects

Here are some of the ASF projects I applied the above to, and their current OpenSSF Scorecard result at the time of writing:

Future improvements that would improve the score are as follows:

  • No fuzzing. https://google.github.io/oss-fuzz/ could be used to fuzz the projects.
  • No branch protection. Branch protection is not enabled on these projects as traditionally we have followed a CTR approach to development. OpenSSF Scorecard also penalises committing directly to the main branch without a approved PR, so adding branch protection would greatly improve the score of all projects above.
  • No packaging. OpenSSF Scorecard's packaging check doesn't support Maven Central, which is where the releases of all the above projects go.
  • No signed releases. Again OpenSSF Scorecard doesn't check Maven Central for signed releases.


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