Following a public debate, GitHub changed its policies regarding exploits, malware and vulnerability research so that the company’s position is much clearer when it comes to action and its responsibilities.
There’s no denying that GitHub’s usefulness far outweighs that of the potential harm that it can generate. The platform’s often been used in various malware campaigns, but GitHub is trying to change some policies to allow users, researchers and the platform itself to manage the content better.
After the community weighed in on GitHub’s proposal, new policies have come into effect, one of which stands out:
“We explicitly permit dual-use security technologies and content related to research into vulnerabilities, malware, and exploits,” state the new policies. “We understand that many security research projects on GitHub are dual-use and broadly beneficial to the security community. We assume positive intention and use of these projects to promote and drive improvements across the ecosystem. This change modifies previously broad language that could be misinterpreted as hostile toward projects with dual-use, clarifying that such projects are welcome.”
The second point is almost as crucial, as GitHub states it will not allow its platform to be used in “unlawful attacks that cause technical harm, which we’ve further defined as overconsumption of resources, physical damage, downtime, denial of service, or data loss.” The precise definition of what constitutes an attack no longer leaves room for interpretation.
GitHub also made it a lot clearer that an appeals and reinstatement process is available for users who have had their projects suspended. The company also has a system in place to let parties resolve disputes before the incident is elevated to be arbitrated by GitHub.
These policies should make it easier to distinguish real security projects from malicious ones, making it more difficult for threat actors to hide behind a veil of research.