Breach, Data Security

Report: Scotiabank exposed source code and credentials on GitHub repositories

For months in some instances, Canadian banking giant Scotiabank reportedly stored highly sensitive digital property on a series of publicly open and accessible GitHub repositories, potentially exposing its internal source code, login credentials and access keys.

The financial institution had the repositories "torn down" earlier this week after being alerted to the error, according to The Register, which was first to report on the situation. The repositories contained hundreds of files, some of which contained code that appears to be intended for mobile apps for Central and South American users.

Some of the code was reportedly for integrating the bank systems with payment services offered by Samsung, Google Pay, Visa, Mastercard and more. Additional code shown in a screenshot provided by The Register's showed programming for a digital payments dashboard system.

In addition to the code, the exposed digital assets included access keys for a SQL Server database of foreign exchange rates, and login credentials for services and database instances.

The Register learned of the misconfigurations through Toronto-based tech and security expert Jason Coulls, founder of Coulls Informatics Corp. "Knowing that there is a known potential for someone to tweak FX rate data, the integrity of the bank is diminished accordingly," Coulls told The Register in an interview.

"The information we identified that was posted on an online data repository does not contain information that would put our customers, employees and partners at risk," said a Scotiabank spokesperson, in response to an SC Media inquiry. "Our technical teams are working to remove the information."

Coulls called the data leak "muppet-grade security" on the part of Scotiabank, which serves more than 25 million customers and employs over 97,000 individuals. "I feel like I've educated a whole new population in the ways the British use the word 'muppet,'" Coulls, who is originally from the U.K., later said in a tweet.

Also on Twitter, Coulls said that he let The Register inform Scotiabank of the problem instead of handling it himself to ensure that the public and the bank's partners became aware of the error. He also admitted to having an unspecified "history" with the bank as a customer.

Coulls also claimed to hear from additional financial institutions after the story posted. "Of the big 6 banks in Canada, I’ve now heard from half," Coulls tweeted. "All were shaking heads. One (unnamed) was panicked and performed a emergency cleanup of all one (1!) found repository."

"Public code repositories, various code and data sharing projects can greatly facilitate DevSecOps and accelerate agile software development. However, they likewise bring a wide spectrum of critical business risks of inadvertent or careless data leaks exacerbated by third-party developers with insufficient security training," said Ilia Kolochenko, founder and CEO of ImmuniWeb, in emailed comments. "Cybercriminals are well aware of the situation and are continuously crawling publicly accessible data sources to get sensitive source code, hard-coded credentials and API keys... Large companies need to thoughtfully design a secure software development policy, and properly enforce and monitor it. Regular security training for developers should be an essential part of the policy."

Bradley Barth

As director of community content at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for SC Media online conferences and events, as well as video/multimedia projects. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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