Secret leaks often occur when a sensitive piece of authentication data is stored with the source code of an application. Considering the source
code is intended to be deployed across multiple assets, including source code repositories or application hosting servers, the secrets might get
exposed to an unintended audience.
Why is this an issue?
In most cases, trust boundaries are violated when a secret is exposed in a source code repository or an uncontrolled deployment environment.
Unintended people who don’t need to know the secret might get access to it. They might then be able to use it to gain unwanted access to associated
services or resources.
The trust issue can be more or less severe depending on the people’s role and entitlement.
What is the potential impact?
PlanetScale Database passwords are used to authenticate users against the database engine. They are associated with user accounts that are granted
specific permissions over the database and its hosted data.
Below are some real-world scenarios that illustrate some impacts of an attacker exploiting the secret.
Compromise of sensitive data
If the affected service is used to store or process personally identifiable information or other sensitive data, attackers knowing an
authentication secret could be able to access it. Depending on the type of data that is compromised, it could lead to privacy violations, identity
theft, financial loss, or other negative outcomes.
In most cases, a company suffering a sensitive data compromise will face a reputational loss when the security issue is publicly disclosed.
Application’s security downgrade
A downgrade can happen when the disclosed secret is used to protect security-sensitive assets or features of the application. Depending on the
affected asset or feature, the practical impact can range from a sensitive information leak to a complete takeover of the application, its hosting
server or another linked component.
For example, an application that would disclose a secret used to sign user authentication tokens would be at risk of user identity impersonation.
An attacker accessing the leaked secret could sign session tokens for arbitrary users and take over their privileges and entitlements.
How to fix it
Revoke the secret
Revoke any leaked secrets and remove them from the application source code.
Before revoking the secret, ensure that no other applications or processes are using it. Other usages of the secret will also be impacted when the
secret is revoked.
Analyze recent secret use
When available, analyze authentication logs to identify any unintended or malicious use of the secret since its disclosure date. Doing this will
allow determining if an attacker took advantage of the leaked secret and to what extent.
This operation should be part of a global incident response process.
Use a secret vault
A secret vault should be used to generate and store the new secret. This will ensure the secret’s security and prevent any further unexpected
Depending on the development platform and the leaked secret type, multiple solutions are currently available.
Noncompliant code example