The open source community was shocked to learn Tuesday that millions of lines of source code had gone missing from Github.com, a popular online version control website.
Github stores source code in "reposotories", which are big chunks of code that can be edited by Github members. Most version control websites will keep a small portion of the source code online (collectively known as the "hot repos") and store the rest of the repos offline, to prevent a mass download of all of the source code. Instead of using hot repos and cold repos, Github stored all of the source code online, which allowed the attackers to download all of it.
It's unclear how long the source code has been missing. Slides from a leaked Keynote deck indicated that Github's main strategy was to "just kinda ask people to push their code back up to the site without noticing anything". On Twitter, some people attributed the theft to an honest mistake (Github left the popular port 22 open for the attackers), while others speculated that the founders absconded with the code after building up trust in Github.
Github is based on a "distributed version control" system, designed so that many different copies of the source code can live on different computers. But because everyone stores their source code in Github, it became very easy for the attackers to download all of the source code from one place.
"My code could be running on anyone's computer right now, anywhere in the world," said open source developer Andrew Benton. "Frankly, that is terrifying." Other members of the community laughed at anyone who thought their source code was secure when hosted with a version control system that runs in the cloud.
Github could not be reached for comment, but they did release a special "Hackedocat" to commemorate the occasion.
At press time, the top comments on Hacker News were from a person complaining about how dumb Github is for losing the code, another person explaining to everyone that this article is satire, and a third person explaining that while he understands this is satire, the article is "dumb" and "not that funny", and seven non-sequiturs about the wisdom of free markets.
with thanks to Kyle Conroy, Andrew Benton, and Gabriel Gironda for reading drafts, and to Kyle for the Hackedocat
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