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CircleCI Security Incident

· 5 min read
The conda-forge core team

In early January 2023, CircleCI informed us that they had a large security breach where a third party had gained access to all the environment secrets stored in the service. For conda-forge, these secrets are the API token used to upload built packages to our staging area on and the unique token we generate for each feedstock. The feedstock tokens are used as part of our artifact staging process to ensure that only the maintainers of a given feedstock can upload packages built by that feedstock. Later in January, we were informed by CircleCI that their security breach started on December 19, 2022, with the bulk of the secrets being exfiltrated in plain text from their servers a few days later. A malicious third-party with access to these secrets could potentially upload compromised versions of any package on conda-forge in a so-called "supply chain" attack.

We have produced a list of all possibly compromised artifacts.

If you use conda-forge in very sensitive environments (which we do not recommend!), please remove these artifacts from your system.

To date, we know of no compromised artifacts in conda-forge.

API tokens for the main conda-forge channel were never exposed and remain secure to our knowledge.

Our Response

We took the following steps to respond to this incident.

  • We immediately started a token rotation of all of our feedstock tokens and our staging area upload tokens as precautionary measures. This token rotation hit a few bugs, but was completed as of January 13, 2023.
  • We produced a census of all packages uploaded between December 19, 2022 and January 13, 2023. This data is available for download as a JSON file.
  • We examined all the artifacts built during this time period for the malicious files listed by CicleCI. We did not find any of those files in our artifacts.
  • As detailed below, we have begun retooling our system for feedstock tokens to be more robust and enable greater flexibility in our response to incidents like this.
  • We have begun systematically invalidating old tokens, decommissioning old bots, and minimizing permissions of our current tokens in order to further enhance conda-forge's security.

Rotating all of our tokens was taken as a precautionary measure. Unfortunately, during this token rotation, one of our bots encountered a bug which resulted in us losing the tokens for a very large fraction of feedstocks. This situation resulted in an extended outage that lasted about five days and was resolved on January 13, 2023, when the full token rotation was completed.

What did we learn?

We learned a few things about our system for feedstock tokens and general maintenance of our CI service integrations. We probably should have known them already, but here we are.

  • We used the same feedstock token across multiple CI services. This limited our ability to immediately invalidate tokens associated with a single CI service and exposed all services if any single service had an incident.
  • Our token system only allowed one valid token per feedstock. This limitation means that we cannot recover from partially failed token resets/rotations and are subject to race conditions during the reset/rotation process that can cause failed package uploads.
  • We need to be more proactive about cleaning up deprecated/removed CI services. The use of CircleCI in conda-forge has been deprecated for quite a while. Had we taken the time, and had the foresight, to remove all of our secrets from CircleCI when it was deprecated, we could have avoided the security incident all together.

We have begun retooling our system for feedstock tokens in order to fix the issues identified above and allow us to have more flexibility in responding to security incidents. We have also started the process of decommissioning several of our old CI services. These changes will take time to implement. You can follow the progress on our various public issue trackers.

Closing Thoughts & What can you do?

We, the conda-forge core dev team, want to thank everyone for their patience and support as we have responded to the various security incidents and bugs detailed above. It goes without saying that the public nature of conda-forge's infrastructure carries risks. On the other hand, by being public, anyone can look and verify our artifact builds. Security for conda-forge is about reducing risk, and we will continue to do our best.

As a reminder, we do not recommend that you use conda-forge in environments with sensitive information. conda-forge's software is built by our users and the core dev team cannot verify or guarantee that this software is not malicious or has not been tampered with.

Our best defense against security incidents in conda-forge is you! Our feedstock maintainers are in the best position to notice incidents and issues. Please responsibly report anything you find to us at [email protected].