GitHub’s site is a huge target for hackers. Its CEO thinks ditching passwords will improve security.

Thomas Dohmke sat down with Protocol to talk about what the open-source code hosting site is doing to address security vulnerabilities, including an aim to go passwordless by 2025.

Toronto , Canada - 22 June 2022; AI is my Copilot - Thomas Dohmke, GitHub on Centre Stage during day two of Collision 2022 at Enercare Centre in Toronto, Canada. (Photo By Vaughn Ridley/Sportsfile for Collision via Getty Images)

GitHub CEO Thomas Dohmke spoke to Protocol about its plan to go passwordless.

Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Sportsfile for Collision via Getty Images

GitHub CEO Thomas Dohmke wants to get rid of passwords.

Open-source software has been plagued with cybersecurity issues for years, and GitHub and other companies in the space have been taking steps to bolster security. Dohmke knows, however, that to get to the root of the industrywide problem will take more than just corporate action: It will ultimately require a sea change and cultural shift in how developers work.

Appointed CEO in November 2021, replacing Nat Friedman, Dohmke was previously the company’s chief product officer. In a June interview with Protocol at Toronto’s Collision tech conference, he talked about what GitHub is doing to crack down on software vulnerabilities and improve security at one of the most widely used sites in software development.

The open-source community has witnessed rising attacks against software supply chains, which are often enabled by compromised passwords. GitHub also hosts code written by millions of individual and corporate developers, playing a very key role in how software gets made while being a high-value target for hackers.

Part of the solution, according to Dohmke, is getting rid of passwords entirely. He told Protocol that he wants GitHub to go completely passwordless by 2025.

The first step of password security, he said, is moving to a password manager like 1Password. “The next step is that you never actually manage the password,” he said.

Some options for how this would work include magic links (a link sent to a trusted email account that users would click to log in) as well as face or touch ID, according to Dohmke. “It’s obviously a hard step to get there,” he acknowledged. The technology already exists, but getting it embedded in systems and processes is the challenge.

In the interim, the open-source platform has already taken steps to respond to recent cyberattacks. It announced in May that it will be requiring developers who contribute code to the repository to use two-factor authentication across its repositories by 2023. Currently, only 16.5% of GitHub users have two-factor authentication set up.

Dohmke thinks the resistance to two-factor is in part a cultural issue.

“We have been asking ourselves” why such a low segment of GitHub users have taken advantage of the extra security feature, he said. Part of it is the inconvenience factor. “Many people are lazy,” he said. The other part is the fear of losing that second factor when transitioning from one phone to another. He compared it to the stress people feel about getting locked out of a bank account.

He also thinks it has to do with, in part, a “lack of awareness” around cybersecurity and how important it is to have these systems set up to prevent attacks. Some developers in certain parts of the world also might not have access to two-factor tools, particularly if they don’t have access to a smartphone.

Another investment GitHub is making to bolster security is helping developers secure their code against vulnerabilities. This piece of the puzzle involves overcoming other cultural challenges within the developer community, according to Dohmke, which include getting developers to stop putting secrets and passwords in their code, “a bad practice” that can lead to hacks.

A big part of GitHub and parent company Microsoft’s job now, in his view, is educating developers on best practices and security topics. Developers that aren’t educated on these topics, according to Dohmke, are five times more likely to make a mistake. “These practices are important for any modern company,” he said.

During our interview, the CEO also addressed the looming recession and its potential impact on hiring and operations at GitHub, and shared his thoughts on hybrid work and the war for talent. Parent company Microsoft has slowed hiring in certain divisions, but GitHub has not slowed down its own hiring, other than seasonal slowdowns.

“Nothing to announce on layoffs or anything like that, and it’s not on my mind, but, you know, never say never. A recession is looming,” he said.


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep ReadingShow less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories