Late last week, GitHub tweeted that it had replaced its RSA SSH “out of an abundance of caution,” after accidentally exposing the key on a publicly accessible repository.
How the accidental exposure managed to happen is unknown, but it means that anyone that happened to notice it and was able to copy the key could impersonate GitHub or eavesdrop on Git operations over SSH.
SSH (Secure Shell) keys are access credentials that are used in the SSH protocol and they are instrumental for the safe use of platforms such as GitHub, which is used for storing, tracking, and collaborating on software projects. The SSH protocol is widely used to login remotely from one system into another, and its strong encryption makes it ideal to carry out tasks such as issuing remote commands and remotely managing network infrastructure and other vital system components.
An RSA key pair includes a private and a public key. The RSA private key is used to generate digital signatures, and the RSA public key is used to verify digital signatures. GitHub.com’s RSA SSH private key was the one that was, briefly, exposed in a public GitHub repository.
What do GitHub users need to do?
If you are using GitHub’s ECDSA or Ed25519 keys, you won’t notice any change and no action is required. If you receive a warning that starts by saying that the remote host identification has changed, you’ll need to remove the old key by running this command:
$ ssh-keygen -R github.com
Then, you can manually add the following line to add the new RSA SSH public key entry to your
github.com ssh-rsa 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
Alternatively you can automatically update GitHub.com’s RSA SSH key in your
~/.ssh/known_hosts, by running the following in your terminal:
$ ssh-keygen -R github.com
$ curl -L https://api.github.com/meta | jq -r '.ssh_keys | .' | sed -e 's/^/github.com /' >> ~/.ssh/known_hosts
You can verify that your hosts are connecting via our new RSA SSH key by confirming that you see the following fingerprint:
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