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December 16, 2020

GHSL-2020-318: Unauthorized repository modification or secrets exfiltration in the GitHub workflow of popsim-consortium/stdpopsim

Jaroslav Lobačevski


The docs.yml GitHub workflow is vulnerable to unauthorized modification of the base repository or secrets exfiltration from a Pull Request.


popsim-consortium/stdpopsim GitHub repository

Tested Version

The latest changeset f01f1ba to the date.


Issue: Untrusted code is explicitly checked out and run on a Pull Request from a fork

pull_request_target was introduced to allow triggered workflows to comment on PRs, label them, assign people, etc.. In order to make it possible the triggered action runner has read/write token for the base repository and the access to secrets. In order to prevent untrusted code from execution it runs in a context of the base repository.

By explicitly checking out and running build script from a fork the untrusted code is running in an environment that is able to push to the base repository and to access secrets.

      - uses: actions/checkout@v2
        # As we are using pull-request-target which uses the workflow from the base
        # of the PR, we need to be specific
            ref: ${{github.event.pull_request.head.ref}}
            repository: ${{github.event.pull_request.head.repo.full_name}}
      - name: Build Docs
        run: make -C docs


The vulnerability allows for unauthorized modification of the base repository and secrets exfiltration.

Coordinated Disclosure Timeline


This issue was discovered and reported by GHSL team member @JarLob (Jaroslav Lobačevski).


You can contact the GHSL team at, please include a reference to GHSL-2020-318 in any communication regarding this issue.