Defining custom patterns for secret scanning

You can define custom patterns for secret scanning in organizations and private repositories.

Secret scanning is available for all public repositories, and for private repositories owned by organizations where GitHub Advanced Security is enabled. For more information, see "About GitHub Advanced Security."

In this article

Note: Custom patterns for secret scanning is currently in beta and is subject to change.

About custom patterns for secret scanning

GitHub performs secret scanning on public and private repositories for secret patterns provided by GitHub and GitHub partners. For more information on the secret scanning partner program, see "Secret scanning partner program."

However, there can be situations where you want to scan for other secret patterns in your private repositories. For example, you might have a secret pattern that is internal to your organization. For these situations, you can define custom secret scanning patterns in organizations and private repositories on GitHub. You can define up to 20 custom patterns for each private repository or organization.

Note: During the beta, there are some limitations when using custom patterns for secret scanning:

  • There is no dry-run functionality.
  • You cannot edit custom patterns after they're created. To change a pattern, you must delete it and recreate it.
  • There is no API for creating, editing, or deleting custom patterns. However, results for custom patterns are returned in the secret scanning alerts API.

Regular expression syntax for custom patterns

Custom patterns for secret scanning are specified as regular expressions. Secret scanning uses the Hyperscan library and only supports Hyperscan regex constructs, which are a subset of PCRE syntax. Hyperscan option modifiers are not supported. For more information on Hyperscan pattern constructs, see "Pattern support" in the Hyperscan documentation.

Defining a custom pattern for a repository

Before defining a custom pattern, you must ensure that secret scanning is enabled on your repository. For more information, see "Configuring secret scanning for your repositories."

  1. On GitHub, navigate to the main page of the repository.

  2. Under your repository name, click Settings. Repository settings button

  3. In the left sidebar, click Security & analysis. "Security & analysis" tab in repository settings

  4. Under "Configure security and analysis features", find "GitHub Advanced Security."

  5. Under "Secret scanning", click Add a secret scanning custom pattern.

    Add a secret scanning custom pattern

  6. Enter the details for your new custom pattern:

    1. You must at least provide the name for your pattern, and a regular expression for the format of your secret pattern.
    2. You can click More options to provide other surrounding content or additional match requirements for the secret format.
    3. You can provide a sample test string and click the Test button to make sure your configuration is matching the patterns you expect.

    Create a custom secret scanning pattern form

  7. When you are satisfied with your new custom pattern, click Create custom pattern.

After your pattern is created, secret scanning scans for any secrets in your entire Git history on all branches present in your GitHub repository. For more information on viewing secret scanning alerts, see "Managing alerts from secret scanning."

Defining a custom pattern for an organization

Before defining a custom pattern, you must ensure that you enable secret scanning for the private repositories that you want to scan in your organization. To enable secret scanning on all private repositories in your organization, see "Managing security and analysis settings for your organization."

Note: There is no dry-run functionality during the custom patterns beta. To avoid excess false-positive secret scanning alerts, we recommend that you test your custom patterns in a repository before defining them for your entire organization.

  1. In the top right corner of GitHub, click your profile photo, then click Your organizations. Your organizations in the profile menu

  2. Next to the organization, click Settings. The settings button

  3. In the left sidebar, click Security & analysis. "Security & analysis" tab in organization settings

  4. Under "Configure security and analysis features", find "GitHub Advanced Security."

  5. Under "Secret scanning", click Add a secret scanning custom pattern.

    Add a secret scanning custom pattern

  6. Enter the details for your new custom pattern:

    1. You must at least provide the name for your pattern, and a regular expression for the format of your secret pattern.
    2. You can click More options to provide other surrounding content or additional match requirements for the secret format.
    3. You can provide a sample test string and click the Test button to make sure your configuration is matching the patterns you expect.

    Create a custom secret scanning pattern form

  7. When you are satisfied with your new custom pattern, click Create custom pattern.

After your pattern is created, secret scanning scans for any secrets in private repositories in your organization, including their entire Git history on all branches. Organization owners and repository administrators will be alerted to any secrets found, and can review the alert in the repository where the secret is found. For more information on viewing secret scanning alerts, see "Managing alerts from secret scanning."

Removing a custom pattern

Removing a custom pattern also closes all the secret scanning alerts that the pattern created.

  1. Navigate to the Security & analysis settings for the repository or organization where the custom pattern was created. For more information, see "Defining a custom pattern for a repository" or "Defining a custom pattern for an organization" above.

  2. Under "Configure security and analysis features", find "GitHub Advanced Security."

  3. Under "Secret scanning", find the custom pattern you want to remove and click Remove.

    Remove a custom secret scanning  pattern

  4. Review the confirmation and click Remove custom pattern.

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