This guide describes the highest impact changes you can make to increase account security. Each section outlines a change you can make to your processes to improve the security. The highest impact changes are listed first.
Account security is fundamental to the security of your supply chain. If an attacker can take over your account on GitHub, they can then make malicious changes to your code or build process. So your first goal should be to make it difficult for someone to take over your account and the accounts of other members of your organization.
Note: Starting in March 2023 and through the end of 2023, GitHub will gradually begin to require all users who contribute code on GitHub.com to enable one or more forms of two-factor authentication (2FA). If you are in an eligible group, you will receive a notification email when that group is selected for enrollment, marking the beginning of a 45-day 2FA enrollment period, and you will see banners asking you to enroll in 2FA on GitHub.com. If you don't receive a notification, then you are not part of a group required to enable 2FA, though we strongly recommend it.
For more information about the 2FA enrollment rollout, see this blog post.
The best way to improve the security of your personal account is to configure two-factor authentication (2FA). Passwords by themselves can be compromised by being guessable, by being reused on another site that's been compromised, or by social engineering, like phishing. 2FA makes it much more difficult for your accounts to be compromised, even if an attacker has your password.
As a best practice, to ensure both security and reliable access to your account, you should always have at least two second-factor credentials registered on your account. Extra credentials ensures that even if you lose access to one credential, you won't be locked out of your account.
Additionally, you should prefer passkeys and security keys over authenticator apps (called TOTP apps) and avoid use of SMS whenever possible. Both SMS-based 2FA and TOTP apps are vulnerable to phishing, and do not provide the same level of protection as passkeys and security keys. SMS is no longer recommended under the NIST 800-63B digital identity guidelines.
If you're an organization owner, then you can require that all members of the organization enable 2FA.
To learn more about enabling 2FA on your own account, see "Configuring two-factor authentication." To learn more about requiring 2FA in your organization, see "Requiring two-factor authentication in your organization."
GitHub supports several options for 2FA, and while any of them is better than nothing, the most secure option is a WebAuthn credential. WebAuthn requires an authenticator such as a FIDO2 hardware security key, a platform authenticator like Windows Hello, an Apple or Google phone, or a password manager. It's possible, although difficult, to phish other forms of 2FA (for example, someone asking you to read them your 6 digit one-time password). However WebAuthn is much more resistant to phishing, because domain scoping is built into the protocol, which prevents credentials from a website impersonating the login page from being used on GitHub.
When you set up 2FA, you should always download the recovery codes and set up more than one 2FA credential. This ensures that access to your account doesn't depend on a single device. For more information, see "Configuring two-factor authentication" and "Configuring two-factor authentication recovery methods."
If you're an organization owner, you can see which users don't have 2FA enabled, help them get set up, and then require 2FA for your organization. To guide you through that process, see:
- "Viewing whether users in your organization have 2FA enabled"
- "Preparing to require two-factor authentication in your organization"
- "Requiring two-factor authentication in your organization"
There are other ways to interact with GitHub beyond signing into the website. Many people authorize the code they push to GitHub with an SSH private key. For more information, see "About SSH."
Just like your account password, if an attacker were able to get your SSH private key, they could impersonate you and push malicious code to any repository you have write access for. If you store your SSH private key on a disk drive, it's a good idea to protect it with a passphrase. For more information, see "Working with SSH key passphrases."
Another option is to generate SSH keys on a hardware security key. You could use the same key you're using for 2FA. Hardware security keys are very difficult to compromise remotely, because the private SSH key remains on the hardware, and is not directly accessible from software. For more information, see "Generating a new SSH key and adding it to the ssh-agent."