Hugging Face Spaces Platform Faces Unauthorized Access

Hugging Face Spaces Platform Faces Unauthorized Access

June 4, 2024 – In a significant cybersecurity incident, AI startup Hugging Face has disclosed that its Spaces platform experienced unauthorized access, potentially compromising sensitive authentication secrets. The breach, detected earlier last week, has raised concerns about the security of AI model hosting platforms and the broader implications for the AI community.

Hugging Face, a prominent platform for creating, sharing, and hosting AI models, announced the breach late Friday afternoon, a time often reserved for disclosing unfavorable news. The company revealed that the intrusion specifically targeted “Spaces secrets,” which are private pieces of information used to unlock protected resources such as accounts, tools, and development environments.

The company has taken immediate steps to mitigate the impact of the breach. As a precaution, Hugging Face has revoked a number of tokens associated with the compromised secrets. These tokens are used to verify identities and access various services on the platform. Users whose tokens have been revoked have already received email notifications, and the company has recommended that all users refresh their keys or tokens and consider switching to fine-grained access tokens, which offer more secure and granular control over permissions.

Hugging Face is collaborating with external cybersecurity forensic specialists to investigate the breach and review its security policies and procedures. The company has also reported the incident to law enforcement agencies and data protection authorities. In a blog post, Hugging Face expressed regret for the disruption caused by the incident and pledged to use this opportunity to strengthen the security of its entire infrastructure.

We deeply regret the disruption this incident may have caused and understand the inconvenience it may have posed to you. We pledge to use this as an opportunity to strengthen the security of our entire infrastructure.

– Hugging Face

Hugging Face Security Enhancements

In response to the breach, Hugging Face has implemented several significant security improvements over the past few days. These measures include:

  • Removal of Org Tokens: The company has completely removed organization tokens, resulting in increased traceability and audit capabilities.
  • Key Management Service (KMS): Hugging Face has implemented a key management service for Spaces secrets to enhance security.
  • Improved Detection and Invalidation: The system's ability to identify leaked tokens and proactively invalidate them has been robustified and expanded.
  • Deprecation of Classic Tokens: The company plans to deprecate classic read and write tokens in favor of fine-grained access tokens once they reach feature parity.
Hugging Face security improvements

This incident is not the first time Hugging Face has faced security challenges. In April, researchers at cloud security firm Wiz discovered a vulnerability that allowed attackers to execute arbitrary code during a Hugging Face-hosted app’s build time, potentially enabling them to examine network connections from their machines. Earlier in the year, security firm JFrog uncovered evidence that code uploaded to Hugging Face covertly installed backdoors and other types of malware on end-user machines. Additionally, security startup HiddenLayer identified ways Hugging Face’s ostensibly safer serialization format, Safetensors, could be abused to create sabotaged AI models.

The breach at Hugging Face comes amid increasing scrutiny over the security practices of AI model hosting platforms. As AI becomes more mainstream and usage grows significantly, these platforms have become attractive targets for cybercriminals. The potential compromise of private AI models, datasets, and critical applications poses a significant risk to the AI community and the broader tech industry.

Recommendations for Users

Hugging Face has advised its community members to take several precautionary measures to protect their accounts and data:

  • Refresh Access Tokens: Users are recommended to refresh any key or token they use on the platform.
  • Switch to Fine-Grained Access Tokens: Hugging Face suggests switching to fine-grained access tokens, which provide more granular control over permissions and repository access.
  • Monitor for Unusual Activity: Users should remain vigilant and monitor their accounts for any unusual or unauthorized activity.

The breach at Hugging Face highlights the growing cybersecurity challenges faced by AI and machine learning platforms. As these technologies become more integrated into various industries, ensuring their security becomes paramount. The incident underscores the need for robust security measures and continuous monitoring to protect sensitive data and maintain trust in AI systems.

The unauthorized access to Hugging Face's Spaces platform serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities that exist in the rapidly evolving field of AI and machine learning. As the company works to address the breach and enhance its security infrastructure, the incident will likely prompt other AI platforms to re-evaluate their security practices and take proactive measures to safeguard their users' data.

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