GitLab Secure (ULTIMATE)

GitLab can check your application for security vulnerabilities that may lead to unauthorized access, data leaks, denial of services, and more. GitLab reports vulnerabilities in the merge request so you can fix them before merging. The Security Dashboard provides a high-level view of vulnerabilities detected in your projects, pipeline, and groups. The Threat Monitoring page provides runtime security metrics for application environments. With the information provided, you can immediately begin risk analysis and remediation.

For an overview of application security with GitLab, see Security Deep Dive.

Quick start

Get started quickly with Dependency Scanning, License Scanning, Static Application Security Testing (SAST), and Secret Detection by adding the following to your .gitlab-ci.yml:

  - template: Dependency-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml
  - template: License-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml
  - template: SAST.gitlab-ci.yml
  - template: Secret-Detection.gitlab-ci.yml

To add Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) scanning, add the following to your .gitlab-ci.yml and replace with a staging server's web address:

  - template: DAST.gitlab-ci.yml


To ensure the DAST scanner runs after deploying the application to the staging server, review the DAST full documentation.

To add Container Scanning, follow the steps listed in the Container Scanning documentation.

To further configure any of the other scanners, refer to each scanner's documentation.

Override the default registry base address

By default, GitLab security scanners use as the base address for Docker images. You can override this globally by setting the variable SECURE_ANALYZERS_PREFIX to another location. Note that this affects all scanners at once.

Security scanning tools

GitLab uses the following tools to scan and report known vulnerabilities found in your project.

Secure scanning tool Description
Container Scanning (ULTIMATE) Scan Docker containers for known vulnerabilities.
Dependency List (ULTIMATE) View your project's dependencies and their known vulnerabilities.
Dependency Scanning (ULTIMATE) Analyze your dependencies for known vulnerabilities.
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) (ULTIMATE) Analyze running web applications for known vulnerabilities.
Secret Detection (ULTIMATE) Analyze Git history for leaked secrets.
Security Dashboard (ULTIMATE) View vulnerabilities in all your projects and groups.
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) (ULTIMATE) Analyze source code for known vulnerabilities.

Security Scanning with Auto DevOps

When Auto DevOps is enabled, all GitLab Security scanning tools will be configured using default settings.

While you cannot directly customize Auto DevOps, you can include the Auto DevOps template in your project's .gitlab-ci.yml file.

Maintenance and update of the vulnerabilities database

The scanning tools and vulnerabilities database are updated regularly.

Secure scanning tool Vulnerabilities database updates
Container Scanning Uses clair. The latest clair-db version is used for each job by running the latest Docker image tag. The clair-db database is updated daily according to the author.
Dependency Scanning Relies on bundler-audit (for Ruby gems), retire.js (for NPM packages), and gemnasium (GitLab's own tool for all libraries). Both bundler-audit and retire.js fetch their vulnerabilities data from GitHub repositories, so vulnerabilities added to ruby-advisory-db and retire.js are immediately available. The tools themselves are updated once per month if there's a new version. The Gemnasium DB is updated at least once a week. See our current measurement of time from CVE being issued to our product being updated.
Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) The scanning engine is updated on a periodic basis. See the version of the underlying tool zaproxy. The scanning rules are downloaded at scan runtime.
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) Relies exclusively on the tools GitLab wraps. The underlying analyzers are updated at least once per month if a relevant update is available. The vulnerabilities database is updated by the upstream tools.

Currently, you do not have to update GitLab to benefit from the latest vulnerabilities definitions. The security tools are released as Docker images. The vendored job definitions that enable them use major release tags according to Semantic Versioning. Each new release of the tools overrides these tags. The Docker images are updated to match the previous GitLab releases, so users automatically get the latest versions of the scanning tools without having to do anything. There are some known issues with this approach, however, and there is a plan to resolve them.

Interacting with the vulnerabilities

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 10.8.

Each security vulnerability in the merge request report or the Security Dashboard is actionable. Click an entry to view detailed information with several options:

  • Dismiss vulnerability: Dismissing a vulnerability styles it in strikethrough.
  • Create issue: Create a new issue with the title and description pre-populated with information from the vulnerability report. By default, such issues are confidential.
  • Solution: For some vulnerabilities, a solution is provided for how to fix the vulnerability.

Interacting with security reports

View details of a DAST vulnerability

Vulnerabilities detected by DAST occur in the live web application. Rectification of these types of vulnerabilities requires specific information. DAST provides the information required to investigate and rectify the underlying cause.

To view details of DAST vulnerabilities:

  1. To see all vulnerabilities detected:

    • In a project, go to the project's {shield} Security & Compliance page.
    • Only in a merge request, go the merge request's Security tab.
  2. Click on the vulnerability's description. The following details are provided:

    | Field | Description | |:-----------------|:------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| | Description | Description of the vulnerability. | | Project | Namespace and project in which the vulnerability was detected. | | Method | HTTP method used to detect the vulnerability. | | URL | URL at which the vulnerability was detected. | | Request Headers | Headers of the request. | | Response Status | Response status received from the application. | | Response Headers | Headers of the response received from the application. | | Evidence | Evidence of the data found that verified the vulnerability. Often a snippet of the request or response, this can be used to help verify that the finding is a vulnerability. | | Identifiers | Identifiers of the vulnerability. | | Severity | Severity of the vulnerability. | | Scanner Type | Type of vulnerability report. | | Links | Links to further details of the detected vulnerability. | | Solution | Details of a recommended solution to the vulnerability (optional). |

Hide sensitive information in headers

HTTP request and response headers may contain sensitive information, including cookies and authorization credentials. By default, content of specific headers are masked in DAST vulnerability reports. You can specify the list of all headers to be masked. For details, see Hide sensitive information.

Dismissing a vulnerability

To dismiss a vulnerability, you must set its status to Dismissed. Follow these steps to do so:

  1. Select the vulnerability in the Security Dashboard.
  2. Select Dismissed from the Status selector menu at the top-right.

You can undo this action by selecting a different status from the same menu.

Adding a dismissal reason

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 12.0.

When dismissing a vulnerability, it's often helpful to provide a reason for doing so. Upon setting a vulnerability's status to Dismissed, a text box appears for you to add a comment with your dismissal. Once added, you can edit or delete it. This allows you to add and update context for a vulnerability as you learn more over time.

Dismissed vulnerability comment

Dismissing multiple vulnerabilities

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 12.9.

You can dismiss multiple vulnerabilities at once, providing an optional reason. Selecting the checkboxes on the side of each vulnerability in the list will select that individual vulnerability. Alternatively, you can select all the vulnerabilities in the list by selecting the checkbox in the table header. Deselecting the checkbox in the header will deselect all the vulnerabilities in the list. Once you have selected some vulnerabilities, a menu appears at the top of the table that allows you to select a dismissal reason. Pressing the "Dismiss Selected" button will dismiss all the selected vulnerabilities at once, with the reason you chose.

Multiple vulnerability dismissal

Creating an issue for a vulnerability

You can create an issue for a vulnerability by selecting the Create issue button from within the vulnerability modal, or by using the action buttons to the right of a vulnerability row in the group security dashboard.

This creates a confidential issue in the project the vulnerability came from, and pre-populates it with some useful information taken from the vulnerability report. Once the issue is created, you are redirected to it so you can edit, assign, or comment on it.

Upon returning to the group security dashboard, the vulnerability now has an associated issue next to the name.

Linked issue in the group security dashboard

Solutions for vulnerabilities (auto-remediation)

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 11.7.

Some vulnerabilities can be fixed by applying the solution that GitLab automatically generates. The following scanners are supported:

Manually applying the suggested patch

Some vulnerabilities can be fixed by applying a patch that is automatically generated by GitLab. To apply the fix:

  1. Click the vulnerability.
  2. Download and review the patch file remediation.patch.
  3. Ensure your local project has the same commit checked out that was used to generate the patch.
  4. Run git apply remediation.patch.
  5. Verify and commit the changes to your branch.

Apply patch for dependency scanning

Creating a merge request from a vulnerability

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 11.9.

In certain cases, GitLab allows you to create a merge request that automatically remediates the vulnerability. Any vulnerability that has a solution can have a merge request created to automatically solve the issue.

If this action is available, the vulnerability modal contains a Create merge request button. Click this button to create a merge request to apply the solution onto the source branch.

Create merge request from vulnerability

Security approvals in merge requests

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 12.2.

Merge Request Approvals can be configured to require approval from a member of your security team when a merge request would introduce one of the following security issues:

  • A security vulnerability
  • A software license compliance violation

The security vulnerability threshold is defined as high, critical, or unknown severity. The Vulnerability-Check approver group must approve merge requests that contain vulnerabilities.

When GitLab can assess vulnerability severity, the rating can be one of the following:

  • unknown
  • low
  • medium
  • high
  • critical

The rating unknown indicates that the underlying scanner doesn't contain or provide a severity rating.

Enabling Security Approvals within a project

To enable Security Approvals, a project approval rule must be created with the case-sensitive name Vulnerability-Check. This approval group must be set with the number of approvals required greater than zero. You must have Maintainer or Owner permissions to manage approval rules.

  1. Navigate to your project's {settings} Settings > General and expand Merge request approvals.
  2. Click Add approval rule, or Edit.
    • Add or change the Rule name to Vulnerability-Check (case sensitive).

Vulnerability Check Approver Rule

Once this group is added to your project, the approval rule is enabled for all merge requests.

Any code changes cause the approvals required to reset.

An approval is required when a security report:

  • Contains a new vulnerability of high, critical, or unknown severity, regardless of dismissal.
  • Is not generated during pipeline execution.

An approval is optional when a security report:

  • Contains no new vulnerabilities.
  • Contains only new vulnerabilities of low or medium severity.

Enabling License Approvals within a project

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 12.3.

License-Check is an approval rule you can enable to allow an individual or group to approve a merge request that contains a denied license.

You can enable License-Check one of two ways:

  • Create a project approval rule with the case-sensitive name License-Check.
  • Create an approval group in the project policies section for License Compliance. You must set this approval group's number of approvals required to greater than zero. Once you enable this group in your project, the approval rule is enabled for all merge requests.

Any code changes cause the approvals required to reset.

An approval is required when a license report:

  • Contains a dependency that includes a software license that is denied.
  • Is not generated during pipeline execution.

An approval is optional when a license report:

  • Contains no software license violations.
  • Contains only new licenses that are allowed or unknown.

Working in an offline environment

It is possible to run most of the GitLab security scanners when not connected to the internet, in what is sometimes known as an offline, limited connectivity, Local Area Network (LAN), Intranet, or "air-gap" environment.

Read how to operate the Secure scanners in an offline environment.

Using private Maven repos

If you have a private Apache Maven repository that requires login credentials, you can use the MAVEN_CLI_OPTS environment variable to pass a username and password. You can set it under your project's settings so that your credentials aren't exposed in .gitlab-ci.yml.

If the username is myuser and the password is verysecret then you would set the following variable under your project's settings:

Type Key Value
Variable MAVEN_CLI_OPTS --settings mysettings.xml -Drepository.password=verysecret -Drepository.user=myuser
<!-- mysettings.xml -->

Outdated security reports

Introduced in GitLab 12.7.

When a security report generated for a merge request becomes outdated, the merge request shows a warning message in the security widget and prompts you to take an appropriate action.

This can happen in two scenarios:

  1. Your source branch is behind the target branch.
  2. The target branch security report is out of date.

Source branch is behind the target branch

This means the most recent common ancestor commit between the target branch and the source branch is not the most recent commit on the target branch. This is by far the most common situation.

In this case you must rebase or merge to incorporate the changes from the target branch.

Incorporate target branch changes

Target branch security report is out of date

This can happen for many reasons, including failed jobs or new advisories. When the merge request shows that a security report is out of date, you must run a new pipeline on the target branch. You can do it quickly by following the hyperlink given to run a new pipeline.

Run a new pipeline


Getting error message sast job: stage parameter should be [some stage name here]

When including a .gitlab-ci.yml template like SAST.gitlab-ci.yml, the following error may occur, depending on your GitLab CI/CD configuration:

Found errors in your .gitlab-ci.yml:

* sast job: stage parameter should be unit-tests

This error appears when the included job's stage (named test) isn't declared in .gitlab-ci.yml. To fix this issue, you can either:

  • Add a test stage in your .gitlab-ci.yml.

  • Change the default stage of the included security jobs. For example, with SpotBugs (SAST):

      template: SAST.gitlab-ci.yml
      stage: unit-tests

Learn more on overriding SAST jobs. All the security scanning tools define their stage, so this error can occur with all of them.

Getting error message sast job: config key may not be used with 'rules': only/except

When including a .gitlab-ci.yml template like SAST.gitlab-ci.yml, the following error may occur, depending on your GitLab CI/CD configuration:

Found errors in your .gitlab-ci.yml:

    jobs:sast config key may not be used with `rules`: only/except

This error appears when the included job's rules configuration has been overridden with the deprecated only or except syntax. To fix this issue, you must either:

Learn more on overriding SAST jobs.

Transitioning your only/except syntax to rules

When overriding the template to control job execution, previous instances of only or except are no longer compatible and must be transitioned to the rules syntax.

If your override is aimed at limiting jobs to only run on master, the previous syntax would look similar to:

  - template: SAST.gitlab-ci.yml

# Ensure that the scanning is only executed on master or merge requests
      - master
      - merge_requests

To transition the above configuration to the new rules syntax, the override would be written as follows:

  - template: SAST.gitlab-ci.yml

# Ensure that the scanning is only executed on master or merge requests
    - if: $CI_COMMIT_BRANCH == "master"

If your override is aimed at limiting jobs to only run on branches, not tags, it would look similar to:

  - template: SAST.gitlab-ci.yml

# Ensure that the scanning is not executed on tags
    - tags

To transition to the new rules syntax, the override would be rewritten as:

  - template: SAST.gitlab-ci.yml

# Ensure that the scanning is not executed on tags
    - if: $CI_COMMIT_TAG == null

Learn more on the usage of rules.

Pin your templates to the deprecated versions

To ensure the latest support, we strongly recommend that you migrate to rules.

If you're unable to immediately update your CI configuration, there are several workarounds that involve pinning to the previous template versions, for example:

  remote: ''

Additionally, we provide a dedicated project containing the versioned legacy templates. This can be useful for offline setups or anyone wishing to use Auto DevOps.

Instructions are available in the legacy template project.