Application security (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 you merge.

  • 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 GitLab application security, 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: Security/Dependency-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml
  - template: Security/License-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml
  - template: Security/SAST.gitlab-ci.yml
  - template: Security/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: Security/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.

SAST configuration

You can set up and configure Static Application Security Testing (SAST) for your project, without opening a text editor. For more details, see configure SAST in the UI.

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 CI/CD 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.
API fuzzing (ULTIMATE) Find unknown bugs and vulnerabilities in web APIs with fuzzing.
Secret Detection Analyze Git history for leaked secrets.
Security Dashboard (ULTIMATE) View vulnerabilities in all your projects and groups.
Static Application Security Testing (SAST) Analyze source code for known vulnerabilities.
Coverage fuzzing (ULTIMATE) Find unknown bugs and vulnerabilities with coverage-guided fuzzing.

Use security scanning tools with Pipelines for Merge Requests

The security scanning tools can all be added to pipelines with templates. See each tool for details on how to use include each template in your CI/CD configuration.

By default, the application security jobs are configured to run for branch pipelines only. To use them with pipelines for merge requests, you may need to override the default rules: configuration to add:

  - if: $CI_PIPELINE_SOURCE == "merge_request_event"

Security Scanning with Auto DevOps

When Auto DevOps is enabled, all GitLab Security scanning tools are 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 (the GitLab 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.

View security scan information in merge requests (FREE)

Merge requests which have run security scans let you know that the generated reports are available to download. To download a report, click on the Download results dropdown, and select the desired report.

Security widget

View details of a DAST vulnerability

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 13.1.

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. Select 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.

Addressing vulnerabilities

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 10.8.

For each security vulnerability in a merge request or Vulnerability Report, you can:

Dismiss a vulnerability

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 12.0, a dismissal reason.

You can dismiss a vulnerability for the entire project.

  1. Select the vulnerability in the Security Dashboard.
  2. In the top-right, from the Status selector menu, select Dismissed.
  3. Optional. Add a reason for the dismissal and select Save comment.

To undo this action, select a different status from the same menu.

Dismiss multiple vulnerabilities

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 12.9.

You can dismiss multiple vulnerabilities at once.

  1. In the list of vulnerabilities, select the checkbox for each vulnerability you want to dismiss. To select all, select the checkbox in the table header.
  2. Above the table, select a dismissal reason.
  3. Select Dismiss Selected.

Create an issue for a vulnerability

You can create a GitLab or Jira issue for a vulnerability. For details, see Vulnerability Pages.

Link to an existing issue

If you already have an open issue, you can link to it from the vulnerability.

  • The vulnerability page shows related issues, but the issue page doesn't show the vulnerability it's related to.
  • An issue can only be related to one vulnerability at a time.
  • Issues can be linked across groups and projects.

To link to an existing issue:

  1. Open the vulnerability.
  2. Add a linked issue.

Apply an automatic remediation for a vulnerability

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 apply the suggested patch

To manually apply the patch that GitLab generated for a vulnerability:

  1. Select the Resolve with merge request dropdown, then select Download patch to resolve:

    Resolve with Merge Request button dropdown

  2. Ensure your local project has the same commit checked out that was used to generate the patch.

  3. Run git apply remediation.patch.

  4. Verify and commit the changes to your branch.

Create a merge request with the suggested patch

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 11.9.

In some cases, you can 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:

  1. Select the Resolve with merge request dropdown, then select Resolve with merge request.

    Create merge request from vulnerability

A merge request is created. It that applies the solution to the source branch.

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 the Vulnerability-Check or License-Check Security Approvals, a project approval rule must be created. A security scanner job must be enabled for Vulnerability-Check, and a license scanning job must be enabled for License-Check. When the proper jobs aren't configured, the following appears:

Un-configured Approval Rules

If at least one security scanner is enabled, you can enable the Vulnerability-Check approval rule. If a license scanning job is enabled, you can enable the License-Check rule.

Un-configured Approval Rules with valid pipeline jobs

For this approval group, you must set the number of approvals required to greater than zero. You must have Maintainer or Owner permissions to manage approval rules.

Follow these steps to enable Vulnerability-Check:

  1. Navigate to your project's Settings > General and expand Merge request approvals.
  2. Click Enable, or Edit.
  3. 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 the latest security report in a merge request:

  • Contains a vulnerability of high, critical, or unknown severity that is not present in the target branch. Note that approval is still required for dismissed vulnerabilities.
  • Is not generated during pipeline execution.

An approval is optional when the security report:

  • Contains no new vulnerabilities when compared to the target branch.
  • Contains only new vulnerabilities of low or medium severity.

Enabling License Approvals within a project

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 12.3.

License-Check is a security approval rule you can enable to allow an individual or group to approve a merge request that contains a denied license. For instructions on enabling this rule, see Enabling license approvals within a project.

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 repositories

If you have a private Apache Maven repository that requires login credentials, you can use the MAVEN_CLI_OPTS CI/CD 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.

  • Override the default stage of each security job. For example, to use a pre-defined stage name unit-tests:

      - template: Security/Dependency-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml
      - template: Security/License-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml
      - template: Security/SAST.gitlab-ci.yml
      - template: Security/Secret-Detection.gitlab-ci.yml
      - unit-tests
      stage: unit-tests
      stage: unit-tests
      stage: unit-tests
      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 warning messages … report.json: no matching files

This is often followed by the error No files to upload, and preceded by other errors or warnings that indicate why the JSON report wasn't generated. Please check the entire job log for such messages. If you don't find these messages, retry the failed job after setting SECURE_LOG_LEVEL: "debug" as a custom CI/CD variable. This provides useful information to investigate further.

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: Security/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: Security/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: Security/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: Security/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.

Vulnerabilities are found, but the job succeeds. How can I have a pipeline fail instead?

This is the current default behavior, because the job's status indicates success or failure of the analyzer itself. Analyzer results are displayed in the job logs, Merge Request widget or Security Dashboard.

Error: job is used for configuration only, and its script should not be executed

Changes made in GitLab 13.4 to the Security/Dependency-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml and Security/SAST.gitlab-ci.yml templates mean that if you enable the sast or dependency_scanning jobs by setting the rules attribute, they will fail with the error (job) is used for configuration only, and its script should not be executed.

The sast or dependency_scanning stanzas can be used to make changes to all SAST or Dependency Scanning, such as changing variables or the stage, but they cannot be used to define shared rules.

There is an issue open to improve extendability. Please upvote the issue to help with prioritization, and contributions are welcomed.