GitLab IaC Scanning | SentinelOne

GitLab IaC Scanning: A Comprehensive Guide 101

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) has rapidly emerged as a game-changer of the modern tech landscape. By translating infrastructure provisioning and management processes into code, developers gain version control and repeatability, and potential vulnerabilities are reduced, yet with its proliferation comes potential vulnerability issues.

GitLab IaC Scanning stands out as an effective and efficient means of discovering misconfigurations and security gaps within IaC setups while protecting against them. This guide will dive deep into its value, setup process, and best practices to fortify IaC configurations.

What is Infrastructure as Code (IaC)?

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is an approach where infrastructure provisioning, management, and configuration tasks are specified as code rather than through manual processes or custom scripts. Instead of depending on manual processes for provisioning servers, databases, or networking infrastructure components, IaC utilizes standard code templates.

IaC’s popularity can be explained by an ever-increasing need for agility when deploying and scaling applications. Traditional infrastructure management required time-intensive setup that often relied on human error; IaC offers consistency, repeatability, and speedy update processes by versioning infrastructure just like software code, allowing versioned repeatable infrastructure builds to run continuously without human oversight or error.

DevOps practices also synergize well with IaC practices, helping organizations bridge the divide between development and operations. With IaC, infrastructure changes can be implemented concurrently with application development for faster deployment times and smoother pipeline management. Their combined efforts propel organizations toward increased efficiency and reliability during deployment processes.

Why is IaC Scanning Essential?

Infrastructure as Code has opened up new avenues of potential vulnerability. Developers writing scripts to automate infrastructure deployment may inadvertently introduce significant security gaps into an infrastructure deployment process; IaC scanning becomes essential in detecting such security holes before they reach production environments.

Modern cloud-native infrastructures can be quite dynamic and complex environments; misconfigurations may slip past even the most vigilant of developers, even without IaC scanning tools sifting through code definitions to detect misconfigurations that violate best security practices and reduce data breaches and system compromise due to infrastructure vulnerabilities. IaC scan tools use Artificial Intelligence-as-a-Consumption technology (AIC). By doing so, they dramatically lower risks related to infrastructure vulnerabilities causing data breaches or system compromise.

As compliance and data protection standards have tightened, businesses need to implement secure infrastructure from day one to avoid legal or reputational ramifications. IaC scanning helps businesses adhere to this norm by guaranteeing their infrastructure aligns with industry regulations, thereby protecting themselves against legal repercussions.

Understanding GitLab IaC Scanning

GitLab’s Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Scanning feature offers a systematic approach to vet IaC configuration files against potential vulnerabilities. This ensures that the configurations to provision and manage infrastructure are robust, secure, and compliant. The support extends to various IaC configuration files, including popular ones like Terraform, Ansible, AWS CloudFormation, and Kubernetes.

  1. Requirements and Compatibility
  2. Supported Files and Customization
  3. Configuration and Rule Customization
  4. Automatic Vulnerability Resolution

1. Requirements and Compatibility

Effective IaC scanning requires working within the test stage, as it requires inclusion in this stage’s.gitlab-ci.yml file.

  • Minimum RAM requirements should be 4GB to maximize performance. 
  • By default, GitLab Runner with either Docker or Kubernetes executor is mandatory (and enabled automatically for users). However, IaC Scanning analyzers may be incompatible with non-amd64 CPU architectures & it’s best advised that Docker version 19.03.0 be avoided for these jobs.

2. Supported Files and Customization

GitLab IaC Scanning provides comprehensive support, made possible through the KICS tool. Configuration files from Ansible, AWS CloudFormation, Azure Resource Manager Dockerfile, Google Deployment Manager Kubernetes OpenAPI Terraform are among those supported; any specific requirements such as JSON formatted Azure Resource Manager templates being required and no support for custom registry Terraform modules should also be taken into consideration when reviewing results.

GitLab continues its dedication to openness with this feature by making all open-source (OSS) analyzers available through GitLab Free tier. By manipulating the SAST_IMAGE_SUFFIX variable, you can toggle between standard and FIPS versions of images.

3. Configuration and Rule Customization

Establishing IaC Scanning in your project is relatively straightforward. You can either set it manually by including the SAST-IaC.gitlab-ci.yml template, which, once included, generates IaC Scanning jobs within your CI/CD pipeline, or automatically through merge requests – results of IaC Scanning jobs being stored as SAST report artifacts after scanning is complete.

Teams looking to enhance the scanning process have the option of customizing default rules; this feature includes being able to:

  • Disable predefined rules. 
  • Override existing ones with custom definitions that affect aspects like severity or linking directly to personal documentation.

It’s also possible to associate scanning processes with specific analyzer versions, protecting in case updates bring regressions or unwanted modifications.

4. Automatic Vulnerability Resolution

GitLab IaC Scanning emphasizes eliminating unnecessary noise in reports. To maintain relevance and focus on current vulnerabilities, the system takes certain automatic actions:

1. Disabling Rules: Once you decide that one or more rules are no longer relevant to your project and have explicitly disabled them, their previous reports of vulnerabilities will automatically resolve.

2. Rule Removal: Should GitLab decide that one or more default rules are obsolete or produce too many false positives, they will likely be eliminated, and any vulnerabilities flagged by such rules will automatically be resolved.

3. Historical Records: Maintaining an audit trail is vital; GitLab’s Vulnerability Management system adds comments, ensuring you remain aware of past vulnerabilities that have been automated and resolved.

4. Rule Re-activation: Reenabling previously disabled rules will open any auto-resolved findings for triage again to ensure past vulnerabilities don’t go undetected.

Reporting: Understanding the JSON Format

GitLab’s IaC Scanning tool outputs its findings as structured JSON reports to conform with SAST report formats, providing users with comprehensive results:

1. Standardization: This format facilitates easy integration and comparison across various projects or scans.

2. Accessibility: Users can quickly and easily download reports directly from CI pipelines pages or merge request pipelines using artifacts: paths directive to “gl-sast-report.json”. To facilitate this action, set your artifacts: paths directive as “gl-sast-report.json”.

3. Schema Reference: GitLab offers detailed schema documentation to enable those interested in delving deeper or integrating this report with other systems to access all parts of it easily and comprehensively.

Setting Up GitLab IaC Scanning

Let’s examine how to set up GitLab IaC Scanning for your projects.

Steps for setting Up GitLab IaC Scanning are –

  1. Prerequisites
  2. Integrating the GitLab CI/CD
  3. Custom Configuration (Optional)
  4. Running the Scan
  5. Reviewing Results

1. Prerequisites

  • GitLab Version: You should ensure you’re using version 12.10 or later of GitLab. 
  • Repository Setup: Your Infrastructure as Code files (such as Terraform, CloudFormation, and Kubernetes config files) should form part of your repository.

2. Integrating the GitLab CI/CD

To set up IaC scanning, you’ll need to integrate it with the GitLab CI/CD pipeline.

Create or update .gitlab-ci.yml in the root of your repository.

Add the following configuration:


  template: Security/Infrastructure-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml

This inclusion will enable the IaC Scanning job within your CI/CD pipeline.

3. Custom Configuration (Optional)

For projects with specific requirements, the scanning process can be customized:

  • Custom Rules: GitLab IaC Scanning allows users to define custom rules or modify existing ones. These can be added to a .iac-custom-rules directory at the root of your repository.
  • Ignoring Directories: If you want the scanner to skip certain directories, you can define them in the CI/CD configuration under variables:


  IAC_PATHS: “infrastructure/*,!infrastructure/legacy/”

In the above, the scanner will only analyze files within the infrastructure directory and will exclude the legacy sub-directory.

4. Running the Scan

Once the configuration is set, initiate a CI/CD pipeline run. The IaC Scanning job will analyze your Infrastructure as Code files and provide insights into potential vulnerabilities.

5. Reviewing Results

Post-analysis, the vulnerabilities (if any) will be visible:

  • Within the merge request (if the scan was triggered by one).
  • In the Security & Compliance section of your project.

Here you can:

  • See details of the vulnerability.
  • Mark it as resolved or create an issue to track it.
  • Optionally, set up automated actions based on vulnerability severity or type.

Best Practices for Secure IaC (Infrastructure as Code) Configuration

Best Practices for Secure IaC (Infrastructure as Code) Configuration are –

  1. PoLP Principle (The Principle of Least Privilege)
  2. Maintain Version Control and Change Tracking
  3. Regularly Scanning and Updating Dependencies
  4. Protect Secrets
  5. Efficiently Validate and Evaluate Configurations

1. PoLP Principle (The Principle of Least Privilege)

The Principle of Least Privilege is an essential security concept designed to ensure entities (be they users, systems, or processes) receive only those privileges necessary to perform their tasks and nothing more. This principle becomes even more essential in IaC environments with permissions that can be assigned programmatically; when given incorrectly or too broadly, they could expose resources to unnecessary risk.

Adherence to PoLP requirements within IaC requires carefully scripting permissions so each service or function only accesses resources they require – for cloud infrastructures like AWS, this could involve giving read-only permission for S3 bucket rather than blanket permission for all storage resources; ongoing review of IaC scripts to make sure permissions stay tight as infrastructure evolves.

2. Maintain Version Control and Change Tracking

Version control isn’t only necessary in traditional software development; it also plays an essential part in infrastructure management in an IaC environment. Tracking changes, rolling back configurations, and understanding infrastructure adjustments is vital in maintaining a secure and stable environment for IaC infrastructure management.

GitLab and GitHub platforms for IaC configuration provide not only change tracking tools but also collaborative features to review proposed modifications with team members before being deployed into production environments. This peer review process ensures security concerns are considered and compliance with best practices before any significant modifications are introduced into IaC environments.

3. Regularly Scanning and Updating Dependencies

As with software development, infrastructure as code (IaC) configurations often rely on third-party templates and modules from third parties to streamline infrastructure deployment; while such dependencies can make deployment simpler, they also present potential vulnerabilities if outdated or compromised.

Constantly scanning dependencies helps ensure no known security vulnerabilities are being introduced into infrastructure, with special tools designed for this task automatically flagging outdated or vulnerable modules and prompting teams to update them as required – much like software patch management but applied specifically to infrastructure modules in order to achieve maximum protection and resilience.

4. Protect Secrets

The digital landscape is littered with warning stories about secrets being exposed that lead to severe breaches. IaC’s programmatic nature makes it tempting for programmers to hard code sensitive information directly into scripts – an irresponsible practice that should always be avoided.

Organizations should avoid embedding secrets directly within IaC scripts by instead employing dedicated secret management solutions like HashiCorp Vault or AWS Secrets Manager to safeguard secrets while still remaining encrypted, thereby guaranteeing their protection even if configuration files become publically exposed.

5. Efficiently Validate and Evaluate Configurations

Ensuring IaC scripts are both functional and secure is a constant endeavor that demands regular assessment. As configurations change or the IT landscape shifts, new vulnerabilities emerge that could render previously functional scripts nonfunctional or cause them to break altogether.

Organizations should ensure their IaC configurations regularly conform with industry benchmarks and best practices to avoid this scenario, using automated testing tools for regular checks without manual intervention. Before rolling any changes out in production environments, staging or test environments are invaluable in providing early warning of any unexpected problems, helping ensure secure yet operational infrastructures in production environments.

Common Pitfalls in IaC and How to Avoid Them

Common Pitfalls in GitLab IaC Scanning and How to Avoid Them?

  1. Treating Infrastructure Code as a One-Off Script
  2. Neglect of Testing
  3. Hardcoding Secrets and Credentials
  4. Overly Complicating IaC Scripts
  5. Bypass Deprecated Tools or Libraries

1. Treating Infrastructure Code as a One-Off Script

One common misperception about infrastructure code (IaC) is treating it like any one-off script written once and rarely revisited again. Unlike one-off scripts, however, IaC requires periodic maintenance updates, revisions, and revisions like any software code.

How to Prevent: Conduct regular code reviews and updates using tools such as GitLab IaC Scanning to scan IaC configurations continuously – this ensures your code stays up-to-date, relevant, and free of potential vulnerabilities.

2. Neglect of Testing

Some teams rushing to deploy may skip thorough IaC script testing in favor of moving quickly – believing if something runs, everything’s fine – which may result in unexpected behavior or security vulnerabilities in their provisioned infrastructure. This oversight may leave unexpected behaviors unaccounted for or create security holes requiring immediate patching upon deployment.

How to Prevent: As with application code, testing IaC configurations in non-production environments such as staging is essential in avoiding production environment misconfigurations and potential pitfalls; GitLab IaC Scanning provides an essential service here that allows teams to identify any misconfigurations before impacting production environments directly.

3. Hardcoding Secrets and Credentials

Hardcoding can be an obvious pitfall in IaC scripts and should always be avoided to protect data security. By embedding secrets or credentials directly within their code, hardcoded secrets or credentials may pose substantial security threats that should not be neglected.

How to Prevent: Instead of directly including secrets in scripts, use dedicated secret management tools. GitLab IaC Scanning tools may detect such practices by scanning for them as part of their scanning process, such as alerting developers about any hardcoded credentials within their configuration files.

4. Overly Complicating IaC Scripts

As they attempt to craft one solution that covers every possible scenario, some engineers become over-complicated when writing IaC scripts. While this might cover various situations more efficiently, it also creates unnecessary complications and potential points of failure in their IaC solutions.

How to Prevent: Prioritise simplicity and clarity by breaking up complex configurations into manageable modules using GitLab IaC Scanning; regularly inspect these modules using GitLab IaC Scanning so they remain effective, secure, and functional.

5. Bypass Deprecated Tools or Libraries

IaC frequently relies on third-party tools or libraries; however, as these external resources develop, they may deprecate certain features or functions. using outdated methods could present both functional and security vulnerabilities.

How to Prevent: Keep an active watch over any third-party tools or libraries your IaC configurations depend upon, regularly updating scripts to reflect updated versions and recommendations, as well as using scanning tools like GitLab IaC Scanning that highlight outdated functions or dependencies.

SentinelOne’s IaC Solution for GitLab IaC Scanning

Infrastructure as Code (IaC) has revolutionized how businesses deploy and manage IT infrastructure. Due to IaC’s growing popularity, businesses require secure yet efficient IaC solutions – SentinelOne stands out with features tailored specifically towards modern-day infrastructure management needs like security optimization. Here’s what it offers:

  1. Comprehensive Deployment/Configuration Checks: SentinelOne goes beyond simple misconfiguration checks by performing exhaustive IaC deployment and configuration reviews against industry benchmarks like the CIS Benchmark and PCI DSS to ensure your infrastructure aligns with globally accepted standards, keeping it both compliant and secure.
  2. Hardcoded Secret Detection: One of the primary vulnerabilities in IaC scripts is hardcoded secrets, with SentinelOne excelling at identifying such flaws by scanning environment variables across different platforms – be they automation accounts, serverless apps, or various Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings – to keep secrets secure and hidden from prying eyes.
  3. Multi-Cloud Misconfiguration Monitoring: SentinelOne’s monitoring capabilities go well beyond any single cloud provider – it covers Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Microsoft Azure to keep an eye on a range of IaC scripts across each major platform to make sure your IaC remains optimized and free from potential hazards regardless of which service provider is chosen. This broad coverage means no matter your platform choice, your IaC remains optimized and safe from potential vulnerabilities.
  4. Broad Template Support: SentinelOne recognizes that businesses utilize various templates for IaC purposes, so its support extends to well-known options like CloudFormation, Terraform, Helm, and Kubernetes so you can integrate SentinelOne without making extensive overhauls or adjustments to existing IaC setups.
  5. Seamless CI/CD Integration: Integrating security into the Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD) pipeline is of utmost importance for modern businesses, which is why SentinelOne features integrated CI/CD support that actively blocks merge requests containing hardcoded secrets – this ensures vulnerabilities can be identified early, mitigating potential risks in production environments and mitigating any possible downtime issues that might otherwise arise from production environments.
  6. AI-Powered CNAPP – SentinelOne blocks attacks with an AI-powered CNAPP that offers state-of-the-art Kubernetes Security Posture Management (KSPM), Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM), Cloud Data Security (CDS), Cloud Detection & Response (CDR), and an agent-based Cloud Workload Protection Platform (CWPP). Its unique Offensive Security Engine analyzes threats from the attackers’ POV and provides verified exploit pathways. SentinelOne’s PurpleAI is a powerful and personal cyber security analyst for every modern enterprise. BinaryVault allows organizations to conduct forensic analysis and SentinelOne’s patented Storyline technology empowers organizations with deep visibility and rapid threat hunting capabilities. Get complete cloud protection and adhere to multi-cloud compliance standards such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, ISO 27001, CIS Benchmark, and more.

Say goodbye to cloud security threats and minimize attack surfaces with SentinelOne’s 1-click automated remediation. SentinelOne ensures zero false-positives, evidence-based reporting, and goes a step further by enforcing shift-left security along with post-incident response planning and analysis.


Infrastructure as Code (IaC) has rapidly evolved, and organizations must ensure strong security measures and compliance checks to protect against data breaches or operational disruption. SentinelOne’s IaC Solution addresses this challenge head-on by offering an expansive suite of features designed to maximize IaC potential without jeopardizing security.

As businesses make strategic investments to expand and adapt their infrastructures and adopt best practices, partnering with SentinelOne can be transformative. Thanks to its attention-to-detection vulnerabilities, global benchmarks adherence, and seamless CI/CD integration capabilities, this solution stands as the go-to for your IaC needs – so call them up now to reinforce the foundations of your infrastructures today.