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Secret Detection

DETAILS: Tier: Free, Premium, Ultimate Offering: SaaS, self-managed

In GitLab 14.0, Secret Detection jobs secret_detection_default_branch and secret_detection were consolidated into one job, secret_detection.

People sometimes accidentally commit secrets like keys or API tokens to Git repositories. After a sensitive value is pushed to a remote repository, anyone with access to the repository can impersonate the authorized user of the secret for malicious purposes. Most organizations require exposed secrets to be revoked and replaced to address this risk.

Secret Detection scans your repository to help prevent your secrets from being exposed. Secret Detection scanning works on all text files, regardless of the language or framework used.

After you enable Secret Detection, scans run in a CI/CD job named secret_detection. You can run scans and view Secret Detection JSON report artifacts in any GitLab tier.

With GitLab Ultimate, Secret Detection results are also processed so you can:

For an interactive reading and how-to demo of this Secret Detection documentation see:

For other interactive reading and how-to demos, see the Get Started With GitLab Application Security Playlist.

Detected secrets

GitLab maintains the detection rules used in Secret Detection. The default ruleset contains more than 100 patterns.

Most Secret Detection patterns search for specific types of secrets. Many services add prefixes or other structural details to their secrets so they can be identified if they're leaked. For example, GitLab adds a glpat- prefix to project, group, and personal access tokens by default.

To provide more reliable, high-confidence results, Secret Detection only looks for passwords or other unstructured secrets in specific contexts like URLs.

Adding new patterns

To search for other types of secrets in your repositories, you can configure a custom ruleset.

To propose a new detection rule for all users of Secret Detection, create a merge request against the file containing the default rules.

If you operate a cloud or SaaS product and you're interested in partnering with GitLab to better protect your users, learn more about our partner program for leaked credential notifications.

Features per tier

Different features are available in different GitLab tiers.

Capability In Free & Premium In Ultimate
Configure Secret Detection scanner {check-circle} Yes {check-circle} Yes
Customize Secret Detection settings {check-circle} Yes {check-circle} Yes
Download SAST output {check-circle} Yes {check-circle} Yes
Check text for potential secrets before it's posted {check-circle} Yes {check-circle} Yes
See new findings in the merge request widget {dotted-circle} No {check-circle} Yes
View identified secrets in the pipelines' Security tab {dotted-circle} No {check-circle} Yes
Manage vulnerabilities {dotted-circle} No {check-circle} Yes
Access the Security Dashboard {dotted-circle} No {check-circle} Yes
Customize Secret Detection rulesets {dotted-circle} No {check-circle} Yes


Secret Detection scans different aspects of your code, depending on the situation. For all methods except "Default branch", Secret Detection scans commits, not the working tree. For example, Secret Detection can detect if a secret was added in one commit and removed in a later commit.

  • Historical scan

    If the SECRET_DETECTION_HISTORIC_SCAN variable is set, the content of all branches is scanned. Before scanning the repository's content, Secret Detection runs the command git fetch --all to fetch the content of all branches.

  • Commit range

    If the SECRET_DETECTION_LOG_OPTIONS variable is set, the secrets analyzer fetches the entire history of the branch or reference the pipeline is being run for. Secret Detection then runs, scanning the commit range specified.

  • Default branch

    When Secret Detection is run on the default branch, the Git repository is treated as a plain folder. Only the contents of the repository at the current HEAD are scanned. Commit history is not scanned.

  • Push event

    On a push event, Secret Detection determines what commit range to scan, given the information available in the runner. To determine the commit range, the variables CI_COMMIT_SHA and CI_COMMIT_BEFORE_SHA are important.

    • CI_COMMIT_SHA is the commit at HEAD for a given branch. This variable is always set for push events.
    • CI_COMMIT_BEFORE_SHA is set in most cases. However, it is not set for the first push event on a new branch, nor for merge pipelines. Because of this, Secret Detection can't be guaranteed when multiple commits are committed to a new branch.
  • Merge request

    In a merge request, Secret Detection scans every commit made on the source branch. To use this feature, you must use the latest Secret Detection template, as it supports merge request pipelines. Secret Detection's results are only available after the pipeline is completed.

Enable Secret Detection


  • Linux-based GitLab Runner with the docker or kubernetes executor. If you're using the shared runners on, this is enabled by default.
    • Windows Runners are not supported.
    • CPU architectures other than amd64 are not supported.
  • If you use your own runners, make sure the Docker version installed is not 19.03.0. See troubleshooting information for details.
  • GitLab CI/CD configuration (.gitlab-ci.yml) must include the test stage.

To enable Secret Detection, either:

Edit the .gitlab-ci.yml file manually

This method requires you to manually edit the existing .gitlab-ci.yml file. Use this method if your GitLab CI/CD configuration file is complex.

  1. On the left sidebar, select Search or go to and find your project.

  2. Select Build > Pipeline editor.

  3. Copy and paste the following to the bottom of the .gitlab-ci.yml file. If an include line already exists, add only the template line below it.

      - template: Jobs/Secret-Detection.gitlab-ci.yml
  4. Select the Validate tab, then select Validate pipeline. The message Simulation completed successfully indicates the file is valid.

  5. Select the Edit tab.

  6. Optional. In the Commit message text box, customize the commit message.

  7. In the Branch text box, enter the name of the default branch.

  8. Select Commit changes.

Pipelines now include a Secret Detection job.

Use an automatically configured merge request

This method automatically prepares a merge request, with the Secret Detection template included in the .gitlab-ci.yml file. You then merge the merge request to enable Secret Detection.

NOTE: This method works best with no existing .gitlab-ci.yml file, or with a minimal configuration file. If you have a complex GitLab configuration file it may not be parsed successfully, and an error may occur. In that case, use the manual method instead.

To enable Secret Detection:

  1. On the left sidebar, select Search or go to and find your project.
  2. Select Secure > Security configuration.
  3. In the Secret Detection row, select Configure with a merge request.
  4. Optional. Complete the fields.
  5. Select Create merge request.
  6. Review and merge the merge request.

Pipelines now include a Secret Detection job.

Responding to a leaked secret

When a secret is detected, you should rotate it immediately. GitLab attempts to automatically revoke some types of leaked secrets. For those that are not automatically revoked, you must do so manually.

Purging a secret from the repository's history does not fully address the leak. The original secret remains in any existing forks or clones of the repository.

Pinning to specific analyzer version

The GitLab-managed CI/CD template specifies a major version and automatically pulls the latest analyzer release within that major version.

In some cases, you may need to use a specific version. For example, you might need to avoid a regression in a later release.

To override the automatic update behavior, set the SECRETS_ANALYZER_VERSION CI/CD variable in your CI/CD configuration file after you include the Secret-Detection.gitlab-ci.yml template.

You can set the tag to:

  • A major version, like 4. Your pipelines use any minor or patch updates that are released within this major version.
  • A minor version, like 4.5. Your pipelines use any patch updates that are released within this minor version.
  • A patch version, like 4.5.0. Your pipelines don't receive any updates.

This example uses a specific minor version of the analyzer:

  - template: Jobs/Secret-Detection.gitlab-ci.yml


Configure scan settings

The Secret Detection scan settings can be changed through CI/CD variables by using the variables parameter in .gitlab-ci.yml.

WARNING: All configuration of GitLab security scanning tools should be tested in a merge request before merging these changes to the default branch. Failure to do so can give unexpected results, including a large number of false positives.

To override a job definition, (for example, change properties like variables or dependencies), declare a job with the same name as the secret detection job to override. Place this new job after the template inclusion and specify any additional keys under it.

In the following example extract of a .gitlab-ci.yml file:

  • The Secret Detection template is included.
  • In the secret_detection job, the CI/CD variable SECRET_DETECTION_HISTORIC_SCAN is set to true. Because the template is evaluated before the pipeline configuration, the last mention of the variable takes precedence.
  - template: Jobs/Secret-Detection.gitlab-ci.yml


Ignore secrets

In some instances, you might want to ignore a secret. For example, you may have a fake secret in an example or a test suite. In these instances, you want to ignore the secret, instead of having it reported as a vulnerability.

To ignore a secret, add gitleaks:allow as a comment to the line that contains the secret.

For example:

 "A personal token for GitLab will look like glpat-JUST20LETTERSANDNUMB" #gitleaks:allow

Running jobs in merge request pipelines

See Use security scanning tools with merge request pipelines.

Available CI/CD variables

Secret Detection can be customized by defining available CI/CD variables:

CI/CD variable Default value Description
SECRET_DETECTION_EXCLUDED_PATHS "" Exclude vulnerabilities from output based on the paths. The paths are a comma-separated list of patterns. Patterns can be globs (see doublestar.Match for supported patterns), or file or folder paths (for example, doc,spec ). Parent directories also match patterns. Introduced in GitLab 13.3.
SECRET_DETECTION_HISTORIC_SCAN false Flag to enable a historic Gitleaks scan.
SECRET_DETECTION_IMAGE_SUFFIX "" Suffix added to the image name. If set to -fips, FIPS-enabled images are used for scan. See Use FIPS-enabled images for more details. Introduced in GitLab 14.10.
SECRET_DETECTION_LOG_OPTIONS "" git log options used to define commit ranges. Introduced in GitLab 15.1.

In previous GitLab versions, the following variables were also available:

CI/CD variable Default value Description
SECRET_DETECTION_COMMIT_FROM - The commit a Gitleaks scan starts at. Removed in GitLab 13.5. Replaced with SECRET_DETECTION_COMMITS.
SECRET_DETECTION_COMMIT_TO - The commit a Gitleaks scan ends at. Removed in GitLab 13.5. Replaced with SECRET_DETECTION_COMMITS.
SECRET_DETECTION_COMMITS - The list of commits that Gitleaks should scan. Introduced in GitLab 13.5. Removed in GitLab 15.0.

Use FIPS-enabled images

The default scanner images are built off a base Alpine image for size and maintainability. GitLab offers Red Hat UBI versions of the images that are FIPS-enabled.

To use the FIPS-enabled images, either:

  • Set the SECRET_DETECTION_IMAGE_SUFFIX CI/CD variable to -fips.
  • Add the -fips extension to the default image name.

For example:


  - template: Jobs/Secret-Detection.gitlab-ci.yml

Full history Secret Detection

By default, Secret Detection scans only the current state of the Git repository. Any secrets contained in the repository's history are not detected. To address this, Secret Detection can scan the Git repository's full history.

You should do a full history scan only once, after enabling Secret Detection. A full history can take a long time, especially for larger repositories with lengthy Git histories. After completing an initial full history scan, use only standard Secret Detection as part of your pipeline.

Enable full history Secret Detection

To enable full history Secret Detection, set the variable SECRET_DETECTION_HISTORIC_SCAN to true in your .gitlab-ci.yml file.

Custom rulesets

DETAILS: Tier: Ultimate Offering: SaaS, Self-managed

  • Introduced in GitLab 13.5.
  • Enabled support for passthrough chains. Expanded to include additional passthrough types of file, git, and url in GitLab 14.6.
  • Enabled support for overriding rules in GitLab 14.8.

You can customize which secrets are reported in the GitLab UI. However, the secret_detection job logs always include the number of secrets detected by the default Secret Detection rules.

The following customization options can be used separately, or in combination:

Disable predefined analyzer rules

If there are specific Secret Detection rules that you don't want active, you can disable them.

To disable analyzer rules:

  1. Create a .gitlab directory at the root of your project, if one doesn't already exist.
  2. Create a custom ruleset file named secret-detection-ruleset.toml in the .gitlab directory, if one doesn't already exist.
  3. Set the disabled flag to true in the context of a ruleset section.
  4. In one or more ruleset.identifier subsections, list the rules to disable. Every ruleset.identifier section has:
    • A type field for the predefined rule identifier.
    • A value field for the rule name.

In the following example secret-detection-ruleset.toml file, the disabled rules are assigned to secrets by matching the type and value of identifiers:

    disable = true
      type = "gitleaks_rule_id"
      value = "RSA private key"

Override predefined analyzer rules

If there are specific Secret Detection rules you want to customize, you can override them. For example, you might increase the severity of specific secrets.

To override rules:

  1. Create a .gitlab directory at the root of your project, if one doesn't already exist.
  2. Create a custom ruleset file named secret-detection-ruleset.toml in the .gitlab directory, if one doesn't already exist.
  3. In one or more ruleset.identifier subsections, list the rules to override. Every ruleset.identifier section has:
    • A type field for the predefined rule identifier.
    • A value field for the rule name.
  4. In the ruleset.override context of a ruleset section, provide the keys to override. Any combination of keys can be overridden. Valid keys are:
    • description
    • message
    • name
    • severity (valid options are: Critical, High, Medium, Low, Unknown, Info)

In the following example secret-detection-ruleset.toml file, rules are matched by the type and value of identifiers and then overridden:

      type = "gitleaks_rule_id"
      value = "RSA private key"
      description = "OVERRIDDEN description"
      message = "OVERRIDDEN message"
      name = "OVERRIDDEN name"
      severity = "Info"

Synthesize a custom configuration

You can use passthroughs to override the default Secret Detection ruleset. The following passthrough types are supported by the secrets analyzer:

  • raw
  • file

To define a passthrough, add one of the following to the secret-detection-ruleset.toml file:

  • Using an inline (raw) value:

      description = 'secrets custom rules configuration'
        type  = "raw"
        target = "gitleaks.toml"
        value = """\
    title = "gitleaks config"
    # add regexes to the regex table
    description = "Test for Raw Custom Rulesets"
    regex = '''Custom Raw Ruleset T[est]{3}'''
  • Using an external file committed to the current repository:

      description = 'secrets custom rules configuration'
        type  = "file"
        target = "gitleaks.toml"
        value = "config/gitleaks.toml"

For more information on the syntax of passthroughs, see the passthroughs section on the SAST customize rulesets page.

Extending the default configuration

You can extend the default configuration with additional changes by using Gitleaks extend support.

In the following file passthrough example, the string glpat-1234567890abcdefghij is ignored by Secret Detection. That GitLab personal access token (PAT) is used in test cases. Detection of it would be a false positive.

The secret-detection-ruleset.toml file defines that the configuration in extended-gitleaks-config.toml file is to be included. The extended-gitleaks-config.toml file defines the custom Gitleaks configuration. The allowlist stanza defines a regular expression that matches the secret that is to be ignored ("allowed").

# .gitlab/secret-detection-ruleset.toml
  description = 'secrets custom rules configuration'

    type  = "file"
    target = "gitleaks.toml"
    value = "extended-gitleaks-config.toml"
# extended-gitleaks-config.toml
title = "extension of gitlab's default gitleaks config"

# Extends default packaged path
path = "/gitleaks.toml"

  description = "allow list of test tokens to ignore in detection"
  regexTarget = "match"
  regexes = [

Specify a remote configuration file

Projects can be configured with a CI/CD variable in order to specify a ruleset configuration outside of the current repository.

The SECRET_DETECTION_RULESET_GIT_REFERENCE variable uses an SCP-style syntax for specifying a URI, optional authentication, and optional Git SHA. The variable uses the following format:


NOTE: A local .gitlab/secret-detection-ruleset.toml file in the project takes precedence over SECRET_DETECTION_RULESET_GIT_REFERENCE.

The following example includes the Secret Detection template in a project to be scanned and specifies the SECRET_DETECTION_RULESET_GIT_REFERENCE variable for referencing a separate project configuration.

  - template: Jobs/Secret-Detection.gitlab-ci.yml


For more information on the syntax of remote configurations and how to troubleshoot, see the specify a private remote configuration example on the SAST customize rulesets page.

Running Secret Detection in an offline environment

DETAILS: Tier: Premium, Ultimate Offering: Self-managed

An offline environment has limited, restricted, or intermittent access to external resources through the internet. For self-managed GitLab instances in such an environment, Secret Detection requires some configuration changes. The instructions in this section must be completed together with the instructions detailed in offline environments.

Configure GitLab Runner

By default, a runner tries to pull Docker images from the GitLab container registry even if a local copy is available. You should use this default setting, to ensure Docker images remain current. However, if no network connectivity is available, you must change the default GitLab Runner pull_policy variable.

Configure the GitLab Runner CI/CD variable pull_policy to if-not-present.

Use local Secret Detection analyzer image

Use a local Secret Detection analyzer image if you want to obtain the image from a local Docker registry instead of the GitLab container registry.


  • Importing Docker images into a local offline Docker registry depends on your network security policy. Consult your IT staff to find an accepted and approved process to import or temporarily access external resources.
  1. Import the default Secret Detection analyzer image from into your local Docker container registry:

    The Secret Detection analyzer's image is periodically updated so you should periodically update the local copy.

  2. Set the CI/CD variable SECURE_ANALYZERS_PREFIX to the local Docker container registry.

      - template: Jobs/Secret-Detection.gitlab-ci.yml
      SECURE_ANALYZERS_PREFIX: "localhost:5000/analyzers"

The Secret Detection job should now use the local copy of the Secret Detection analyzer Docker image, without requiring internet access.

Configure a custom Certificate Authority

To trust a custom Certificate Authority, set the ADDITIONAL_CA_CERT_BUNDLE variable to the bundle of CA certificates that you trust. Do this either in the .gitlab-ci.yml file, in a file variable, or as a CI/CD variable.

  • In the .gitlab-ci.yml file, the ADDITIONAL_CA_CERT_BUNDLE value must contain the text representation of the X.509 PEM public-key certificate.

    For example:

          -----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----
          -----END CERTIFICATE-----
  • If using a file variable, set the value of ADDITIONAL_CA_CERT_BUNDLE to the path to the certificate.

  • If using a variable, set the value of ADDITIONAL_CA_CERT_BUNDLE to the text representation of the certificate.

Warnings for potential leaks in text content

  • Introduced in GitLab 15.11.
  • Detection of personal access tokens with a custom prefix was introduced in GitLab 16.1. GitLab self-managed only.

When you create an issue, propose a merge request, or write a comment, you might accidentally post a sensitive value. For example, you might paste in the details of an API request or an environment variable that contains an authentication token.

GitLab checks if the text of your issue description, merge request description, comment, or reply contains a sensitive token. If a token is found, a warning message is displayed. You can then edit your message before posting it. This check happens in your browser before the message is sent to the server. The check is always on; you don't have to set it up.

Your text is checked for the following secret types:

This feature is separate from Secret Detection scanning, which checks your Git repository for leaked secrets. Issue 405147 tracks efforts to align these two types of protection.


Debug-level logging

Debug-level logging can help when troubleshooting. For details, see debug-level logging.

Warning: gl-secret-detection-report.json: no matching files

For information on this, see the general Application Security troubleshooting section.

Error: Couldn't run the gitleaks command: exit status 2

The Secret Detection analyzer relies on generating patches between commits to scan content for secrets. If the number of commits in a merge request is greater than the value of the GIT_DEPTH CI/CD variable, Secret Detection fails to detect secrets.

For example, you could have a pipeline triggered from a merge request containing 60 commits and the GIT_DEPTH variable set to less than 60. In that case the Secret Detection job fails because the clone is not deep enough to contain all of the relevant commits. To verify the current value, see pipeline configuration.

To confirm this as the cause of the error, enable debug-level logging, then rerun the pipeline. The logs should look similar to the following example. The text "object not found" is a symptom of this error.

ERRO[2020-11-18T18:05:52Z] object not found
[ERRO] [secrets] [2020-11-18T18:05:52Z] ▶ Couldn't run the gitleaks command: exit status 2
[ERRO] [secrets] [2020-11-18T18:05:52Z] ▶ Gitleaks analysis failed: exit status 2

To resolve the issue, set the GIT_DEPTH CI/CD variable to a higher value. To apply this only to the Secret Detection job, the following can be added to your .gitlab-ci.yml file:

    GIT_DEPTH: 100

Error: ERR fatal: ambiguous argument

Secret Detection can fail with the message ERR fatal: ambiguous argument error if your repository's default branch is unrelated to the branch the job was triggered for. See issue !352014 for more details.

To resolve the issue, make sure to correctly set your default branch on your repository. You should set it to a branch that has related history with the branch you run the secret-detection job on.

exec /bin/sh: exec format error message in job log

The GitLab Secret Detection analyzer only supports running on the amd64 CPU architecture. This message indicates that the job is being run on a different architecture, such as arm.