Container Scanning (ULTIMATE)

Introduced in GitLab Ultimate 10.4.


If you are using GitLab CI/CD, you can check your Docker images (or more precisely the containers) for known vulnerabilities by using Clair and klar, two open source tools for Vulnerability Static Analysis for containers.

You can take advantage of Container Scanning by either including the CI job in your existing .gitlab-ci.yml file or by implicitly using Auto Container Scanning that is provided by Auto DevOps.

GitLab checks the Container Scanning report, compares the found vulnerabilities between the source and target branches, and shows the information right on the merge request.

Container Scanning Widget

Use cases

If you distribute your application with Docker, then there's a great chance that your image is based on other Docker images that may in turn contain some known vulnerabilities that could be exploited.

Having an extra job in your pipeline that checks for those vulnerabilities, and the fact that they are displayed inside a merge request, makes it very easy to perform audits for your Docker-based apps.


To enable Container Scanning in your pipeline, you need:

  • A GitLab Runner with the docker or kubernetes executor.

  • Docker 18.09.03 or higher installed on the machine where the Runners are running. If you're using the shared Runners on, this is already the case.

  • To build and push your Docker image to your project's Container Registry. The name of the Docker image should use the following predefined environment variables as defined below:


    These can be used directly in your .gitlab-ci.yml file:

      image: docker:19.03.1
      stage: build
        - docker:19.03.1-dind
        - docker build -t $IMAGE_TAG .
        - docker push $IMAGE_TAG


For GitLab 11.9 and later, to enable Container Scanning, you must include the Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml template that's provided as a part of your GitLab installation. For GitLab versions earlier than 11.9, you can copy and use the job as defined in that template.

Add the following to your .gitlab-ci.yml file:

  - template: Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml

The included template will:

  1. Create a container_scanning job in your CI/CD pipeline.
  2. Pull the already built Docker image from your project's Container Registry (see requirements) and scan it for possible vulnerabilities.

The results will be saved as a Container Scanning report artifact that you can later download and analyze. Due to implementation limitations, we always take the latest Container Scanning artifact available. Behind the scenes, the GitLab Klar analyzer is used and runs the scans.

The following is a sample .gitlab-ci.yml that will build your Docker image, push it to the Container Registry, and run Container Scanning:

  DOCKER_DRIVER: overlay2

  - docker:19.03.5-dind

  - build
  - test

  image: docker:stable
  stage: build
    - docker info
    - docker login -u gitlab-ci-token -p $CI_JOB_TOKEN $CI_REGISTRY
    - docker build -t $IMAGE .
    - docker push $IMAGE

  - template: Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml

Customizing the Container Scanning settings

You can change container scanning settings by using the variables parameter in your .gitlab-ci.yml to change environment variables.

In the following example, we include the template and also set the CLAIR_OUTPUT variable to High:

  template: Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml


The CLAIR_OUTPUT variable defined in the main gitlab-ci.yml will overwrite what's defined in Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml, changing the Container Scanning behavior.

Available variables

Container Scanning can be configured using environment variables.

Environment Variable Description Default
KLAR_TRACE Set to true to enable more verbose output from klar. "false"
DOCKER_USER Username for accessing a Docker registry requiring authentication. $CI_REGISTRY_USER
DOCKER_PASSWORD Password for accessing a Docker registry requiring authentication. $CI_REGISTRY_PASSWORD
CLAIR_OUTPUT Severity level threshold. Vulnerabilities with severity level higher than or equal to this threshold will be outputted. Supported levels are Unknown, Negligible, Low, Medium, High, Critical and Defcon1. Unknown
REGISTRY_INSECURE Allow Klar to access insecure registries (HTTP only). Should only be set to true when testing the image locally. "false"
DOCKER_INSECURE Allow Klar to access secure Docker registries using HTTPS with bad (or self-signed) SSL certificates. "false"
CLAIR_VULNERABILITIES_DB_URL (DEPRECATED - use CLAIR_DB_CONNECTION_STRING instead) This variable is explicitly set in the services section of the Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml file and defaults to clair-vulnerabilities-db. This value represents the address that the Postgres server hosting the vulnerabilities definitions is running on and shouldn't be changed unless you're running the image locally as described in the Running the standalone Container Scanning Tool section. clair-vulnerabilities-db
CLAIR_DB_CONNECTION_STRING This variable represents the connection string to the Postgres server hosting the vulnerabilities definitions database and shouldn't be changed unless you're running the image locally as described in the Running the standalone Container Scanning Tool section. The host value for the connection string must match the alias value of the Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml template file, which defaults to clair-vulnerabilities-db. postgresql://postgres:password@clair-vulnerabilities-db:5432/postgres?sslmode=disable&statement_timeout=60000
CI_APPLICATION_REPOSITORY Docker repository URL for the image to be scanned. $CI_REGISTRY_IMAGE/$CI_COMMIT_REF_SLUG
CI_APPLICATION_TAG Docker respository tag for the image to be scanned. $CI_COMMIT_SHA
CLAIR_DB_IMAGE The Docker image name and tag for the Postgres server hosting the vulnerabilities definitions. It can be useful to override this value with a specific version, for example, to provide a consistent set of vulnerabilities for integration testing purposes, or to refer to a locally hosted vulnerabilities database for an on-premise air-gapped installation. arminc/clair-db:latest
CLAIR_DB_IMAGE_TAG (DEPRECATED - use CLAIR_DB_IMAGE instead) The Docker image tag for the Postgres server hosting the vulnerabilities definitions. It can be useful to override this value with a specific version, for example, to provide a consistent set of vulnerabilities for integration testing purposes. latest
DOCKERFILE_PATH The path to the Dockerfile to be used for generating remediations. By default, the scanner will look for a file named Dockerfile in the root directory of the project, so this variable should only be configured if your Dockerfile is in a non-standard location, such as a subdirectory. See Solutions for vulnerabilities for more details. Dockerfile
ADDITIONAL_CA_CERT_BUNDLE Bundle of CA certs that you want to trust. ""

Overriding the Container Scanning template

If you want to override the job definition (for example, change properties like variables), you need to declare a container_scanning job after the template inclusion and specify any additional keys under it. For example:

  template: Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml

    GIT_STRATEGY: fetch

Vulnerability whitelisting

If you want to whitelist specific vulnerabilities, you'll need to:

  1. Set GIT_STRATEGY: fetch in your .gitlab-ci.yml file by following the instructions described in the overriding the Container Scanning template section of this document.
  2. Define the whitelisted vulnerabilities in a YAML file named clair-whitelist.yml which must use the format described in the whitelist example file.
  3. Add the clair-whitelist.yml file to the Git repository of your project.

Running Container Scanning in an offline, air-gapped installation

Container Scanning can be executed on an offline air-gapped GitLab Ultimate installation using the following process:

  1. Host the following Docker images on a local Docker container registry:

  2. Override the container scanning template in your .gitlab-ci.yml file to refer to the Docker images hosted on your local Docker container registry:

      - template: Container-Scanning.gitlab-ci.yml
      image: $CI_REGISTRY/namespace/gitlab-klar-analyzer
        CLAIR_DB_IMAGE: $CI_REGISTRY/namespace/clair-vulnerabilities-db
  3. If your local Docker container registry is running securely over HTTPS, but you're using a self-signed certificate, then you must set DOCKER_INSECURE: true in the above container_scanning section of your .gitlab-ci.yml.

It may be worthwhile to set up a scheduled pipeline to automatically build a new version of the vulnerabilities database on a preset schedule. You can use the following as a template:

image: docker:stable

  - docker:19.03.5-dind

  - build

  stage: build
    - docker pull arminc/clair-db:latest
    - docker tag arminc/clair-db:latest $CI_REGISTRY/namespace/clair-vulnerabilities-db
    - docker login -u gitlab-ci-token -p $CI_JOB_TOKEN $CI_REGISTRY
    - docker push $CI_REGISTRY/namespace/clair-vulnerabilities-db

The above template will work for a GitLab Docker registry running on a local installation, however, if you're using a non-GitLab Docker registry, you'll need to change the $CI_REGISTRY value and the docker login credentials to match the details of your local registry.

Running the standalone Container Scanning Tool

It's possible to run the GitLab Container Scanning Tool against a Docker container without needing to run it within the context of a CI job. To scan an image directly, follow these steps:

  1. Run Docker Desktop or Docker Machine.

  2. Run the latest prefilled vulnerabilities database Docker image:

    docker run -p 5432:5432 -d --name clair-db arminc/clair-db:latest
  3. Configure an environment variable to point to your local machine's IP address (or insert your IP address instead of the LOCAL_MACHINE_IP_ADDRESS variable in the CLAIR_DB_CONNECTION_STRING in the next step):

    export LOCAL_MACHINE_IP_ADDRESS=your.local.ip.address
  4. Run the analyzer's Docker image, passing the image and tag you want to analyze in the CI_APPLICATION_REPOSITORY and CI_APPLICATION_TAG environment variables:

    docker run \
      --interactive --rm \
      --volume "$PWD":/tmp/app \
      -e CI_PROJECT_DIR=/tmp/app \
      -e CLAIR_DB_CONNECTION_STRING="postgresql://postgres:password@${LOCAL_MACHINE_IP_ADDRESS}:5432/postgres?sslmode=disable&statement_timeout=60000" \
      -e \
      -e CI_APPLICATION_TAG=bc09fe2e0721dfaeee79364115aeedf2174cce0947b9ae5fe7c33312ee019a4e \

The results are stored in gl-container-scanning-report.json.

Reports JSON format

CAUTION: Caution: The JSON report artifacts are not a public API of Container Scanning and their format may change in the future.

The Container Scanning tool emits a JSON report file. Here is an example of the report structure with all important parts of it highlighted:

  "version": "2.3",
  "vulnerabilities": [
      "category": "container_scanning",
      "message": "CVE-2019-3462 in apt",
      "description": "Incorrect sanitation of the 302 redirect field in HTTP transport method of apt versions 1.4.8 and earlier can lead to content injection by a MITM attacker, potentially leading to remote code execution on the target machine.",
      "cve": "debian:9:apt:CVE-2019-3462",
      "severity": "High",
      "confidence": "Unknown",
      "solution": "Upgrade apt from 1.4.8 to 1.4.9",
      "scanner": {
        "id": "klar",
        "name": "klar"
      "location": {
        "dependency": {
          "package": {
            "name": "apt"
          "version": "1.4.8"
        "operating_system": "debian:9",
        "image": ""
      "identifiers": [
          "type": "cve",
          "name": "CVE-2019-3462",
          "value": "CVE-2019-3462",
          "url": ""
      "links": [
          "url": ""
  "remediations": [
      "fixes": [
          "cve": "debian:9:apt:CVE-2019-3462"
      "summary": "Upgrade apt from 1.4.8 to 1.4.9",
      "diff": "YXB0LWdldCB1cGRhdGUgJiYgYXB0LWdldCB1cGdyYWRlIC15IGFwdA=="

CAUTION: Deprecation: Beginning with GitLab 12.9, container scanning no longer reports undefined severity and confidence levels.

Here is the description of the report file structure nodes and their meaning. All fields are mandatory to be present in the report JSON unless stated otherwise. Presence of optional fields depends on the underlying analyzers being used.

Report JSON node Description
version Report syntax version used to generate this JSON.
vulnerabilities Array of vulnerability objects.
vulnerabilities[].category Where this vulnerability belongs (for example, SAST or Container Scanning). For Container Scanning, it will always be container_scanning.
vulnerabilities[].message A short text that describes the vulnerability, it may include occurrence's specific information. Optional.
vulnerabilities[].description A long text that describes the vulnerability. Optional.
vulnerabilities[].cve A fingerprint string value that represents a concrete occurrence of the vulnerability. It's used to determine whether two vulnerability occurrences are same or different. May not be 100% accurate. This is NOT a CVE.
vulnerabilities[].severity How much the vulnerability impacts the software. Possible values: Undefined (an analyzer has not provided this info), Info, Unknown, Low, Medium, High, Critical. Note: Our current container scanning tool based on klar only provides the following levels: Unknown, Low, Medium, High, Critical.
vulnerabilities[].confidence How reliable the vulnerability's assessment is. Possible values: Undefined (an analyzer has not provided this info), Ignore, Unknown, Experimental, Low, Medium, High, Confirmed. Note: Our current container scanning tool based on klar does not provide a confidence level, so this value is currently hardcoded to Unknown.
vulnerabilities[].solution Explanation of how to fix the vulnerability. Optional.
vulnerabilities[].scanner A node that describes the analyzer used to find this vulnerability.
vulnerabilities[] Id of the scanner as a snake_case string.
vulnerabilities[] Name of the scanner, for display purposes.
vulnerabilities[].location A node that tells where the vulnerability is located.
vulnerabilities[].location.dependency A node that describes the dependency of a project where the vulnerability is located.
vulnerabilities[].location.dependency.package A node that provides the information on the package where the vulnerability is located.
vulnerabilities[] Name of the package where the vulnerability is located.
vulnerabilities[].location.dependency.version Version of the vulnerable package. Optional.
vulnerabilities[].location.operating_system The operating system that contains the vulnerable package.
vulnerabilities[].location.image The Docker image that was analyzed.
vulnerabilities[].identifiers An ordered array of references that identify a vulnerability on internal or external DBs.
vulnerabilities[].identifiers[].type Type of the identifier. Possible values: common identifier types (among cve, cwe, osvdb, and usn).
vulnerabilities[].identifiers[].name Name of the identifier for display purpose.
vulnerabilities[].identifiers[].value Value of the identifier for matching purpose.
vulnerabilities[].identifiers[].url URL to identifier's documentation. Optional.
vulnerabilities[].links An array of references to external documentation pieces or articles that describe the vulnerability further. Optional.
vulnerabilities[].links[].name Name of the vulnerability details link. Optional.
vulnerabilities[].links[].url URL of the vulnerability details document. Optional.
remediations An array of objects containing information on cured vulnerabilities along with patch diffs to apply. Empty if no remediations provided by an underlying analyzer.
remediations[].fixes An array of strings that represent references to vulnerabilities fixed by this particular remediation.
remediations[].fixes[].cve A string value that describes a fixed vulnerability occurrence in the same format as vulnerabilities[].cve.
remediations[].summary Overview of how the vulnerabilities have been fixed.
remediations[].diff base64-encoded remediation code diff, compatible with git apply.

Security Dashboard

The Security Dashboard shows you an overview of all the security vulnerabilities in your groups, projects and pipelines.

Vulnerabilities database update

For more information about the vulnerabilities database update, check the maintenance table.

Interacting with the vulnerabilities

Once a vulnerability is found, you can interact with it.

Solutions for vulnerabilities (auto-remediation)

Some vulnerabilities can be fixed by applying the solution that GitLab automatically generates.

To enable remediation support, the scanning tool must have access to the Dockerfile specified by the DOCKERFILE_PATH environment variable. To ensure that the scanning tool has access to this file, it's necessary to set GIT_STRATEGY: fetch in your .gitlab-ci.yml file by following the instructions described in this document's overriding the Container Scanning template section.

Read more about the solutions for vulnerabilities.


docker: Error response from daemon: failed to copy xattrs

When the GitLab Runner uses the Docker executor and NFS is used (for example, /var/lib/docker is on an NFS mount), Container Scanning might fail with an error like the following:

docker: Error response from daemon: failed to copy xattrs: failed to set xattr "security.selinux" on /path/to/file: operation not supported.

This is a result of a bug in Docker which is now fixed. To prevent the error, ensure the Docker version that the Runner is using is 18.09.03 or higher. For more information, see issue #10241.