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FIPS compliance

FIPS is short for "Federal Information Processing Standard", a document which defines certain security practices for a "cryptographic module" (CM). It aims to ensure a certain security floor is met by vendors selling products to U.S. Federal institutions.

WARNING: You can build a FIPS-compliant instance of GitLab, but not all features are included. A FIPS-compliant instance must be configured following the FIPS install instructions exactly.

There are two current FIPS standards: 140-2 and 140-3. At GitLab we usually mean FIPS 140-2.

Current status

GitLab has completed FIPS 140-2 Compliance for the build specified in this documentation. You can find our FIPS 140-2 Attestation in our customer assurance package, specifically the community package.

FIPS compliance at GitLab

To be compliant, all components (GitLab itself, Gitaly, etc) must be compliant, along with the communication between those components, and any storage used by them. Where functionality cannot be brought into compliance, it must be disabled when FIPS mode is enabled. FIPS-compliant cryptography means that a cryptographic operation leverages a FIPS-validated module.

Leveraged Cryptographic modules

The following list is for reference purposes only and is not dynamically updated. The latest CMVP certificates for the modules below will apply.

Cryptographic module name CMVP number Instance type Software component used
Ubuntu 20.04 AWS Kernel Crypto API Cryptographic Module 4366 EC2 (Omnibus) Linux kernel
Ubuntu 20.04 OpenSSL Cryptographic Module 4292 EC2 (Omnibus) Gitaly, Rails (Puma/Sidekiq)
Ubuntu 20.04 Libgcrypt Cryptographic Module 3902 EC2 (Omnibus) gpg, sshd
Amazon Linux 2 Kernel Crypto API Cryptographic Module 4593 EKS nodes Linux kernel
Amazon Linux 2 OpenSSL Cryptographic Module 4548 EKS nodes EKS
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 OpenSSL Cryptographic Module 4642 GitLab Helm chart UBI containers: Workhorse, Pages, container registry, Rails (Puma/Sidekiq), Security Analyzers, gitlab-sshd
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 Libgcrypt Cryptographic Module 4438 GitLab Helm chart UBI containers: GitLab Shell, gpg

Supported Operating Systems

The supported hybrid platforms are:

  • Omnibus GitLab: Ubuntu 20.04 LTS
  • Cloud Native GitLab: Amazon Linux 2 (EKS)

Unsupported features in FIPS mode

Some GitLab features may not work when FIPS mode is enabled. The following features are known to not work in FIPS mode. However, there may be additional features not listed here that also do not work properly in FIPS mode:

Additionally, these package repositories are disabled in FIPS mode:

FIPS compliance vs FIPS validation at GitLab

GitLab does not fork or modify cryptographic binaries (for example OpenSSL) in its FIPS-compliant software releases but instead uses existing, FIPS-validated crytographic software (modules). GitLab therefore does not need to submit its software through the NIST Cryptographic Module Valiation Program (CMVP) independent laboratory testing. Instead, GitLab must use FIPS-validated software (listed in Cryptographic Module Validation Program) that has an active CMVP certificate and ensure it is enabled for all cryptographic operations.

FIPS-compliant cryptography means that a cryptographic operation uses a FIPS-validated module. FIPS mode must be enabled on one or both sides of every communication session (that is, client, server, or both). Enabling FIPS mode on the client ensures that the client uses strong cryptographic algorithms that are compliant with FIPS 140-3/FIPS 140-2 for encryption, hashing, and signing. If FIPS mode is not enabled on the client, it must be implemented on the server-side or application load balancer or proxy server to allow for FIPS-compliant connections to be made.

Install GitLab with FIPS compliance

This guide is specifically for public users or GitLab team members with a requirement to run a production instance of GitLab that is FIPS compliant. This guide outlines a hybrid deployment using elements from both Omnibus and our Cloud Native GitLab installations.


  • Amazon Web Services account. Our first target environment is running on AWS, and uses other FIPS Compliant AWS resources. For many AWS resources, you must use a FIPS specific endpoint.
  • Ability to run Ubuntu 20.04 machines for GitLab. Our first target environment uses the hybrid architecture.
  • Advanced Search: GitLab does not provide a packaged Elastic or OpenSearch deployment. You must use a FIPS-compliant service or disable Advanced Search.

Set up a FIPS-enabled cluster

You can use the GitLab Environment Toolkit to spin up a FIPS-enabled cluster for development and testing. As mentioned in the prerequisites, these instructions use Amazon Web Services (AWS) because that is the first target environment.

Set up your environment

To get started, your AWS account must subscribe to a FIPS-enabled Amazon Machine Image (AMI) in the AWS Marketplace console.

This example assumes that the Ubuntu Pro 20.04 FIPS LTS AMI by Canonical Group Limited has been added your account. This operating system is used for virtual machines running in Amazon EC2.


The simplest way to get a FIPS-enabled GitLab cluster is to use an Omnibus reference architecture. See the GET Quick Start Guide for more details. The following instructions build on the Quick Start and are also necessary for Cloud Native Hybrid installations.

Terraform: Use a FIPS AMI

GitLab team members can view more information in this internal handbook page on how to use FIPS AMI:

Ansible: Specify the FIPS Omnibus builds

The standard Omnibus GitLab releases build their own OpenSSL library, which is not FIPS-validated. However, we have nightly builds that create Omnibus packages that link against the operating system's OpenSSL library. To use this package, update the gitlab_edition and gitlab_repo_script_url fields in the Ansible vars.yml.

GitLab team members can view more information in this internal handbook page on Ansible (AWS):

Cloud Native Hybrid

A Cloud Native Hybrid install uses both Omnibus and Cloud Native GitLab (CNG) images. The previous instructions cover the Omnibus part, but two additional steps are needed to enable FIPS in CNG:

  1. Use a custom Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) AMI.
  2. Use GitLab containers built with RedHat's Universal Base Image (UBI).
Build a custom EKS AMI

Because Amazon does not yet publish a FIPS-enabled AMI, you have to build one yourself with Packer.

Amazon publishes the following Git repositories with information about custom EKS AMIs:

This GitHub pull request makes it possible to create an Amazon Linux 2 EKS AMI with FIPS enabled for Kubernetes v1.21. To build an image:

  1. Install Packer.

  2. Run the following:

    git clone
    cd amazon-eks-ami
    git fetch origin pull/898/head:fips-ami
    git checkout fips-ami
    AWS_DEFAULT_REGION=us-east-1 make 1.21-fips # Be sure to set the region accordingly

If you are using a different version of Kubernetes, adjust the make command and Makefile accordingly.

When the AMI build is done, a new AMI should be created with a message such as the following:

==> Builds finished. The artifacts of successful builds are:
--> amazon-ebs: AMIs were created:
us-west-2: ami-0a25e760cd00b027e

In this example, the AMI ID is ami-0a25e760cd00b027e, but your value may be different.

Building a RHEL-based system with FIPS enabled should be possible, but there is an outstanding issue preventing the Packer build from completing.

Because this builds a custom AMI based on a specific version of an image, you must periodically rebuild the custom AMI to keep current with the latest security patches and upgrades.

Terraform: Use a custom EKS AMI

GitLab team members can view more information in this internal handbook page on how to use a custom EKS AMI:

Ansible: Use UBI images

CNG uses a Helm Chart to manage which container images to deploy. To use UBI-based containers, edit the Ansible vars.yml to use custom Charts variables:

    gitlab_charts_custom_config_file: '/path/to/gitlab-environment-toolkit/ansible/environments/gitlab-10k/inventory/charts.yml'

Now create charts.yml in the location specified above and specify tags with a -fips suffix.

See our Charts documentation on FIPS for more details, including an example values file as a reference.

You can also use release tags, but the versioning is tricky because each component may use its own versioning scheme. For example, for GitLab v15.2:

    tagSuffix: -fips
      tag: 20211220-r0
      tag: 1.18.20

      tag: v15.2.0
      tag: 11.17.1
      tag: v14.9.0
      tag: v15.2.0
      tag: v1.61.0
      tag: v15.2.0
      tag: v15.2.0
      tag: v15.2.0
      tag: v15.2.0
      tag: v15.2.0

FIPS Performance Benchmarking

The Quality Engineering Enablement team assists these efforts by checking if FIPS-enabled environments perform well compared to non-FIPS environments.

Testing shows an impact in some places, such as Gitaly SSL, but it's not large enough to impact customers.

You can find more information on FIPS performance benchmarking in the following issue:

Setting up a FIPS-enabled development environment

The simplest approach is to set up a virtual machine running Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.

Red Hat provide free licenses to developers, and permit the CD image to be downloaded from the Red Hat developer's portal. Registration is required.

After the virtual machine is set up, you can follow the GDK installation instructions, including the advanced instructions for RHEL. Note that asdf is not used for dependency management because it's essential to use the RedHat-provided Go compiler and other system dependencies.

Enable FIPS mode

After GDK and its dependencies are installed, run this command (as root) and restart the virtual machine:

fips-mode-setup --enable

You can check whether it's taken effect by running:

fips-mode-setup --check

In this environment, OpenSSL refuses to perform cryptographic operations forbidden by the FIPS standards. This enables you to reproduce FIPS-related bugs, and validate fixes.

You should be able to open a web browser inside the virtual machine and sign in to the GitLab instance.

You can disable FIPS mode again by running this command, then restarting the virtual machine:

fips-mode-setup --disable

Detect FIPS enablement in code

You can query Gitlab::FIPS in Ruby code to determine if the instance is FIPS-enabled:

def default_min_key_size(name)
  if Gitlab::FIPS.enabled?
    Gitlab::SSHPublicKey.supported_sizes(name).select(&:positive?).min || -1

Omnibus FIPS packages

GitLab has a dedicated repository (gitlab/gitlab-fips) for builds of the Omnibus GitLab which are built with FIPS compliance. These GitLab builds are compiled to use the system OpenSSL, instead of the Omnibus-embedded version of OpenSSL. These packages are built for:

  • RHEL 8 (and compatible)
  • AmazonLinux 2
  • Ubuntu

These are consumed by the GitLab Environment Toolkit (GET).

See the section on how FIPS builds are created.

Nightly Omnibus FIPS builds

The Distribution team has created nightly FIPS Omnibus builds, which can be used for testing purposes. These should never be used for production environments.


See the documentation on installing a FIPS-compliant GitLab Runner.

Verify FIPS

The following sections describe ways you can verify if FIPS is enabled.


$ cat /proc/sys/crypto/fips_enabled

Ruby (Omnibus images)

$ /opt/gitlab/embedded/bin/irb
irb(main):001:0> require 'openssl'; OpenSSL.fips_mode
=> true

Ruby (CNG images)

$ irb
irb(main):001:0> require 'openssl'; OpenSSL.fips_mode
=> true


Google maintains a dev.boringcrypto branch in the Go compiler that makes it possible to statically link BoringSSL, a FIPS-validated module forked from OpenSSL. However, BoringSSL is not intended for public use.

We use golang-fips, a fork of the dev.boringcrypto branch to build Go programs that dynamically link OpenSSL via dlopen. This has several advantages:

  • Using a FIPS-validated, system OpenSSL is straightforward.
  • This is the source code used by Red Hat's go-toolset package.
  • Unlike go-toolset, this fork appears to keep up with the latest Go releases.

However, cgo must be enabled via CGO_ENABLED=1 for this to work. There is a performance hit when calling into C code.

Projects that are compiled with golang-fips on Linux x86 automatically get built the crypto routines that use OpenSSL. While the boringcrypto build tag is automatically present, no extra build tags are actually needed. There are specific build tags that disable these crypto hooks.

We can check whether a given binary is using OpenSSL via go tool nm and look for symbols named Cfunc__goboringcrypto. For example:

$ go tool nm nginx-ingress-controller  | grep Cfunc__goboringcrypto | tail
 2a0b650 D crypto/internal/boring._cgo_71ae3cd1ca33_Cfunc__goboringcrypto_SHA384_Final
 2a0b658 D crypto/internal/boring._cgo_71ae3cd1ca33_Cfunc__goboringcrypto_SHA384_Init
 2a0b660 D crypto/internal/boring._cgo_71ae3cd1ca33_Cfunc__goboringcrypto_SHA384_Update
 2a0b668 D crypto/internal/boring._cgo_71ae3cd1ca33_Cfunc__goboringcrypto_SHA512_Final
 2a0b670 D crypto/internal/boring._cgo_71ae3cd1ca33_Cfunc__goboringcrypto_SHA512_Init
 2a0b678 D crypto/internal/boring._cgo_71ae3cd1ca33_Cfunc__goboringcrypto_SHA512_Update
 2a0b680 D crypto/internal/boring._cgo_71ae3cd1ca33_Cfunc__goboringcrypto_internal_ECDSA_sign
 2a0b688 D crypto/internal/boring._cgo_71ae3cd1ca33_Cfunc__goboringcrypto_internal_ECDSA_verify
 2a0b690 D crypto/internal/boring._cgo_71ae3cd1ca33_Cfunc__goboringcrypto_internal_ERR_error_string_n
 2a0b698 D crypto/internal/boring._cgo_71ae3cd1ca33_Cfunc__goboringcrypto_internal_ERR_get_error

In addition, LabKit contains routines to check whether FIPS is enabled.

How FIPS builds are created

Many GitLab projects (for example: Gitaly, GitLab Pages) have standardized on using FIPS_MODE=1 make to build FIPS binaries locally.


The Omnibus FIPS builds are triggered with the USE_SYSTEM_SSL environment variable set to true. When this environment variable is set, the Omnibus recipes dependencies such as curl, NGINX, and libgit2 will link against the system OpenSSL. OpenSSL will NOT be included in the Omnibus build.

The Omnibus builds are created using container images that use the golang-fips compiler. For example, this job created the image used to build packages for RHEL 8.

Add a new FIPS build for another Linux distribution

First, you need to make sure there is an Omnibus builder image for the desired Linux distribution. The images used to build Omnibus packages are created with Omnibus Builder images.

Review this merge request. A new image can be added by:

  1. Adding CI jobs with the _fips suffix (for example: ubuntu_18.04_fips).
  2. Making sure the Dockerfile uses fips).populate instead of

After this image has been tagged, add a new CI job to Omnibus GitLab.

Cloud Native GitLab (CNG)

The Cloud Native GitLab CI pipeline generates images using several base images:

UBI images ship with the same OpenSSL package as those used by RHEL. This makes it possible to build FIPS-compliant binaries without needing RHEL. Note that RHEL 8.2 ships a FIPS-validated OpenSSL, but 8.5 is in review for FIPS validation.

This merge request introduces a FIPS pipeline for CNG images. Images tagged for FIPS have the -fips suffix. For example, the webservice container has the following tags:

  • master
  • master-ubi8
  • master-fips

Base images for FIPS Builds

Testing merge requests with a FIPS pipeline

Merge requests that can trigger Package and QA, can trigger a FIPS package and a Reference Architecture test pipeline. The base image used for the trigger is Ubuntu 20.04 FIPS:

  1. Trigger e2e:package-and-test job, if not already triggered.
  2. On the gitlab-omnibus-mirror child pipeline, manually trigger Trigger:package:fips.
  3. When the package job is complete, manually trigger the RAT:FIPS job.