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Thomas H Jones II
Thomas H Jones II

Posted on • Originally published at on

Isolated Network, You Say

The vast majority of my clients, for the past decade and a half, have been very security conscious. The frequency with which other companies end up in the news for data-leaks — either due to hackers or simply leaving an S3 bucket inadequately protected — has made many of them extremely cautious as they move to the cloud.

One of my customers has been particularly wary. As a result, their move to the cloud has included significant use of very locked-down and, in some cases, isolated VPCs. It has made implementing things both challenging and frustrating.

Most recently, I had to implement self-hosted GitLab solution within a locked down VPC. And, when I say "locked down VPC", I mean that even the standard AWS service-endpoints have been (effectively) replaced with custom, heavily-controlled endpoints. It's, uh, fun.

As I was deploying a new GitLab instance, I noticed that its backup jobs were failing. Yeah, I'd done what I thought was sufficient configuration via the gitlab.rb file's gitlab_rails['backup_upload_connection'] configuration-block. I'd even dug into the documentation to find the juju necessary for specifying the requisite custom-endpoint. While I'd ended up following a false lead to the documentation for fog (the Ruby module GitLab uses to interact with cloud-based storage options), I ultimately found the requisite setting is in the Digital Ocean section of the backup and restore document (simply enough, it requires setting an appropriate value for the "endpoint" parameter).

However, that turned out to not be enough. When I looked through git's error logs, I saw that it was getting SSL errors from the Excon Ruby module. Yes, everything in the VPC was using certificates from a private certificate authority (CA), but I'd installed the root CA into the OS's trust-chain. All the OS level tools were fine with using certificates from the private CA. All of the AWS CLIs and SDKs were similarly fine (since I'd included logic to ensure they were all pointing at the OS trust-store) - doing aws s3 ls (etc.) worked as one would expect. So, ended up digging around some more. Found the in-depth configuration-guidance for SSL and the note at the beginning of the Details on how GitLab and SSL work section:

GitLab-Omnibus includes its own library of OpenSSL and links all compiled programs (e.g. Ruby, PostgreSQL, etc.) against this library. This library is compiled to look for certificates in /opt/gitlab/embedded/ssl/certs.

This told me I was on the right path. Indeed, reading down just a page-scroll further, I found:

Note that the OpenSSL library supports the definition of SSL_CERT_FILE and SSL_CERT_DIR environment variables. The former defines the default certificate bundle to load, while the latter defines a directory in which to search for more certificates. These variables should not be necessary if you have added certificates to the trusted-certs directory. However, if for some reason you need to set them, they can be defined as envirnoment variables.

So, I added a:

gitlab\_rails['env'] = {
    "SSL\_CERT\_FILE" => "/etc/pki/tls/certs/ca-bundle.crt"

To my gitlab.rb and did a quick gitlab-ctl reconfigure to make the new settings active in the running service. Afterwards, my GitLab backups to S3 worked without further issue.


  • We currently use the Omnibus installation of GitLab. Methods for altering source-built installations will be different. See the GitLab documentation.
  • The above path for the SSL_CERT_FILE parameter is appropriate for RedHat/CentOS 7. If using a different distro, consult your distro's manuals for the appropriate location.

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