Smartcard authentication

Introduced in GitLab Premium 11.6 as an experimental feature. Smartcard authentication may change or be removed completely in future releases.

Smartcards with X.509 certificates can be used to authenticate with GitLab.

X.509 certificates

To use a smartcard with an X.509 certificate to authenticate with GitLab, CN and emailAddress must be defined in the certificate. For example:

        Version: 1 (0x0)
        Serial Number: 12856475246677808609 (0xb26b601ecdd555e1)
    Signature Algorithm: sha256WithRSAEncryption
        Issuer: O=Random Corp Ltd, CN=Random Corp
            Not Before: Oct 30 12:00:00 2018 GMT
            Not After : Oct 30 12:00:00 2019 GMT
        Subject: CN=Gitlab User,

Configure NGINX to request a client side certificate

In NGINX configuration, an additional server context must be defined with the same configuration except:

  • The additional NGINX server context must be configured to run on a different port:

    listen *:3444 ssl;
  • The additional NGINX server context must be configured to require the client side certificate:

    ssl_verify_depth 2;
    ssl_client_certificate /etc/ssl/certs/CA.pem;
    ssl_verify_client on;
  • The additional NGINX server context must be configured to forward the client side certificate:

    proxy_set_header    X-SSL-Client-Certificate    $ssl_client_escaped_cert;

For example, the following is an example server context in an NGINX configuration file (eg. in /etc/nginx/sites-available/gitlab-ssl):

server {
    listen *:3444 ssl;

    # certificate for configuring SSL
    ssl_certificate /path/to/;
    ssl_certificate_key /path/to/;

    ssl_verify_depth 2;
    # CA certificate for client side certificate verification
    ssl_client_certificate /etc/ssl/certs/CA.pem;
    ssl_verify_client on;

    location / {
        proxy_set_header    Host                        $http_host;
        proxy_set_header    X-Real-IP                   $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header    X-Forwarded-For             $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
        proxy_set_header    X-Forwarded-Proto           $scheme;
        proxy_set_header    Upgrade                     $http_upgrade;
        proxy_set_header    Connection                  $connection_upgrade;

        proxy_set_header    X-SSL-Client-Certificate    $ssl_client_escaped_cert;

        proxy_read_timeout 300;

        proxy_pass http://gitlab-workhorse;

Configure GitLab for smartcard authentication

For installations from source

  1. Edit config/gitlab.yml:
  ## Smartcard authentication settings
    # Allow smartcard authentication
    enabled: true

    # Path to a file containing a CA certificate
    ca_file: '/etc/ssl/certs/CA.pem'

    # Port where the client side certificate is requested by NGINX
    client_certificate_required_port: 3444
  1. Save the file and restart GitLab for the changes to take effect.