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GitLab Security Incident Response Guide

GitLab Security Incident Response Guide

This living guide is intended to explain to users the why, when, and how of security incident response at GitLab.

Engaging Security Operations

If an urgent security incident has been identified or you suspect an incident may have occurred, please refer to Engaging the Security On-Call.

Security Operations On-Call

The Security Operations team is on-call 24/7/365 to assist with any security incidents. Information about SecOps on-call responsibilities and incident ownership is available in the On-Call Guide.

Incident Identification

Security incident investigations are initiated when a security event has been detected on or as part of the GitLab company. These investigations are handled with the same level of urgency and priority regardless of whether it's a single user or multiple projects.

Indicators can be reported to Security Operations either internally, by a GitLab team member, or externally. It is the Security team's responsibility to determine when to investigate, dependent on the identification and verification of a security incident.

The GitLab Security team identifies security incidents as any violation, or threat of violation, of GitLab security, acceptable use or other relevant policies.


Security incidents may (and usually do) involve sensitive information related to GitLab, GitLab's customers or employees, or users who (in one way or another) have engaged with GitLab. GitLab, while codifying the Transparency value, also strongly believes in and strives to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of the data its' employees, customers, and users have entrusted us with.

A confidential issue means any data within the issue and any discussions about the issue or investigation are to be kept to GitLab employees only unless permission is explicitly granted by GitLab Legal, GitLab Security Director, or the GitLab Executive Team.

Incident Tracking

Security incident investigations must begin by opening a tracking issue in the Security Operations project and using the Incident Response template. This tracking issue will be the primary location where all work and resulting data collection will reside throughout the investigation.

All artifacts from an investigation must be handled per the Artifact Handling and Sharing internal only runbook.

NOTE: The tracking issue, any collected data, and all other engagements involved in a Security Incident must be kept strictly confidential.

Incident Severity

Assigning severity to an incident isn't an exact science and it takes some rational concepts mixed with past experiences and gut feelings to decide how bad a situation may be. When considering severity, look at:

After taking these types of questions into consideration, review the Overall Impact to help place a severity rating on the incident.

Data Breach Notification Policy

Internal Engagement & Escalation

Coordinate with internal teams and prepare for the incident investigation:

In the event that an incident needs to be escalated within GitLab, the Security Engineer On Call will page the Security Incident Manager On Call (SIMOC). It is the responsibility of the SIMOC to direct response activities, gather technical resources from required teams, coordinate communication efforts with the Communications Manager On Call, and further escalate the incident as necessary.

Characteristics of an incident requiring escalation include but are not limited to the following:


Once an incident has been identified and its severity set, the incident responder must attempt to limit the damage that has already occurred and prevent any further damage from occurring.

The first step in this process is to identify impacted resources and determine a course of action to contain the incident while potentially also preserving evidence. Containment strategies will vary based on the type of incident but can be as simple as marking an issue confidential to prevent information disclosure or to block access to a network segment.

It's important to remember the containment phase is typically a stop-gap measure to limit damage and not to produce a long term fix for the underlying problem. Additionally the impact of the mitigation on the service must be weighed against the severity of the incident.

Remediation and Recovery

During the remediation and recovery phase the incident responder will work to ensure impacted resources are secured and prepared to return the service to the production environment. This process may involve removing malicious or illicit content, updating access controls, deploying patches and hardening systems, redeploying systems completely, or a variety of other tasks depending on the type of incident.

A Root Cause Analysis will be completed to guide the remediation and recovery process. Careful planning is required to ensure successful recovery and prevention of repeat incidents. The incident responder coordinate impacted teams to test and validate all remediations prior to deployment.

This phase should prioritize short term changes that improve the overall security of impacted systems while the full recovery process may take several months as longer term improvements are developed.


Upon completing the containment, remediation, communication and verification of impacted services, the incident will be considered resolved and the incident issues may be closed.

The incident response process will move on to a post-mortem and lessons learned phase through which the process improvements and overall security of the organization can be analyzed and strengthened.

Internal & External Communication

Our security incident communication plan defines the who, what, when, and how of GitLab in notifying internal stakeholders and external customers of security incidents.

Engaging Law Enforcement

If during the course of investigating a security event the incident itself, materials involved in the incident (stored data, traffic/connections, etc), or actions surrounding the incident are deemed illegal in the United States, it may be necessary (and advisable) to engage U.S. law enforcement.

  1. The Security Engineer On-Call will immediately escalate to the Director of Security to raise awareness of the legal concern
  2. Following review, the Engineer and Director will engage the the VP of Legal for validation of next steps
  3. Director of Security will then contact the appropriate U.S. legal agency