Perform a Compliance Scan in Chef Automate

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This documentation covers an outdated version of Chef Automate. See the Chef Automate site for current documentation. The new Chef Automate includes newer out-of-the-box compliance profiles, an improved compliance scanner with total cloud scanning functionality, better visualizations, role-based access control and many other features.

Scanning nodes in your Chef Automate cluster is enabled through the audit cookbook. This cookbook allows you to run InSpec profiles as part of a chef-client run. It downloads configured profiles from various sources like a standalone Chef Compliance server, Chef Automate, Chef Supermarket, or Git, and reports audit runs to Chef Compliance or Chef Automate.

This flexibility means chef-client runs using the audit cookbook can be performed in several different usage scenarios; however, this topic describes how to use the audit cookbook with the integrated profile storage and audit reporting functionality of Chef Automate to perform compliance testing.

The examples shown in this topic are meant to provide a quick way for you to see compliance data show up in Chef Automate. You could also wrap the audit cookbook in an existing cookbook, but this example will simply use the default recipe in the audit cookbook to run a profile against a node in your cluster. For more information and examples on how to use the audit cookbook, see the audit project repo in GitHub.


The standalone Chef Compliance server is deprecated. The standalone Chef Compliance server’s end-of-life date is December 31, 2018. Chef Automate 2 has all of the functionality of Chef Compliance Server and also includes newer out-of-the-box compliance profiles, an improved compliance scanner with total cloud scanning functionality, better visualizations, role-based access control and many other features not found in Chef Compliance Server.

If your workflow requires the use of the standalone Chef Compliance server, or you are using a previous version of Chef Automate (older than 0.8.5), see Integrate Compliance Server for information on how to use the audit cookbook to scan your nodes.


The following are required when using the built-in compliance capabilities of Chef Automate:

  • Chef client 12.16.42 or later must be installed on your nodes
  • Chef Automate server 0.8.5 or later
  • Chef server 12.11.1 or later
  • The audit cookbook 4.0 or later
  • ChefDK 1.4.3 or later installed on your workstation
  • InSpec 1.25.1 or later installed by the audit cookbook

Configure Data Collection on Chef server

To send node data through Chef server to Chef Automate, you must update the /etc/opscode/chef-server.rb file on your Chef server. This is needed for converge status and general node data, but it is also true for sending audit run data from nodes back to Chef Automate.

Edit /etc/opscode/chef-server.rb and add the following information. Token values and general data collection setup instructions are described in Configure Data Collection.

data_collector['root_url'] = ''
data_collector['token'] = 'TOKEN'
profiles['root_url'] = ''

After you have finished editing the file, run chef-server-ctl reconfigure to enable the changes.

Optional: Tune the Chef Server

For larger Inspec profiles, the Chef Server may need to be configured to accept increased request sizes. If you receive the error 413 Request Entity Too Large on your chef-client run, you can increase these settings from their default values to allow the Chef server to ingest more data from a chef-client run.

To make this change you’ll add the following configuration options to /etc/opscode/chef-server.rb. Further details about configuring and tuning your Chef server are described in Server Tuning.

opscode_erchef['max_request_size'] = '10000000'
nginx['client_max_body_size'] = '2500m'

After you have finished editing the file, run chef-server-ctl reconfigure to enable the changes.

Add Profiles to Chef Automate

Before you can see if your nodes are compliant, you need to have the profiles you intend to use uploaded to Chef Automate. Feel free to skip this section if you have already completed this process.

  1. Login to the Chef Automate UI as the admin user.

  2. Click the Compliance tab, then click Profile Store. You can use the Upload button on the right hand side of the page to upload profiles from your local machine. Chef Automate also has a set of built-in profiles that you can use. The example in the next section will reference the baseline Linux Security and SSH profiles found in this set.

  3. To use one of the existing profiles, click Profile Store within the Compliance tab, and click on Available to get a list of the profiles available to this Automate Server.

  4. Once you’ve made your selection, click Get next to the profile you’ve chosen to add to your collection. You will see it show up under Profiles.

  5. (Optional) This description will use two profiles for demonstration. To follow along, get the following profiles:
    • DevSec Linux Security Baseline
    • DevSec Windows Security Baseline
  6. (Optional) If you want to upload a profile from your local machine, click Upload.

    Select your profiles to upload and click Done when you are finished.


    Your profiles must be archived as tarballs with a .tar.gz extension.

Using the Audit Cookbook

The recommended method for using the audit cookbook is via a wrapper cookbook. A wrapper cookbook is a regular cookbook that includes recipes from other cookbooks. In case the wrapper cookbook will include audit::default.

Create the Wrapper Cookbook

Generate the wrapper cookbook:

chef generate cookbook mycompany_audit

Place the following in mycompany_audit/metadata.rb:

depends 'audit'

Add the following in mycompany_audit/recipes/default.rb:

include_recipe 'audit::default'

Generate the default attributes file:

chef generate attribute default

Configure the audit cookbook reporter to send scan data to Automate in the mycompany_wrapper/attributes/default.rb file. For an overview and supported configurations, see audit cookbook.

default['audit']['reporter'] = 'chef-server-automate'

To run the baseline compliance profile for Windows or Linux, depending on which OS runs on the node, add the following code in mycompany_audit/attributes/default.rb:

default['audit']['reporter'] = 'chef-server-automate'
case node['os']
when 'linux'
  default['audit']['profiles'] = [
      name: 'DevSec Linux Security Baseline',
      compliance: 'admin/linux-baseline',
when 'windows'
  default['audit']['profiles'] = [
      name: 'DevSec Windows Security Baseline',
      compliance: 'admin/windows-baseline',

Use Berkshelf to install cookbook dependencies and upload it to all Chef Servers.

berks install && berks upload

Collect Compliance Scan Data

You can add the mycompany_wrapper::default recipe to an existing run-list; however, in the example below, we will bootstrap a node with the mycompany_wrapper::default recipe and run a series of baseline checks against a new node. For more information, see knife bootstrap

knife bootstrap NODE_IP_OR_FQDN --ssh-user ADMIN_USERNAME --sudo --identity-file ~/.ssh/private_key.pem --run-list 'recipe[mycompany_wrapper::default]'

A truncated version of the bootstrap output is shown below:

localhost Running handlers:
localhost [2017-05-17T21:11:07+00:00] INFO: Running report handlers
localhost [2017-05-17T21:11:07+00:00] INFO: Initialize InSpec 1.24.0
localhost [2017-05-17T21:11:08+00:00] INFO: Running tests from: [{:name=>"DevSec Linux Security Baseline", :compliance=>"admin/linux-baseline"}, {:name=>"DevSec Windows Security Baseline", :compliance=>"admin/ssh-baseline"}]
localhost [2017-05-17T21:11:11+00:00] INFO: Reporting to chef-server-automate
localhost [2017-05-17T21:11:11+00:00] WARN: enriched_report: unsupported data type(Array) for attribute
localhost [2017-05-17T21:11:11+00:00] INFO: Report to Chef Automate via Chef Server: https://chef-server.test/organizations/automatespecific/data-collector
localhost   - Chef::Handler::AuditReport
localhost Running handlers complete
localhost [2017-05-17T21:11:11+00:00] INFO: Report handlers complete
localhost Chef Client finished, 0/2 resources updated in 18 seconds


The audit cookbook also requires a time synchronization policy to be in place, such as Network Time Protocol (NTP).

View the results in Chef Automate

When you go back to your Chef Automate UI under the Compliance tab, the Reporting dashboard should be visible. By alternating between Node Status and Profile Status views, you can view the scan results depending on which view is most important to you. The following shows some of the scan results on the bootstrapped node.


Next Steps