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Customizing analysis with CodeQL packs

You can use CodeQL packs to run CodeQL queries maintained by other people, or to share CodeQL queries that you've developed.

GitHub CodeQL is licensed on a per-user basis upon installation. You can use CodeQL only for certain tasks under the license restrictions. For more information, see "About the CodeQL CLI."

If you have a GitHub Advanced Security license, you can use CodeQL for automated analysis, continuous integration, and continuous delivery. For more information, see "About GitHub Advanced Security."

Note: The CodeQL package management functionality, including CodeQL packs, is currently available as a beta release and is subject to change. During the beta release, CodeQL packs are available only using GitHub Packages - the Container registry. To use this beta functionality, install the latest version of the CodeQL CLI bundle from:

About CodeQL packs

CodeQL packs are used to create, share, depend on, and run CodeQL queries and libraries. You can publish your own CodeQL packs and download packs created by others. CodeQL packs contain queries, library files, query suites, and metadata.

There are three types of CodeQL packs: query packs, library packs, and model packs.

  • Query packs contain a set of pre-compiled queries that can be evaluated on a CodeQL database. Query parks are designed to be run. When a query pack is published, the bundle includes all the transitive dependencies and pre-compiled representations of each query, in addition to the query sources. This ensures consistent and efficient execution of the queries in the pack.

  • Library packs are designed to be used by query packs (or other library packs) and do not contain queries themselves. The libraries are not compiled separately.

  • Model packs can be used to expand code scanning analysis to recognize libraries and frameworks that are not supported by default. Model packs are currently in beta and subject to change. During the beta, model packs are available for Java analysis at the repository level. For more information about creating your own model packs, see "Creating and working with CodeQL packs."

You can use the package management commands in the CodeQL CLI to create CodeQL packs, add dependencies to packs, and install or update dependencies. For more information, see "Creating and working with CodeQL packs." You can also publish and download CodeQL packs using the CodeQL CLI. For more information, see "Publishing and using CodeQL packs."

The standard CodeQL packages for all supported languages are published in the Container registry. The CodeQL repository contains source files for the standard CodeQL packs for all supported languages.

CodeQL pack structure

A CodeQL pack must contain a file called qlpack.yml in its root directory. In the qlpack.yml file, the name: field must have a value that follows the format of <scope>/<pack>, where <scope> is the GitHub organization or user account that the pack will be published to and <pack> is the name of the pack. Additionally, query packs and library packs with CodeQL tests contain a codeql-pack.lock.yml file that contains the resolved dependencies of the pack. This file is generated during a call to the codeql pack install command, is not meant to be edited by hand, and should be added to your version control system.

The other files and directories within the pack should be logically organized. For example, typically:

  • Queries are organized into directories for specific categories.

  • Queries for specific products, libraries, and frameworks are organized into their own top-level directories.

Downloading and using CodeQL query packs

The CodeQL CLI bundle includes queries that are maintained by GitHub experts, security researchers, and community contributors. If you want to run queries developed by other organizations, CodeQL query packs provide an efficient and reliable way to download and run queries, while model packs (beta) can be used to expand code scanning analysis to recognize libraries and frameworks that are not supported by default. For more information about query packs, see "About code scanning with CodeQL." For information about writing your own model packs, see "Creating and working with CodeQL packs."

Before you can use a CodeQL query pack to analyze a database, you must download any packages you require from the GitHub Container registry. This can be done either by using the --download flag as part of the codeql database analyze command, or running codeql pack download. If a package is not publicly available, you will need to use a GitHub App or personal access token to authenticate. For more information and an example, see "Uploading results to GitHub Enterprise Cloud".

<scope/name@version:path>Specify the scope and name of one or more CodeQL query packs to download using a comma-separated list. Optionally, include the version to download and unzip. By default the latest version of this pack is downloaded. Optionally, include a path to a query, directory, or query suite to run. If no path is included, then run the default queries of this pack.
--github-auth-stdinPass the CLI the GitHub App or personal access token created for authentication with GitHub's REST API from your secret store via standard input. This is not needed if the command has access to a GITHUB_TOKEN environment variable set with this token.

Note: If you specify a particular version of a query pack to use, be aware that the version you specify may eventually become too old for the latest version of CodeQL to make efficient use of. To ensure optimal performance, if you need to specify exact query pack versions, you should reevaluate which versions you pin to whenever you upgrade the CodeQL CLI you're using.

For more information about pack compatibility, see "Publishing and using CodeQL packs."

Basic example of downloading and using query packs

This example runs the codeql database analyze command with the --download option to:

  1. Download the latest version of the octo-org/security-queries pack.
  2. Download a version of the octo-org/optional-security-queries pack that is compatible with version 1.0.1 (in this case, it is version 1.0.2). For more information on semver compatibility, see npm's semantic version range documentation.
  3. Run all the default queries in octo-org/security-queries.
  4. Run only the query queries/csrf.ql from octo-org/optional-security-queries
$ echo $OCTO-ORG_ACCESS_TOKEN | codeql database analyze --download /codeql-dbs/example-repo \
    octo-org/security-queries \
    octo-org/optional-security-queries@~1.0.1:queries/csrf.ql \
    --format=sarif-latest --output=/temp/example-repo-js.sarif

> Download location: /Users/mona/.codeql/packages
> Installed fresh octo-org/security-queries@1.0.0
> Installed fresh octo-org/optional-security-queries@1.0.2
> Running queries.
> Compiling query plan for /Users/mona/.codeql/packages/octo-org/security-queries/1.0.0/potential-sql-injection.ql.
> [1/2] Found in cache: /Users/mona/.codeql/packages/octo-org/security-queries/1.0.0/potential-sql-injection.ql.
> Starting evaluation of octo-org/security-queries/query1.ql.
> Compiling query plan for /Users/mona/.codeql/packages/octo-org/optional-security-queries/1.0.2/queries/csrf.ql.
> [2/2] Found in cache: /Users/mona/.codeql/packages/octo-org/optional-security-queries/1.0.2/queries/csrf.ql.
> Starting evaluation of octo-org/optional-security-queries/queries/csrf.ql.
> [2/2 eval 694ms] Evaluation done; writing results to octo-org/security-queries/query1.bqrs.
> Shutting down query evaluator.
> Interpreting results.

Direct download of CodeQL packs

If you want to download a CodeQL pack without running it immediately, then you can use the codeql pack download command. This is useful if you want to avoid accessing the internet when running CodeQL queries. When you run the CodeQL analysis, you can specify packs, versions, and paths in the same way as in the previous example:

echo $OCTO-ORG_ACCESS_TOKEN | codeql pack download <scope/name@version:path> <scope/name@version:path> ...

Downloading CodeQL packs from multiple GitHub container registries

If your CodeQL packs reside on multiple container registries, then you must instruct the CodeQL CLI where to find each pack. For more information, see "Customizing your advanced setup for code scanning."

Specifying which queries to run in a CodeQL pack

Query specifiers are used by codeql database analyze and other commands that operate on a set of queries. The complete form of a query specifier is scope/name@range:path, where:

  • scope/name is the qualified name of a CodeQL pack.
  • range is a semver range.
  • path is a file system path to a single query, a directory containing queries, or a query suite file.

When you specify a scope/name, the range and path are optional. If you omit a range then the latest version of the specified pack is used. If you omit a path then the default query suite of the specified pack is used.

The path can be one of: a .ql query file, a directory containing one or more queries, or a .qls query suite file. If you omit a pack name, then you must provide a path, which will be interpreted relative to the working directory of the current process. Glob patterns are not supported.

If you specify both a scope/name and path, then the path cannot be absolute. It is considered relative to the root of the CodeQL pack.

Example query specifiers

  • codeql/python-queries - All the queries in the default query suite of the latest version of the codeql/python-queries pack.

  • codeql/python-queries@1.2.3 - All the queries in the default query suite of version 1.2.3 of the codeql/python-queries pack.

  • codeql/python-queries@~1.2.3 - All the queries in the default query suite of the latest version of the codeql/python-queries pack that is >= 1.2.3 and < 1.3.0.

  • codeql/python-queries:Functions - All queries in the Functions directory in the latest version of the codeql/python-queries pack.

  • codeql/python-queries@1.2.3:Functions - All queries in the Functions directory in version 1.2.3 of the codeql/python-queries pack.

  • codeql/python-queries@1.2.3:codeql-suites/python-code-scanning.qls - All queries in the codeql-suites/python-code-scanning.qls directory in version 1.2.3 of the codeql/python-queries pack.

  • suites/my-suite.qls - All queries in the suites/my-suite.qls file relative to the current working directory.


The default query suite of the standard CodeQL query packs are codeql-suites/<lang>-code-scanning.qls. Several other useful query suites can also be found in the codeql-suites directory of each pack. For example, the codeql/cpp-queries pack contains the following query suites:

  • cpp-code-scanning.qls - Standard Code Scanning queries for C++. The default query suite for this pack.

  • cpp-security-extended.qls - Queries from the default cpp-code-scanning.qls suite for C++, plus lower severity and precision queries.

  • cpp-security-and-quality.qls - Queries from cpp-security-extended.qls, plus maintainability and reliability queries.

You can see the sources for these query suites in the CodeQL repository. Query suites for other languages are similar.

Using model packs to analyze calls to custom dependencies

You can include published model packs in a code scanning analysis with the --model-packs option. For example:

$ codeql database analyze /codeql-dbs/my-company --format=sarif-latest \
  --model-packs my-repo/my-java-model-pack \
  --output=/temp/my-company.sarif codeql/java-queries

In this example, the relevant queries in the standard query pack codeql/java-queries will use the dependency information from the model pack, my-repo/my-java-model-pack, to check for vulnerabilities in code that calls those dependencies.

You can specify multiple published model packs in an analysis.

For more information about writing your own model packs, see "Creating and working with CodeQL packs.

About published packs

When a pack is published for use in analyses, the codeql pack create or codeql pack publish command verifies that the content is complete and also adds some additional pieces of content to it:

  • For query packs, a copy of each of the library packs it depends on, in the precise versions it has been developed with. Users of the query pack won't need to download these library packs separately.

  • For query packs, precompiled representations of each of the queries. These are faster to execute than it would be to compile the QL source for the query at each analysis.

Most of this data is located in a directory named .codeql in the published pack, but precompiled queries are in files with a .qlx suffix next to the .ql source for each query. When analyzing a database with a query from a published pack, CodeQL will load these files instead of the .ql source. If you need to modify the content of a published pack, be sure to remove all of the .qlx files, since they may prevent modifications in the .ql files from taking effect.