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Ratchet is a tool for improving the security of CI/CD workflows by automating the process of pinning and unpinning upstream versions. It’s like Bundler, Cargo, Go modules, NPM, Pip, or Yarn, but for CI/CD workflows. Ratchet supports:

  • Circle CI
  • GitHub Actions
  • Google Cloud Build

Problem statement

Most CI/CD systems are one layer of indirection away from curl | sudo bash. Unless you are specifically pinning CI workflows, containers, and base images to checksummed versions, everything is mutable: GitHub labels are mutable and Docker tags are mutable. This poses a substantial security and reliability risk.

What you’re probably doing:

uses: 'actions/[email protected]'
# or
image: 'ubuntu:20.04'

What you should really be doing:

uses: 'actions/[email protected]'
# or
image: '[email protected]:47f14534bda344d9fe6ffd6effb95eefe579f4be0d508b7445cf77f61a0e5724'

But resolving those checksums and managing the update lifecycle is extremely toilsome. That’s what ratchet aims to solve! Ratchet resolves and updates unpinned references to the latest version that matches their constraint, and then keeps a record of the original constraint.

uses: 'actions/[email protected]' # ratchet:actions/[email protected]
# or
image: '[email protected]:47f14534bda344d9fe6ffd6effb95eefe579f4be0d508b7445cf77f61a0e5724' # ratchet:ubuntu:20.04


⚠️ Warning! The README corresponds to the main branch of ratchet’s development, and it may contain unreleased features.

Pin to specific versions:

# pin the input file
./ratchet pin workflow.yml

# pin a circleci file
./ratchet pin -parser circleci circleci.yml

# pin a cloudbuild file
./ratchet pin -parser cloudbuild cloudbuild.yml

# output to a different path
./ratchet pin -out workflow-compiled.yml workflow.yml

Unpin existing pinned versions:

# unpin the input file
./ratchet unpin workflow.yml

# output to a different path
./ratchet unpin -out workflow.yml workflow-compiled.yml

Update all versions to the latest matching constraint:

# update the input file
./ratchet update workflow.yml

# update a circleci file
./ratchet update -parser circleci circleci.yml

# update a cloudbuild file
./ratchet update -parser cloudbuild cloudbuild.yml

# output to a different path
./ratchet pin -out workflow-compiled.yml workflow.yml

For more information, run a command with -help to use detailed usage instructions.

Check if all versions are pinned:

./ratchet check workflow.yml

In a CI/CD workflow:

Ratchet is distributed as a very small container, so you can use it as a step inside CI/CD jobs. Here is a GitHub Actions example:

    runs-on: 'ubuntu-latest'
    name: 'ratchet'
      - uses: 'actions/[email protected]' # ratchet:actions/[email protected]

      # Example of pinning.
      - uses: 'docker://ghcr.io/sethvargo/ratchet:0.2.1'
          args: ['pin', '.github/workflows/my-workflow.yml']

      # Example of checking versions are pinned.
      - uses: 'docker://ghcr.io/sethvargo/ratchet:0.2.1'
          args: ['check', '.github/workflows/my-workflow.yml']

This same pattern can be extended to other CI/CD systems that support container-based runtimes.


There are a few options for installing ratchet:

  • As a single-static binary from the releases page.
  • As a container image from the container registry.
  • Compiled from source yourself. Note this option is not supported.


  • The container resolver uses default “keychain” auth, which looks for local system auth, similar to the Docker and gcloud CLIs.

  • The GitHub resolver defaults to public github.com. Provide an oauth access token with appropriate permissions via the ACTIONS_TOKEN environment variable. To use a GitHub Enterprise installation, set the ACTIONS_BASE_URL and ACTIONS_UPLOAD_URL environment variables to point your instance.


There may be instances in which you want to exclude a particular reference from being pinned. You can use the ratchet:exclude annotation as a line comment and ratchet will not process that reference:

uses: 'actions/[email protected]' # ratchet:exclude

There cannot be any spaces in the exclusion string, and the exclusion string only applies to the line on which it appears.


  • Unpinned version – An unpinned version is a non-absolute reference to a floating tag or label, such as actions/[email protected] or ubuntu:20.04.

  • Pinned version – A pinned version is an absolute hashed reference, such as actions/[email protected] or [email protected]:82becede498899ec668628e7cb0ad87b6e1c371cb8a1e597d83a47fac21d6af3.

Known issues

  • Indentation is always set to 2 spaces. The upstream YAML library does not capture pre-parsing indentation. Thus, all files will be saved with 2 spaces for indentation.

  • Leading and trailing whitespace between nodes is not preserved. Similar indentation, the upstream YAML library does not capture truly empty nodes. Thus, blank lines may be removed between nodes. This will not affect multi-line values.

  • Does not support resolving values in anchors or aliases. This is technically possible, but most CI systems also don’t support these advanced YAML features.

    Similarly, Ratchet does not support matrix-style expansion, since those values cannot be guaranteed to be known at compile time. For example, Ratchet will error on the following GitHub Actions workflow:

            - '1'
            - '2'
          - uses: 'actions/[email protected]${{ matrix.version }}'


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