SAST Scanning with SonarQube and Docker

SAST Scanning with SonarQube and Docker

Learn how to set up and use SonarQube for Static Application Security Testing (SAST) with Docker.


As a seasoned Cloud DevSecOps Engineer with a keen interest in integrating robust security practices into the development lifecycle, I am thrilled to share insights and practical knowledge on enhancing code security. In this article, we will delve into the powerful combination of SAST (Static Application Security Testing) using SonarQube and Docker and explore how these tools can fortify your applications against vulnerabilities. This is a technical blog post or article, so get ready for some code to be shared and repositories to get cloned using Git.


Before you can start scanning the vulnerable web application with SonarQube and inspecting the results, you'll want to ensure you have the following list of applications and software packages installed:

Docker Logo

  • Docker - We're going to be launching the application from Docker and also running the scans using Docker as well.

    VS Code Logo

  • VS Code - This is not a hard requirement but highly recommended for viewing and editing files like the Docker Compose YAML file.


  • Git - We're going to need this to clone and checkout the repositories.

Understanding SonarQube

What is SonarQube?

SonarQube is a self-managed automatic code review tool that systematically helps you deliver clean code. I've used SonarQube several times within the past to help me out with DevSecOps related work or really to scan my code.


The application can be integrated with various different IDEs and pipelines to build, test, and deploy your code, and to be able to scan your code for all kinds of issues—not just security issues. It could be refactoring issues that your code has and many other things. Here are some key features of SonarQube:

  1. Quality Gates: A score that defines how well-maintained and secure your entire application code base is.
  2. Supports 30+ Languages: Including popular languages and frameworks.
  3. Integration with DevOps & CI Platforms: GitHub, GitLab, BitBucket, Azure, etc.
  4. Fast Analysis and Unified Configurations
  5. SonarLint IDE Integration

For our SAST scanning purposes, we are going to focus on leveraging SonarQube and the Sonar Scanner to identify security vulnerabilities within our code.

No need to worry about paying though. SonarQube is free and open-source unless you opt-in for the enterprise or data center editions. We will use the Community Edition, which still covers many features that help us scan our code for various issues.

Understanding Docker Compose

Docker Compose is a powerful tool designed to define and manage multi-container Docker applications with ease. By using a single YAML file, Docker Compose allows developers to configure the various services, networks, and volumes that comprise their application stack, streamlining the deployment and management processes.

Key Features and Benefits

Simplified Configuration

Docker Compose uses a YAML file, commonly named docker-compose.yml, to define the entire application stack in a human-readable format. This file outlines each service in your application, the Docker images they use, and any dependencies between them. This simplifies the setup process, making it easy to replicate the environment across different machines or teams.

Multi-Container Applications

With Docker Compose, you can define multiple services that work together, such as a web server, a database, and a cache service. Each service runs in its own container, ensuring isolation and consistency. This modular approach allows you to scale individual components independently and manage complex applications with ease.

Network Management

Docker Compose automatically handles the creation and management of networks for your containers. It allows different services to communicate with each other seamlessly, using service names as hostnames. This built-in networking capability eliminates the need for manual network configuration and simplifies inter-service communication.

Volume Management

Persisting data is crucial for many applications. Docker Compose allows you to define volumes in your configuration file, ensuring that data is not lost when containers are stopped or recreated. Volumes can be shared between services, enabling data persistence and easy access across different components of your application.

Environment Configuration

Docker Compose supports environment variables, making it easy to manage different configurations for various environments (development, testing, production). By defining environment variables in the YAML file or in an .env file, you can customize service behavior without modifying the application code.

Scanning and Inspecting Sonar Results

Now that the conceptual part is over, let's get into the technical activity and cloning and setting up the vulnerable web application and SonarQube using Docker Compose and Git.

Cloning Vulnerable Web Application (TIWAP)

First, you’ll need to clone the TIWAP web application repository. I've specified the URL in the command below:

git clone

# Once it's cloned, you want to CD into the directory.

NOTE: If you're looking for a reference repository with the completed files and more directions, feel free to view the completed code here: Completed Code w/ more steps and explanations

Spinning Up the Environment

We will use Docker Compose to set up the necessary environment:

docker-compose up -d

NOTE: The -d flag runs the container in detached mode, but if you want to see real-time logs, you can run the following command below:

docker-compose up

Verifying the Setup

To ensure the environment is up and running, navigate to http://localhost:8000 in your web browser.

Setting Up SonarQube with Docker Compose

  • Clear your terminal:

  • Create the Docker Compose YAML File

    You'll want to create another docker-compose.yml file. I'd highly recommend you create another folder or subdirectory within the TIWAP project, create the file, and then copy and paste the contents below in it:

    version: "1"
        image: sonarqube:lts-community
          - sonar_db
          SONAR_JDBC_URL: jdbc:postgresql://sonar_db:5432/sonar
          SONAR_JDBC_USERNAME: sonar
          SONAR_JDBC_PASSWORD: sonar
          - "9001:9000"
          - sonarqube_conf:/opt/sonarqube/conf
          - sonarqube_data:/opt/sonarqube/data
          - sonarqube_extensions:/opt/sonarqube/extensions
          - sonarqube_logs:/opt/sonarqube/logs
          - sonarqube_temp:/opt/sonarqube/temp
        image: postgres:13
          POSTGRES_USER: sonar
          POSTGRES_PASSWORD: sonar
          POSTGRES_DB: sonar
          - sonar_db:/var/lib/postgresql
          - sonar_db_data:/var/lib/postgresql/data

    This Docker command runs a container based on the sonarsource/sonar-scanner-cli image with the specified parameters. Here's a breakdown of each part:

    1. docker run: This command is used to run a Docker container.

    2. --rm: This flag ensures that the container is removed after it stops running. It helps in keeping your system clean by automatically removing the container once it's done executing.

    3. --network=host: This flag specifies that the container should share the network namespace with the Docker host, allowing it to access services running on the host's network. In this case, it's often used to allow the container to access services running on localhost.

    4. -e SONAR_HOST_URL="http://localhost:9001": This sets an environment variable SONAR_HOST_URL with the value http://localhost:9001. It defines the URL of the SonarQube server that the Sonar scanner should connect to for analysis.

    5. -v "<your_absolute_path>:/usr/src": This mounts a volume from the host machine to the container. It maps the local directory <your_absolute_path> to the directory /usr/src inside the container. This allows the Sonar scanner to access the project files located on the host machine.

    6. sonarsource/sonar-scanner-cli: This specifies the Docker image to be used for running the container. In this case, it's the official Sonar scanner CLI image provided by SonarSource.

    7. -D flags: These are parameters passed to the Sonar scanner CLI within the container. They provide configuration options for the SonarQube analysis:

      • sonar.projectKey: Specifies the unique key for the project in SonarQube.
      • sonar.sonar.projectVersion: Specifies the version of the project.
      • sonar.sonar.language: Specifies the programming language of the project (Python in this case).
      • sonar.sonar.sourceEncoding: Specifies the encoding of the source files.
      • sonar.login: Specifies the authentication token or credentials required to connect to the SonarQube server.
      • sonar.sonar.projectBaseDir: Specifies the base directory of the project within the container.
      • sonar.sources=.: Specifies the directory containing the source files to be analyzed. In this case, it's set to . which typically represents the current directory.
  • Deploy SonarQube using Docker Compose:

    docker-compose up -d

    Give it about 5-10 minutes to download and set up the necessary Docker container images for SonarQube and its database.

Logging into SonarQube

Once SonarQube is fully operational, navigate to http://localhost:9001 in your web browser.

  • Login Credentials:

    • Username: admin
    • Password: admin
  • Change the default password when prompted.

Changing Default Password

Creating a Project in SonarQube

Create a new project in SonarQube to scan. For this example, we'll use a vulnerable web application from GitHub.

  • Project Key: test-vulnerable-app
  • Project Name: Test Vulnerable App

You'll want to generate a token for Sonar Scanner and keep it safe as you'll need it for the scanning process.

Token Example for Sonar Scanner

NOTE: The highlighted token will not be valid; this is an example. Your token will be different and will be generated automatically.

Running Sonar Scanner using Docker

Navigate to your project directory in the terminal where you have cloned the vulnerable web application repository.


Run the following command to scan your project with SonarQube. Be sure to replace the <your_sonar_token> string with your generated token and the <your_absolute_path> string with the absolute path to the TIWAP codebase:

docker run \
--rm \
--network=host \
-e SONAR_HOST_URL="http://localhost:9001" \
-v "<your_absolute_path>:/usr/src" \
sonarsource/sonar-scanner-cli \
    -Dsonar.projectKey=test-vulnerable-app \
    -Dsonar.sonar.projectVersion=1.0 \
    -Dsonar.sonar.language=py \
    -Dsonar.sonar.sourceEncoding=UTF-8 \
    -Dsonar.login=<your_sonar_token> \
    -Dsonar.sonar.projectBaseDir=/root/src \

The scan will take some time (roughly about 4-8 minutes), so feel free to take a stretch break! Once completed, the results will be published to your SonarQube project as shown below:

SonarQube Results Below Example

Reviewing Results in SonarQube

Log into the SonarQube console and navigate to your project to review the results. The scan results will be categorized into different sections like Bugs, Vulnerabilities, Code Smells, etc.

Security Vulnerabilities

Security vulnerabilities are critical issues within your code that can be exploited by malicious actors to compromise the integrity, confidentiality, or availability of your application. Identifying and addressing these vulnerabilities is paramount to maintaining a secure codebase. SonarQube's SAST (Static Application Security Testing) capabilities help detect these issues early in the development lifecycle, enabling you to fix them before they become significant problems.

  • Example: Enable SSL Certification Validation:

    One common security vulnerability is having SSL certification validation disabled in your application. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates are essential for establishing encrypted connections between clients and servers, ensuring that data transferred over the network is secure and cannot be intercepted by unauthorized parties. If SSL certification validation is set to false, your application is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, where attackers can intercept and manipulate the data being exchanged.

    Example Vulnerability

    Solution: Ensure that SSL certification validation is enabled in all your connections. This can usually be done by configuring the appropriate settings in your application's connection properties or environment variables. For example, in a Python application using the requests library, you should ensure SSL verification is enabled:

    import requests
    # Correct way with SSL verification enabled
    response = requests.get('' + product, verify=True)

    By enabling SSL certification validation, you can protect your application from potential security breaches and ensure that your data remains secure.

Code Smells

Code smells are indicators of potential problems in your code that, while not necessarily bugs, can lead to maintainability issues and increased technical debt. SonarQube identifies code smells and provides recommendations to improve the quality, readability, and maintainability of your code. Addressing code smells helps ensure that your codebase remains clean and efficient, making it easier to manage and extend over time.

  • Example: Avoid Duplicating Strings or Literals:

    A common code smell is the duplication of strings or literals multiple times throughout your code. This practice can lead to inconsistencies and make your code harder to maintain. For instance, if a string value changes, you will need to update it in multiple places, increasing the risk of errors and inconsistencies.

    Code Smells Example

    Solution: Use constants or configuration files to store commonly used strings or literals. This approach centralizes the values, making your code more manageable and reducing the risk of errors. For example, in a Python application, you might define constants in a separate module:

    MAIN_TEMPLATE = "index.html"

    Then, you can use these constants throughout your code instead of duplicating the string values:

    import constants
    return render_template(constants.MAIN_TEMPLATE)

    By avoiding the duplication of strings or literals, you can improve the maintainability and readability of your code, making it easier to update and extend in the future.

By addressing both security vulnerabilities and code smells, you can ensure that your codebase is not only secure but also clean and maintainable, leading to more robust and reliable software development practices.

Cleaning Up

Now that we're done with everything, let's clean up behind ourselves. You'll want to run the following commands to remove all of the attached volumes and purge all of the containers and images:

# Delete volumes (database, etc.)
docker-compose down --volumes

# Optional: Purge all images, networks, containers
docker system prune -a -f


To conclude, SonarQube is a powerful tool for static application security testing (SAST). It allows you to identify vulnerabilities and code smells efficiently, ensuring that your application codebase is both secure and maintainable.

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you were able to take away valuable insights about setting up and using SonarQube, the Sonar Scanner, and Docker. Until next time, keep scanning your code, and do your best to ensure it is secure and maintainable.

Disclaimer: This blog post reflects my personal experiences and opinions. This blogs original content is based off of the following video:


All images located in the blog post have been sourced from different places. Click on the image to get redirected to the original source.