Test an insecure registry

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

While it’s highly recommended to secure your registry using a TLS certificate issued by a known CA, you may alternatively decide to use self-signed certificates, or even use your registry over plain http.

You have to understand the downsides in doing so, and the extra burden in configuration.

Deploying a plain HTTP registry

Warning: it’s not possible to use an insecure registry with basic authentication.

This basically tells Docker to entirely disregard security for your registry. While this is relatively easy to configure the daemon in this way, it is very insecure. It does expose your registry to trivial MITM. Only use this solution for isolated testing or in a tightly controlled, air-gapped environment.

  1. Open the /etc/default/docker file or /etc/sysconfig/docker for editing.

    Depending on your operating system, your Engine daemon start options.

  2. Edit (or add) the DOCKER_OPTS line and add the --insecure-registry flag.

    This flag takes the URL of your registry, for example.

    DOCKER_OPTS="--insecure-registry myregistrydomain.com:5000"

  3. Close and save the configuration file.

  4. Restart your Docker daemon

    The command you use to restart the daemon depends on your operating system. For example, on Ubuntu, this is usually the service docker stop and service docker start command.

  5. Repeat this configuration on every Engine host that wants to access your registry.

Using self-signed certificates

Warning: using this along with basic authentication requires to also trust the certificate into the OS cert store for some versions of docker (see below)

This is more secure than the insecure registry solution. You must configure every docker daemon that wants to access your registry

  1. Generate your own certificate:

     mkdir -p certs && openssl req \
       -newkey rsa:4096 -nodes -sha256 -keyout certs/domain.key \
       -x509 -days 365 -out certs/domain.crt
  2. Be sure to use the name myregistrydomain.com as a CN.

  3. Use the result to start your registry with TLS enabled

  4. Instruct every docker daemon to trust that certificate.

    This is done by copying the domain.crt file to /etc/docker/certs.d/myregistrydomain.com:5000/ca.crt.

  5. Don’t forget to restart the Engine daemon.

Troubleshooting insecure registry

This sections lists some common failures and how to recover from them.


Failing to configure the Engine daemon and trying to pull from a registry that is not using TLS will results in the following message:

FATA[0000] Error response from daemon: v1 ping attempt failed with error:
Get https://myregistrydomain.com:5000/v1/_ping: tls: oversized record received with length 20527.
If this private registry supports only HTTP or HTTPS with an unknown CA certificate,please add
`--insecure-registry myregistrydomain.com:5000` to the daemon's arguments.
In the case of HTTPS, if you have access to the registry's CA certificate, no need for the flag;
simply place the CA certificate at /etc/docker/certs.d/myregistrydomain.com:5000/ca.crt

Docker still complains about the certificate when using authentication?

When using authentication, some versions of docker also require you to trust the certificate at the OS level. Usually, on Ubuntu this is done with:

$ cp certs/domain.crt /usr/local/share/ca-certificates/myregistrydomain.com.crt

… and on Red Hat (and its derivatives) with:

cp certs/domain.crt /etc/pki/ca-trust/source/anchors/myregistrydomain.com.crt

… On some distributions, e.g. Oracle Linux 6, the Shared System Certificates feature needs to be manually enabled:

$ update-ca-trust enable

Now restart docker (service docker stop && service docker start, or any other way you use to restart docker).

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