InSpec profile style guide

This is a set of recommended InSpec rules you should use when writing controls.

Control Files

Place control files in controls/ and end them with .rb

Most syntax highlighters will render InSpec files correctly across a wide list of tools.

Avoid: - controls/ssh_config - controls/ssh/config.rb

Use: - controls/ssh_config.rb - controls/ssh_config.rb

Avoid controls/control in your control filenames

Using controls in the filename creates unnecessary clutter when reading it. Keep the names short and concise.

Avoid: - controls/ssh_controls.rb

Use: - controls/ssh.rb

Code Style

Avoid unnecessary parentheses in matchers

Adding additional parentheses is not required and provides more readability if it is not used:

Avoid: - it { should eq(value) }

Use: - it { should eq value }

The exception are matchers that require additional arguments or named arguments.


Avoid wrapping controls in conditional statements

This will create dynamic profiles whose controls depend on the execution. The problem here is that we cannot render the profile or provide its information before scanning a system. We want to be able to inform users of the contents of their profiles before they run them. It is valid to skip controls that are not necessary for a system, as long as you do it via only_if conditions. Ruby’s internal conditionals will hide parts of the profile to static analysis and should thus be avoided.


if package('..').installed?
  control "package-test1" do


control "package-test1" do
  only_if { package('..').installed? }


when /centos/
  include_controls 'centos-profile'

Instead use the supports attribute in the inspec.yml of the profile you want to include:

  - platform-name: centos

Now whenever you run the base profile you can just include_controls 'centos-profile'. It will only run the included profiles is the platform matches the supported platform.

Avoid dynamic elements in the control IDs

Control IDs are used to map test results to the tests and profiles. Dynamic control IDs make it impossible to map results back, since the identifier which connects tests and results may change in the process.


control "test-file-#{name}" do


control "test-all-files" do

Sometimes you may create controls from a static list of elements. If this list stays the same no matter what system is scanned, it may be ok to do so and use it as a generator for static controls.

Avoid Ruby system calls

Ruby code is executed on the system that runs InSpec. This allows InSpec to work without Ruby and RubyGems being required on remote targets (servers or containers). System calls are often used to interact with the local OS or remote endpoints from a local installation.

InSpec tests, however, are designed to be universally executable on all types of runtimes, including local and remote execution. We want to give users the ability to take an OS profile and execute it remotely or locally.

Avoid shelling out

Avoid: - `ls` - system("ls") - IO.popen("ls")


  • command("ls") or powershell("Get-ChildItem")

Ruby’s command executors will only run locally. Imagine a test like this:

describe `whoami` do
  it { should cmp "bob\n" }

If you run this test on your local system and happen to be using Bob’s account it will succeed. But if you were to run it against --target it will still report that the user is bob instead of alice.

Instead, do this:

describe command('whoami') do
  its('stdout') { should cmp "bob\n" }

If the profile is pointed to a remote endpoint using the command resource will run it on the remote OS.

Avoid Ruby IO on files

Similar to the command interactions these files will only be read locally with Ruby’s internal calls. If you run this test against a remote target it won’t read the file from the remote endpoint, but from the local OS instead. Use the file resource to read files on the target system.

Avoid: -"filename").read -"filename") -"filename")

Use: - file("filename")

In general, try to avoid Ruby’s IO calls from within InSpec controls and use InSpec resources instead.

Avoid Ruby gem dependencies in controls

In addition to avoiding system-level gems and modules you should also limit the use of external dependencies to resource packs or plugins. Gems need to be resolved, installed, vendored, and protected from conflicts. We aim to avoid exposing this complexity to users of InSpec, to make it a great tool even if you are not a developer.

Plugins should declare gem dependencies in their gemspec, and then rely on the plugin installation facility to install and manage dependencies.

Avoid debugging calls (in production)

One of the best way to develop and explore tests is the interactive debugging shell pry (see Interactive Debugging with Pry at the end of this page). However, after you finish your profile make sure you have no interactive statements included anymore. Sometimes interactive calls are hidden behind conditionals (if statements) that are harder to reach. These calls can easily cause trouble when an automated profiles runs into an interactive pry call that stops the execution and waits for user input.

Avoid: - binding.pry in production profiles

Use: - Use debugging calls during development only

Also you may find it helpful to use the InSpec logging interface:'Hi')

9. Favor cmp over eq

Reason: The cmp matcher handles type conversions, case insensitive comparisons, converting strings to versions (e.g. ‘7.35.0-1ubuntu2.10’), and many other troublesome things. Unless you are wanting an exact match (if so use the eq matcher) then the cmp matcher should be used.

For example, this:

describe passwd.uids(0) do
  its('users') { should cmp 'root' }

is preferred over:

describe passwd.uids(0) do
  its('users') { should eq ['root'] }

See the cmp matcher documentation for more examples.