Skip to content

CodeQL Plugin

The set of CodeQL plugins provided include two main plugins that seamlessly integrate into a Stuart build environment:

  1. CodeQlBuildPlugin - Used to produce a CodeQL database from a build.
  2. CodeQlAnalyzePlugin - Used to analyze a CodeQL database.

While CodeQL can be run in a CI environment with other approaches. This plugin offers the following advantages:

  1. Provides exactly the same results locally as on a CI server.
  2. Integrates very well into VS Code.
  3. Very simple to use - just use normal Stuart update and build commands.
  4. Very simple to understand - minimally wraps the official CodeQL CLI.
  5. Very simple to integrate - works like any other Stuart build plugin.
  6. Integration is usually just a few lines of code.
  7. Portable - not tied to Azure DevOps specific, GitHub specific, or other host infrastructure.
  8. Versioned - the query and filters are versioned in source control so easy to find and track.

❗ It is very important to read the Integration Instructions in this file and determine how to best integrate the CodeQL plugin into your environment.

Due to the total size of dependencies required to run CodeQL and the flexibility needed by a platform to determine what CodeQL queries to run and how to interpret results, a number of configuration options are provided to allow a high degree of flexibility during platform integration.

This document is focused on those setting up the CodeQL plugin in their environment. Once setup, end users simply need to use their normal build commands and process and CodeQL will be integrated with it. The most relevant section for such users is Local Development Tips.

Table of Contents

  1. Database and Analysis Result Locations
  2. Global Configuration
  3. Package-Specific Configuration
  4. Filter Patterns
  5. Integration Instructions
  6. Integration Step 1 - Choose Scopes
  7. Integration Step 2 - Choose CodeQL Queries
  8. Integration Step 3 - Determine Global Configuration Values
  9. Integration Step 4 - Determine Package-Specific Configuration Values
  10. Integration Step 5 - Testing
  11. Integration Step 6 - Define Inclusion and Exclusion Filter Patterns
  12. High-Level Operation
  13. CodeQlBuildPlugin
  14. CodeQlAnalyzePlugin
  15. Local Development Tips

Database and Analysis Result Locations

The CodeQL database is written to a directory unique to the package and target being built:


For example: Build/codeql-db-mdemodulepkg-debug-0

The plugin does not delete or overwrite existing databases, the instance value is simply increased. This is because databases are large, take a long time to generate, and are important for reproducing analysis results. The user is responsible for deleting database directories when they are no longer needed.

Similarly, analysis results are written to a directory unique to the package and target. For analysis, results are stored in individual files so those files are stored in a single directory.

For example, all analysis results for the above package and target will be stored in: codeql-analysis-mdemodulepkg-debug

CodeQL results are stored in SARIF (Static Analysis Results Interchange Format) (CodeQL SARIF documentation) files. Each SARIF file corresponding to a database will be stored in a file with an instance matching the database instance.

For example, the analysis result file for the above database would be stored in this file: codeql-analysis-mdemodulepkg-debug/codeql-db-mdemodulepkg-debug-0.sarif

Result files are overwritten. This is because result files are quick to generate and need to represent the latest results for the last analysis operation performed. The user is responsible for backing up SARIF result files if they need to saved.

Global Configuration

Global configuration values are specified with build environment variables.

These values are all optional. They provide a convenient mechanism for a build script to set the value for all packages built by the script.

  • STUART_CODEQL_AUDIT_ONLY - If true (case insensitive), CodeQlAnalyzePlugin will be in audit-only mode. In this mode all CodeQL failures are ignored.
  • STUART_CODEQL_PATH - The path to the CodeQL CLI application to use.
  • STUART_CODEQL_QUERY_SPECIFIERS - The CodeQL CLI query specifiers to use. See Running codeql database analyze for possible options.
  • STUART_CODEQL_FILTER_FILES - The path to "filter" files that contains filter patterns as described in Filter Patterns.
  • More than one file may be specified by separating each absolute file path with a comma.
    • This might be useful to reference a global filter file from an upstream repo and also include a global filter file for the local repo.
    • Filters are concatenated in the order of files in the variable. Patterns in later files can override patterns in earlier files.
  • The file only needs to contain a list of filter pattern strings under a "Filters" key. For example:

        "Filters": [

    Comments are allowed in the filter files and begin with # (like a normal YAML file).

Package-Specific Configuration

Package-specific configuration values reuse existing package-level configuration approaches to simplify adjusting CodeQL plugin behavior per package.

These values are all optional. They provide a convenient mechanism for a package owner to adjust settings specific to the package.

  "CodeQlAnalyze": {
      "AuditOnly": False,         # Don't fail the build if there are errors. Just log them.
      "QuerySpecifiers": ""       # Query specifiers to pass to CodeQL CLI.
      "Filters": ""               # Inclusion/exclusion filters

NOTE: If a global filter set is provided via STUART_CODEQL_FILTER_FILES and a package has a package-specific list, then the package-specific filter list (in a package CI YAML file) is appended onto the global filter list and may be used to override settings in the global list.

The format used to specify items in "Filters" is specified in Filter Patterns.

Filter Patterns

As you inspect results, you may want to include or exclude certain sets of results. For example, exclude some files by file path entirely or adjust the CodeQL rule applied to a certain file. This plugin reuses logic from a popular GitHub Action called filter-sarif to allow filtering as part of the plugin analysis process.

If any results are excluded using filters, the results are removed from the SARIF file. This allows the exclude results seen locally to exactly match the results on the CI server.

Read the "Patterns" section there for more details. The patterns section is also copied below with some updates to make the information more relevant for an edk2 codebase for convenience.

Each pattern line is of the form:

[+/-]<file pattern>[:<rule pattern>]

For example:

-**/*Test*.c:**             # exclusion pattern: remove all alerts from all test files
-**/*Test*.c                # ditto, short form of the line above
+**/*.c:cpp/infiniteloop    # inclusion pattern: This line has precedence over the first two
                            # and thus "allow lists" alerts of type "cpp/infiniteloop"
**/*.c:cpp/infiniteloop     # ditto, the "+" in inclusion patterns is optional
**                          # allow all alerts in all files (reverses all previous lines)
  • The path separator character in patterns is always /, independent of the platform the code is running on and independent of the paths in the SARIF file.
  • * matches any character, except a path separator
  • ** matches any character and is only allowed between path separators, e.g. /**/file.txt, **/file.txt or **. NOT allowed: **.txt, /etc**
  • The rule pattern is optional. If omitted, it will apply to alerts of all types.
  • Subsequent lines override earlier ones. By default all alerts are included.
  • If you need to use the literals +, -, \ or : in your pattern, you can escape them with \, e.g. \-this/is/an/inclusion/file/pattern\:with-a-semicolon:and/a/rule/pattern/with/a/\\/backslash. For + and -, this is only necessary if they appear at the beginning of the pattern line.

Integration Instructions

First, note that most CodeQL CLI operations will take a long time the first time they are run. This is due to:

  1. Downloads - Downloading the CodeQL CLI binary (during stuart_update) and downloading CodeQL queries during CodeQL plugin execution
  2. Cache not established - CodeQL CLI caches data as it performs analysis. The first time analysis is performed will take more time than in the future.

Second, these are build plugins. This means a build needs to take place for the plugins to run. This typically happens in the following two scenarios:

  1. stuart_build - A single package is built and the build process is started by the stuart tools.
  2. stuart_ci_build - A number of packages may be built and the build process is started by the CompilerPlugin.

In any case, each time a package is built, the CodeQL plugins will be run if their scopes are active.

Integration Step 1 - Choose Scopes

Decide which scopes need to be enabled in your platform, see Scopes Available.

Consider using a build profile to enable CodeQL so developers and pipelines can use the profile when they are interested in CodeQL results but in other cases they can easily work without CodeQL in the way.

Furthermore, build-script specific command-line parameters might be useful to control CodeQL scopes and other behavior.

Scopes Available

This CodeQL plugin leverages scopes to control major pieces of functionality. Any combination of scopes can be returned from the GetActiveScopes() function in the platform settings manager to add and remove functionality.

Plugin scopes:

  • codeql-analyze - Activate CodeQlAnalyzePlugin to perform post-build analysis of the last generated database for the package and target specified.
  • codeql-build - Activate CodeQlBuildPlugin to hook the firmware build in pre-build such that the build will generate a CodeQL database during build.

In most cases, to perform a full CodeQL run, codeql-build should be enabled so a new CodeQL database is generated during build and codeql-analyze should be be enabled so analysis of that database is performed after the build is completed.

External dependency scopes:

  • codeql-ext-dep - Downloads the cross-platform CodeQL CLI as an external dependency.
  • codeql-linux-ext-dep - Downloads the Linux CodeQL CLI as an external dependency.
  • codeql-windows-ext-dep - Downloads the Windows CodeQL CLI as an external dependency.

Note, that the CodeQL CLI is large in size. Sizes as of the v2.11.2 release.

Cross-platform Linux Windows
934 MB 415 MB 290 MB

Therefore, the following is recommended:

  1. Ideal - Create container images for build agents and install the CodeQL CLI for the container OS into the container.
  2. Leverage host-OS detection (e.g. GetHostInfo()) to set the scope for the appropriate operating system. This will download the much smaller OS-specific application.

NOTE: You should never have more than one CodeQL external dependency scope enabled at a time.

Integration Step 2 - Choose CodeQL Queries

Determine which queries need to be run against packages in your repo. In most cases, the same set of queries will be run against all packages. It is also possible to customize the queries run at the package level.

The default set of Project Mu CodeQL queries is specified in the MuCodeQlQueries.qls file in this plugin.

NOTE: The queries in MuCodeQlQueries.qls may change at any time. If you do not want these changes to impact your platform, do not relay on option (3).

The plugin decides what queries to run based on the following, in order of preference:

  1. Package CI YAML file query specifier
  2. Build environment variable query specifier
  3. Plugin default query set file

For details on how to set (1) and (2), see the Package CI Configuration and Environment Variable sections respectively.

NOTE: The value specified is directly passed as a query specifier to CodeQL CLI. Therefore, the arguments allowed by the <query-specifiers> argument of CodeQL CLI are allowed here. See Running codeql database analyze.

A likely scenario is that a platform needs to run local/closed source queries in addition to the open-source queries. There's various ways to handle that:

  1. Create a query specifier that includes all the queries needed, both public and private and use that query specifier, either globally or at package-level.

For example, at the global level - STUART_CODEQL_QUERY_SPECIFIERS = "Absolute_path_to_AllMyQueries.qls"

  1. Specify a query specifier that includes the closed sources queries and reuse the public query list provided by this plugin.

For example, at the global level - STUART_CODEQL_QUERY_SPECIFIERS = "Absolute_path_to_MuCodeQlQueries.qls Absolute_path_to_ClosedSourceQueries.qls"

Refer to the CodeQL documentation noted above on query specifiers to devise other options.

Integration Step 3 - Determine Global Configuration Values

Review the Environment Variable section to determine which, if any, global values need to be set in your build script.

Integration Step 4 - Determine Package-Specific Configuration Values

Review the Package CI Configuration section to determine which, if any, global values need to be set in your package's CI YAML file.

Integration Step 5 - Testing

Verify a stuart_update and stuart_build (or stuart_ci_build) command work.

Integration Step 6 - Define Inclusion and Exclusion Filter Patterns

After reviewing the test results from Step 5, determine if you need to apply any filters as described in Filter Patterns.

High-Level Operation

This section summarizes the complete CodeQL plugin flow. This is to help developers understand basic theory of operation behind the plugin and can be skipped by anyone not interested in those details.


  1. Register a pre-build hook
  2. Determine the package and target being built
  3. Determine the best CodeQL CLI path to use
  4. First choice, the STUART_CODEQL_PATH environment variable
    • Note: This is set by the CodeQL CLI external dependency if that is used
  5. Second choice, codeql as found on the system path
  6. Determine the directory name for the CodeQL database
  7. Format: Build/codeql-db-<package>-<target>-<instance>
  8. Clean the build directory of the active platform and target
  9. CodeQL database generation only works on clean builds
  10. Ensure the "build" step is not skipped as a build is needed to generate a CodeQL database
  11. Build a CodeQL file that wraps around the edk2 build
  12. Written to the package build directory
    • Example: Build/MdeModulePkg/VS2022/codeql_build_command.bat
  13. Set the variables necessary for stuart to call CodeQL CLI during the build phase


  1. Register a post-build hook
  2. Determine the package and target being built
  3. Determine the best CodeQL CLI path to use
  4. First choice, the STUART_CODEQL_PATH environment variable
    • Note: This is set by the CodeQL CLI external dependency if that is used
  5. Second choice, codeql as found on the system path
  6. Determine the directory name for the most recent CodeQL database
  7. Format: Build/codeql-db-<package>-<target>-<instance>
  8. Determine plugin audit status for the given package and target
  9. Check if AuditOnly is enabled either globally or for the package
  10. Determine the CodeQL query specifiers to use for the given package and target
  11. First choice, the package CI YAML file value
  13. Third choice, use MuCodeQlQueries.qls (in the plugin directory)
  14. Run CodeQL CLI to perform database analysis
  15. Parse the analysis SARIF file to determine the number of CodeQL failures
  16. Return the number of failures (or zero if AuditOnly is enabled)

Local Development Tips

This section contains helpful tips to expedite common scenarios when working with CodeQL locally.

  1. Pre-build, Build, and Post-Build

Generating a database requires the pre-build and build steps. Analyzing a database requires the post-build step.

Therefore, if you are making tweaks that don't affect the build, such as modifying the CodeQL queries used or level of severity reported, you can save time by skipping pre-build and post-build (e.g. --skipprebuild and --skipbuild).

  1. Scopes

Similar to (1), add/remove codeql-build and codeql-analyze from the active scopes to save time depending on what you are trying to do.

If you are focusing on coding, remove the code CodeQL scopes if they are active. If you are ready to check your changes against CodeQL, simply add the scopes back. It is recommended to use build profiles to do this more conveniently.

If you already have CodeQL CLI enabled, you can remove the codeql-ext-dep scope locally. The build will use the codeql command on your path.

  1. CodeQL Output is in the CI Build Log

To see exactly which queries CodeQL ran or why it might be taking longer than expected, look in the CI build log (i.e. Build/CI_BUILDLOG.txt) where the CodeQL CLI application output is written.

Search for the text you see in the progress output (e.g. "Analyzing MdeModulePkg (DEBUG) CodeQL database at") to jump to the section of the log just before the CodeQL CLI is invoked.

  1. Use a SARIF Viewer to Read Results

The SARIF Viewer extension for VS Code can open the .sarif file generated by this plugin and allow you to click links directly to the problem area in source files.