Pomerium can be configured using a configuration file ([YAML]/[JSON]/[TOML]) or [environmental variables]. In general, environmental variable keys are identical to config file keys but are in uppercase.

If you are coming from a kubernetes or docker background this should feel familiar. If not, check out the following primers.

Using both [environmental variables] and config file keys is allowed and encouraged (for instance, secret keys are probably best set as environmental variables). However, if duplicate configuration keys are found, environment variables take precedence.

Pomerium will automatically reload the configuration file if it is changed. At this time, only policy is re-configured when this reload occurs, but additional options may be added in the future. It is suggested that your policy is stored in a configuration file so that you can take advantage of this feature.

Global settings

These are configuration variables shared by all services, in all service modes.

Service Mode

  • Environmental Variable: SERVICES
  • Config File Key: services
  • Type: string
  • Default: all
  • Options: all authenticate authorize or proxy

Service mode sets the pomerium service(s) to run. If testing, you may want to set to all and run pomerium in "all-in-one mode." In production, you'll likely want to spin up several instances of each service mode for high availability.


  • Environmental Variable: ADDRESS
  • Config File Key: address
  • Type: string
  • Example: :443, :8443
  • Default: :443
  • Required

Address specifies the host and port to serve HTTP requests from. If empty, :443 is used.


  • Environmental Variable: ADMINISTRATORS
  • Config File Key: administrators
  • Type: slice of string
  • Example: "admin@example.com,admin2@example.com"

Administrative users are super user that can sign in as another user or group. User impersonation allows administrators to temporarily sign in as a different user.

Shared Secret

  • Environmental Variable: SHARED_SECRET
  • Config File Key: shared_secret
  • Type: [base64 encoded] string
  • Required

Shared Secret is the base64 encoded 256-bit key used to mutually authenticate requests between services. It's critical that secret keys are random, and store safely. Use a key management system or /dev/urandom/ to generate a key. For example:

head -c32 /dev/urandom | base64


  • Environmental Variable: POMERIUM_DEBUG
  • Config File Key: pomerium_debug
  • Type: bool
  • Default: false

Enabling the debug flag will result in sensitive information being logged!!!

By default, JSON encoded logs are produced. Debug enables colored, human-readable logs to be streamed to standard out. In production, it's recommended to be set to false.

For example, if true

10:37AM INF cmd/pomerium version=v0.0.1-dirty+ede4124
10:37AM INF proxy: new route from=httpbin.corp.beyondperimeter.com to=https://httpbin.org
10:37AM INF proxy: new route from=ssl.corp.beyondperimeter.com to=http://neverssl.com
10:37AM INF proxy/authenticator: grpc connection OverrideCertificateName= addr=auth.corp.beyondperimeter.com:443

If false

{"level":"info","from":"httpbin.corp.beyondperimeter.com","to":"https://httpbin.org","time":"2019-02-18T10:41:03-08:00","message":"proxy: new route"}
{"level":"info","from":"ssl.corp.beyondperimeter.com","to":"http://neverssl.com","time":"2019-02-18T10:41:03-08:00","message":"proxy: new route"}
{"level":"info","OverrideCertificateName":"","addr":"auth.corp.beyondperimeter.com:443","time":"2019-02-18T10:41:03-08:00","message":"proxy/authenticator: grpc connection"}

Log Level

  • Environmental Variable: LOG_LEVEL
  • Config File Key: log_level
  • Type: string
  • Options: debug info warn error
  • Default: debug

Log level sets the global logging level for pomerium. Only logs of the desired level and above will be logged.

Insecure Server

  • Environmental Variable: INSECURE_SERVER
  • Config File Key: insecure_server
  • Type: bool
  • Required if certificates unset

Turning on insecure server mode will result in pomerium starting, and operating without any protocol encryption in transit.

This setting can be useful in a situation where you have Pomerium behind a TLS terminating ingress or proxy. However, even in that case, it is highly recommended to use TLS to protect the confidentiality and integrity of service communication even behind the ingress using self-signed certificates or an internal CA. Please see our helm-chart for an example of just that.

Pomerium should never be exposed to the internet without TLS encryption.


  • Environmental Variable: either CERTIFICATE or CERTIFICATE_FILE
  • Config File Key: certificate or certificate_file
  • Type: [base64 encoded] string or relative file location
  • Required

Certificate is the x509 public-key used to establish secure HTTP and gRPC connections.

Certificate Key

  • Environmental Variable: either CERTIFICATE_KEY or CERTIFICATE_KEY_FILE
  • Config File Key: certificate_key or certificate_key_file
  • Type: [base64 encoded] string
  • Required

Certificate key is the x509 private-key used to establish secure HTTP and gRPC connections.

Global Timeouts

  • Config File Key: timeout_read timeout_write timeout_read_header timeout_idle
  • Type: Go Duration string
  • Example: TIMEOUT_READ=30s

Timeouts set the global server timeouts. For route-specific timeouts, see policy.

cloudflare blog on timeouts

For a deep dive on timeout values see these two excellent blog posts.

GRPC Options

These settings control upstream connections to the Authorize service.

GRPC Address

  • Environmental Variable: GRPC_ADDRESS
  • Config File Key: grpc_address
  • Type: string
  • Example: :443, :8443
  • Default: :443 or :5443 if in all-in-one mode

Address specifies the host and port to serve GRPC requests from. Defaults to :443 (or :5443 in all in one mode).

GRPC Insecure

  • Environmental Variable: GRPC_INSECURE
  • Config File Key: grpc_insecure
  • Type: bool
  • Default: :443 (or :5443 if in all-in-one mode)

If set, GRPC Insecure disables transport security for communication between the proxy and authorize components. If running in all-in-one mode, defaults to true as communication will run over localhost's own socket.

GRPC Client Timeout

Maximum time before canceling an upstream RPC request. During transient failures, the proxy will retry upstreams for this duration, if possible. You should leave this high enough to handle backend service restart and rediscovery so that client requests do not fail.

  • Environmental Variable: GRPC_CLIENT_TIMEOUT
  • Config File Key: grpc_client_timeout
  • Type: Go Duration string
  • Default: 10s

GRPC Client DNS RoundRobin

Enable grpc DNS based round robin load balancing. This method uses DNS to resolve endpoints and does client side load balancing of all addresses returned by the DNS record. Do not disable unless you have a specific use case.

  • Environmental Variable: GRPC_CLIENT_DNS_ROUNDROBIN
  • Config File Key: grpc_client_dns_roundrobin
  • Type: bool
  • Default: true

HTTP Redirect Address

  • Environmental Variable: HTTP_REDIRECT_ADDR
  • Config File Key: http_redirect_addr
  • Type: string
  • Example: :80, :8080
  • Optional

If set, the HTTP Redirect Address specifies the host and port to redirect http to https traffic on. If unset, no redirect server is started.

Metrics Address

  • Environmental Variable: METRICS_ADDRESS
  • Config File Key: metrics_address
  • Type: string
  • Example: :9090,
  • Default: disabled
  • Optional

Expose a prometheus format HTTP endpoint on the specified port. Disabled by default.

Use with caution: the endpoint can expose frontend and backend server names or addresses. Do not externally expose the metrics if this is sensitive information.

Metrics tracked

Name Type Description
grpc_client_request_duration_ms Histogram GRPC client request duration by service
grpc_client_request_size_bytes Histogram GRPC client request size by service
grpc_client_requests_total Counter Total GRPC client requests made by service
grpc_client_response_size_bytes Histogram GRPC client response size by service
grpc_server_request_duration_ms Histogram GRPC server request duration by service
grpc_server_request_size_bytes Histogram GRPC server request size by service
grpc_server_requests_total Counter Total GRPC server requests made by service
grpc_server_response_size_bytes Histogram GRPC server response size by service
http_client_request_duration_ms Histogram HTTP client request duration by service
http_client_request_size_bytes Histogram HTTP client request size by service
http_client_requests_total Counter Total HTTP client requests made by service
http_client_response_size_bytes Histogram HTTP client response size by service
http_server_request_duration_ms Histogram HTTP server request duration by service
http_server_request_size_bytes Histogram HTTP server request size by service
http_server_requests_total Counter Total HTTP server requests handled by service
http_server_response_size_bytes Histogram HTTP server response size by service
pomerium_config_checksum_int64 Gauge Currently loaded configuration checksum by service
pomerium_config_last_reload_success Gauge Whether the last configuration reload succeeded by service
pomerium_config_last_reload_success_timestamp Gauge The timestamp of the last successful configuration reload by service
pomerium_build_info Gauge Pomerium build metadata by git revision, service, version and goversion


Tracing tracks the progression of a single user request as it is handled by Pomerium.

Each unit work is called a Span in a trace. Spans include metadata about the work, including the time spent in the step (latency), status, time events, attributes, links. You can use tracing to debug errors and latency issues in your applications, including in downstream connections.

Shared Tracing Settings

Config Key Description Required
tracing_provider The name of the tracing provider. (e.g. jaeger) βœ…
tracing_debug Will disable sampling. ❌


Jaeger is a distributed tracing system released as open source by Uber Technologies. It is used for monitoring and troubleshooting microservices-based distributed systems, including:

  • Distributed context propagation
  • Distributed transaction monitoring
  • Root cause analysis
  • Service dependency analysis
  • Performance / latency optimization
Config Key Description Required
tracing_jaeger_collector_endpoint Url to the Jaeger HTTP Thrift collector. βœ…
tracing_jaeger_agent_endpoint Send spans to jaeger-agent at this address. βœ…


jaeger example trace pomerium_config_last_reload_success_timestamp | Gauge | The timestamp of the last successful configuration reload by service pomerium_build_info | Gauge | Pomerium build metadata by git revision, service, version and goversion

Forward Auth

  • Environmental Variable: FORWARD_AUTH_URL
  • Config File Key: forward_auth_url
  • Type: URL (must contain a scheme and hostname)
  • Example: https://fwdauth.corp.example.com
  • Resulting Verification URL: https://fwdauth.corp.example.com/.pomerium/verify/{URL-TO-VERIFY}
  • Optional

Forward authentication creates an endpoint that can be used with third-party proxies that do not have rich access control capabilities (nginx, nginx-ingress, ambassador, traefik). Forward authentication allow you to delegate authentication and authorization for each request to Pomerium.

Request flow

pomerium forward auth request flow


NGINX Ingress

Some reverse-proxies, such as nginx split access control flow into two parts: verification and sign-in redirection. Notice the additional path /verify used for auth-url indicating to Pomerium that it should return a 401 instead of redirecting and starting the sign-in process.

apiVersion: extensions/v1beta1
kind: Ingress
  name: httpbin
    kubernetes.io/ingress.class: "nginx"
    certmanager.k8s.io/issuer: "letsencrypt-prod"
    nginx.ingress.kubernetes.io/auth-url: https://fwdauth.corp.example.com?uri=$scheme://$host$request_uri
    nginx.ingress.kubernetes.io/auth-signin: "https://fwdauth.corp.example.com/verify?uri=$scheme://$host$request_uri"
    - hosts:
        - httpbin.corp.example.com
      secretName: quickstart-example-tls
    - host: httpbin.corp.example.com
          - path: /
              serviceName: httpbin
              servicePort: 80

Traefik docker-compose

version: "3"

    # The official v2.0 Traefik docker image
    image: traefik:v2.0
    # Enables the web UI and tells Traefik to listen to docker
    command: --api.insecure=true --providers.docker
      # The HTTP port
      - "80:80"
      # The Web UI (enabled by --api.insecure=true)
      - "8080:8080"
      # So that Traefik can listen to the Docker events
      - /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock
    # A container that exposes an API to show its IP address
    image: kennethreitz/httpbin:latest
      - "traefik.http.routers.httpbin.rule=Host(`httpbin.corp.example.com`)"
      # Create a middleware named `foo-add-prefix`
      - "traefik.http.middlewares.test-auth.forwardauth.authResponseHeaders=X-Pomerium-Authenticated-User-Email,x-pomerium-authenticated-user-id,x-pomerium-authenticated-user-groups,x-pomerium-jwt-assertion"
      - "traefik.http.middlewares.test-auth.forwardauth.address=http://fwdauth.corp.example.com/?uri=https://httpbin.corp.example.com"
      - "traefik.http.routers.httpbin.middlewares=test-auth@docker"


  • Environmental Variable: POLICY
  • Config File Key: policy
  • Type: [base64 encoded] string or inline policy structure in config file
  • Required However, pomerium will safely start without a policy configured, but will be unable to authorize or proxy traffic until the configuration is updated to contain a policy.

Policy contains route specific settings, and access control details. If you are configuring via POLICY environment variable, just the contents of the policy needs to be passed. If you are configuring via file, the policy should be present under the policy key. For example,

# This file contains only policy and route configuration details. Other
# configuration settings required by pomerium are excluded for clarity.
# See: https://www.pomerium.io/docs/reference/reference/
# For a complete self contained configuration see : config.example.yaml.
# Or, mix and match a policy file (this) with env vars : config.example.env

# Proxied routes and per-route policies are defined in a policy block
# NOTA BENE: You must uncomment the bellow 'policy' key if you are loading policy as a file.
# policy:
- from: https://httpbin.corp.beyondperimeter.com
  to: http://localhost:8000
    - pomerium.io
  cors_allow_preflight: true
  timeout: 30s
- from: https://external-httpbin.corp.beyondperimeter.com
  to: https://httpbin.org
    - gmail.com
- from: https://weirdlyssl.corp.beyondperimeter.com
  to: http://neverssl.com
    - bdd@pomerium.io
    - admins
    - developers
- from: https://hello.corp.beyondperimeter.com
  to: http://localhost:8080
    - admins@pomerium.io

A list of policy configuration variables follows.


  • yaml/json setting: from
  • Type: URL (must contain a scheme and hostname)
  • Required
  • Example: https://httpbin.corp.example.com

From is externally accessible source of the proxied request.


  • yaml/json setting: to
  • Type: URL (must contain a scheme and hostname)
  • Required
  • Example: http://httpbin ,, http://neverssl.com

To is the destination of a proxied request. It can be an internal resource, or an external resource.

Allowed Users

  • yaml/json setting: allowed_users
  • Type: collection of strings
  • Required
  • Example: alice@pomerium.io , bob@contractor.co

Allowed users is a collection of whitelisted users to authorize for a given route.

Allowed Groups

  • yaml/json setting: allowed_groups
  • Type: collection of strings
  • Required
  • Example: admins , support@company.com

Allowed groups is a collection of whitelisted groups to authorize for a given route.

Allowed Domains

  • yaml/json setting: allowed_domains
  • Type: collection of strings
  • Required
  • Example: pomerium.io , gmail.com

Allowed domains is a collection of whitelisted domains to authorize for a given route.

CORS Preflight

  • yaml/json setting: cors_allow_preflight
  • Type: bool
  • Optional
  • Default: false

Allow unauthenticated HTTP OPTIONS requests as per the CORS spec.

Public Access

  • yaml/json setting: allow_public_unauthenticated_access
  • Type: bool
  • Optional
  • Default: false

Use with caution: Allow all requests for a given route, bypassing authentication and authorization. Suitable for publicly exposed web services.

If this setting is enabled, no whitelists (e.g. Allowed Users) should be provided in this route.

Route Timeout

  • yaml/json setting: timeout
  • Type: Go Duration string
  • Optional
  • Default: 30s

Policy timeout establishes the per-route timeout value. Cannot exceed global timeout values.

Websocket Connections

  • Config File Key: allow_websockets
  • Type: bool
  • Default: false

If set, enables proxying of websocket connections.

Use with caution: By definition, websockets are long-lived connections, so global timeouts are not enforced. Allowing websocket connections to the proxy could result in abuse via DOS attacks.

TLS Skip Verification

  • Config File Key: tls_skip_verify
  • Type: bool
  • Default: false

TLS Skip Verification controls whether a client verifies the server's certificate chain and host name. If enabled, TLS accepts any certificate presented by the server and any host name in that certificate. In this mode, TLS is susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks. This should be used only for testing.

TLS Server Name

  • Config File Key: tls_server_name
  • Type: string
  • Optional

TLS Server Name overrides the hostname you specified in the to field. If set, this server name will be used to verify server side certificate. This is useful when the backend of your service is an HTTPS server with valid certificate, but you want to communicate via an internal hostname or IP address.

TLS Custom Certificate Authority

  • Config File Key: tls_custom_ca or tls_custom_ca_file
  • Type: [base64 encoded] string or relative file location
  • Optional

TLS Custom Certificate Authority defines the set of root certificate authorities that clients use when verifying server certificates.

Note: This setting will replace (not append) the system's trust store for a given route.

TLS Client Certificate

  • Config File Key: tls_client_cert and tls_client_key or tls_client_cert_file and tls_client_key_file
  • Type: [base64 encoded] string or relative file location
  • Optional

Pomerium supports client certificates which can be used to enforce mutually authenticated and encrypted TLS connections (mTLS). For more details, see our mTLS example repository and the certificate docs.

Set Request Headers

  • Config File Key: set_request_headers
  • Type: map of strings key value pairs
  • Optional

Set Request Headers allows you to set static values for given request headers. This can be useful if you want to pass along additional information to downstream applications as headers, or set authentication header to the request. For example:

- from: https://httpbin.corp.example.com
  to: https://httpbin.org
    - bdd@pomerium.io
    - bobbydesimone@gmail.com
    - bobby@tdia.com
    # works auto-magically!
    # https://httpbin.corp.example.com/basic-auth/root/hunter42
    Authorization: Basic cm9vdDpodW50ZXI0Mg==
    X-Your-favorite-authenticating-Proxy: "Pomerium"

Authenticate Service

Authenticate Service URL

  • Environmental Variable: AUTHENTICATE_SERVICE_URL
  • Config File Key: authenticate_service_url
  • Type: URL
  • Required
  • Example: https://authenticate.corp.example.com

Authenticate Service URL is the externally accessible URL for the authenticate service.

Identity Provider Name

  • Environmental Variable: IDP_PROVIDER
  • Config File Key: idp_provider
  • Type: string
  • Required
  • Options: azure google okta gitlab onelogin or oidc

Provider is the short-hand name of a built-in OpenID Connect (oidc) identity provider to be used for authentication. To use a generic provider,set to oidc.

See [identity provider] for details.

Identity Provider Client ID

  • Environmental Variable: IDP_CLIENT_ID
  • Config File Key: idp_client_id
  • Type: string
  • Required

Client ID is the OAuth 2.0 Client Identifier retrieved from your identity provider. See your identity provider's documentation, and our [identity provider] docs for details.

Identity Provider Client Secret

  • Environmental Variable: IDP_CLIENT_SECRET
  • Config File Key: idp_client_secret
  • Type: string
  • Required

Client Secret is the OAuth 2.0 Secret Identifier retrieved from your identity provider. See your identity provider's documentation, and our [identity provider] docs for details.

Identity Provider URL

  • Environmental Variable: IDP_PROVIDER_URL
  • Config File Key: idp_provider_url
  • Type: string
  • Required, depending on provider

Provider URL is the base path to an identity provider's OpenID connect discovery document. For example, google's URL would be https://accounts.google.com for their discover document.

Identity Provider Scopes

  • Environmental Variable: IDP_SCOPES
  • Config File Key: idp_scopes
  • Type: []string comma separated list of oauth scopes.
  • Default: oidc,profile, email, offline_access (typically)
  • Optional for built-in identity providers.

Identity provider scopes correspond to access privilege scopes as defined in Section 3.3 of OAuth 2.0 RFC6749. The scopes associated with Access Tokens determine what resources will be available when they are used to access OAuth 2.0 protected endpoints. If you are using a built-in provider, you probably don't want to set customized scopes.

Identity Provider Service Account

  • Environmental Variable: IDP_SERVICE_ACCOUNT
  • Config File Key: idp_service_account
  • Type: string
  • Required, depending on provider

Identity Provider Service Account is field used to configure any additional user account or access-token that may be required for querying additional user information during authentication. For a concrete example, Google an additional service account and to make a follow-up request to query a user's group membership. For more information, refer to the [identity provider] docs to see if your provider requires this setting.

Proxy Service

Signing Key

  • Environmental Variable: SIGNING_KEY
  • Config File Key: signing_key
  • Type: [base64 encoded] string
  • Optional

Signing key is the base64 encoded key used to sign outbound requests. For more information see the signed headers docs.

Authenticate Service URL

  • Environmental Variable: AUTHENTICATE_SERVICE_URL
  • Config File Key: authenticate_service_url
  • Type: URL
  • Required
  • Example: https://authenticate.corp.example.com

Authenticate Service URL is the externally accessible URL for the authenticate service.

Authorize Service URL

  • Environmental Variable: AUTHORIZE_SERVICE_URL
  • Config File Key: authorize_service_url
  • Type: URL
  • Required
  • Example: https://authorize.corp.example.com or https://pomerium-authorize-service.default.svc.cluster.local or https://localhost:5443

Authorize Service URL is the location of the internally accessible authorize service. NOTE: Unlike authenticate, authorize has no publicly accessible http handlers so this setting is purely for gRPC communication.

If your load balancer does not support gRPC pass-through you'll need to set this value to an internally routable location (https://pomerium-authorize-service.default.svc.cluster.local) instead of an externally routable one (https://authorize.corp.example.com).

Override Certificate Name

  • Environmental Variable: OVERRIDE_CERTIFICATE_NAME
  • Config File Key: override_certificate_name
  • Type: int
  • Optional (but typically required if Authenticate Internal Service Address is set)
  • Example: *.corp.example.com if wild card or authenticate.corp.example.com/authorize.corp.example.com

When Authenticate Internal Service Address is set, secure service communication can fail because the external certificate name will not match the internally routed service hostname/SNI. This setting allows you to override that check.

Certificate Authority

  • Config File Key: certificate_authority or certificate_authority_file
  • Type: [base64 encoded] string or relative file location
  • Optional

Certificate Authority is set when behind-the-ingress service communication uses self-signed certificates. Be sure to include the intermediary certificate.


  • Environmental Variable: HEADERS

  • Config File Key: headers

  • Type: map of strings key value pairs

  • Examples:

    • Comma Separated: X-Content-Type-Options:nosniff,X-Frame-Options:SAMEORIGIN

    • JSON: '{"X-Test": "X-Value"}'

    • YAML:

        X-Test: X-Value
  • To disable: disable:true

  • Default :

    X-Content-Type-Options : nosniff,
    X-XSS-Protection:1; mode=block,
    Strict-Transport-Security:max-age=31536000; includeSubDomains; preload,

Headers specifies a mapping of [HTTP Header](https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/HTTP/Headers) to be added to proxied requests. _Nota bene_ Downstream application headers will be overwritten by Pomerium's headers on conflict.

By default, conservative [secure HTTP headers](https://www.owasp.org/index.php/OWASP_Secure_Headers_Project) are set.

![pomerium security headers](./img/security-headers.png)

## Refresh Cooldown

- Environmental Variable: `REFRESH_COOLDOWN`
- Config File Key: `refresh_cooldown`
- Type: [Duration](https://golang.org/pkg/time/#Duration) `string`
- Example: `10m`, `1h45m`
- Default: `5m`

Refresh cooldown is the minimum amount of time between allowed manually refreshed sessions.

## Default Upstream Timeout

- Environmental Variable: `DEFAULT_UPSTREAM_TIMEOUT`
- Config File Key: `default_upstream_timeout`
- Type: [Duration](https://golang.org/pkg/time/#Duration) `string`
- Example: `10m`, `1h45m`
- Default: `30s`

Default Upstream Timeout is the default timeout applied to a proxied route when no `timeout` key is specified by the policy.

[base64 encoded]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Base64
[environmental variables]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environment_variable
[identity provider]: ./identity-providers.md
[json]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JSON
[letsencrypt]: https://letsencrypt.org/
[oidc rfc]: https://openid.net/specs/openid-connect-core-1_0.html#AuthRequest
[script]: https://github.com/pomerium/pomerium/blob/master/scripts/generate_wildcard_cert.sh
[toml]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TOML
[yaml]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YAML