JGit: Protect Branches on Git Server

If you're using JGit for your Git server, you can combine Git config (.git/config) and a customized pre-receive hook to protect branches on a specific Git repository.

This post explains how to protect branches on your Git server (implemented by JGit HTTP server). It needs to be done in two steps:


A org.eclipse.jgit.transport.PreReceiveHook is a hook invoked by ReceivePack before any updates are executed. According to JGit Javadoc, the hook is called with any commands that are deemed valid after parsing them from the client and applying the standard receive configuration options to them:

  • receive.denyDenyDeletes
  • receive.denyNonFastForwards

This means the hook will not receive a non-fast-forward update command if denyNonFastForwards is set to true in the configuration file.

As the hook is invoked prior to the commands being executed, the hook may choose to block any command by setting its result status with ReceiveCommand.setResult(ReceiveCommand.Result). This is what we’re doing here—we will set the result to “REJECTED” when any non-fast-forward updates is detected.

public class UpdateHook implements PreReceiveHook {

  public void onPreReceive(ReceivePack rp,
      Collection<ReceiveCommand> commands) {
    // Reject all non-fast-forward updates
    for (ReceiveCommand c : commands) {
      if (c.getType() == Type.UPDATE_NONFASTFORWARD) {

Once the pre-receive-hook is created, you can include it into receive-pack-factory, as part of the receive-pack handling:

GitServlet gitServlet = new GitServlet();
gitServlet.setReceivePackFactory(new MyReceivePackFactory());
public class MyReceivePackFactory
    implements ReceivePackFactory<HttpServletRequest> {

  public ReceivePack create(HttpServletRequest req, Repository db) {
    ReceivePack pack = new ReceivePack(db);
    pack.setPreReceiveHook(new UpdateHook());
    return pack;

However, this might not fit your need, because:

  1. It cannot prevent non-fast-fastforward updates based on branch names.
  2. It does not differentiate one repository’s update-policy from another.

For the 1st point, it’s easy. You just need to add more logic into the pre-receive-hook. For example, protecting only the master branch (refs/heads/master) can be done as follows:

// public void onPreReceive(...) {
if (c.getType() == Type.UPDATE_NONFASTFORWARD
    && "refs/heads/master".equals(c.getRefName())) {

For the 2nd point, let’s see the next section.

Git Config

If you need to have an individual protection policy on each repository hosted, you can also define a git configuration property “receive.denyNonFastForwards” in repo’s Git configuration (.git/config). Therefore, pre-receive-hook understand how to deny the non-fast-forward updates:

  ; Deny non-fast-forward updates
  ; property is case-insensitive
  denynonfastforwards = true

The equivalent Java code which writes this property into Git configuration file:

try (Git git = Git.open(repo)) {
  StoredConfig config = git.getRepository().getConfig();
  // subsection: null
  config.setBoolean("receive", null, "denynonfastforwards", true);

Once the configuration is correctly set, you can use the builtin method of receive-pack ReceivePack#isAllowNonFastForwards to determine if the repo allows non-fast-forward updates:

public class UpdateHook implements PreReceiveHook {

  public void onPreReceive(ReceivePack rp, Collection<ReceiveCommand> commands) {
    if (!rp.isAllowNonFastForwards()) { ... }