Rego Unit Testing

3 min read


This post is going to outline some basics, interesting tidbits and caveats on unit testing Rego policies.

Unit tests

Let’s start with an obvious question. What is a unit test? Compared to some of the other types of testing in tech, this one is pretty self-explanatory. A unit test is a way to test individual components (or units) of a system. For example, if we had a Rego policy that is supposed to deny requests that allow port 80, we’d write a unit test that sent an input that included that port with the expectation that we’d get a deny message back. This gives us a way to validate our policies without having to deploy them to a real system. It also gives us a way to validate that policy changes don’t introduce any insecurities into our environment.

Generally speaking, unit tests are only needed for custom logic and shouldn’t be used for prebuilt rules/functions of a tool. Also, while we’re making general assumptions, do not strive for 100% test coverage. If you are using a provided library (e.g. Styra DAS), the provider already does testing so there’s no need to repeat it. Unit tests can also add considerable delays to CI/CD when testing new policy changes.


Let’s take a look at an example policy. This policy allows requests to POST to the users path.

view rawrego_testing1.rego hosted with ❤ by GitHub

Now let’s take a look at the accompanying unit test.

view rawrego_testing2.rego hosted with ❤ by GitHub

Let’s break this down.

  • We have a test definition named test_post_allowed
  • The test calls the specific policy definition and passes input to it.
  • allow is the name of the policy definition
  • with is a Rego keyword that allows queries to access values in an input object.
  • {“path”: [“users”], “method”: “POST”} is the test data being used as the input.

You can also store more complex data in a variable in the test definition.

view rawrego_testing3.rego hosted with ❤ by GitHub

Now that we have a test, let’s actually run it. Let’s look at two ways we can accomplish this.

  • Here’s our example in Rego Playground. It’s easy enough, load the page and click Evaluate.
  • Now let’s try it with OPA.
    • Let’s put our policy definition in a file example.rego and our test definition in a file example_test.rego
    • Now let’s execute the tests by running:% opa test . -v
      data.authz.test_post_allowed: PASS (3.697875ms)

Testing conventions

There are a few conventions for writing rego tests.

  • Tests should be named <policyname>_test.rego. E.g. if your policy is ingress.rego, then your test should be named ingress_test.rego
  • All definitions in the test file should start with test_ have a descriptive name. E.g. if your policy definition is allow {…}, then your test might be named test_post_allowed {…}

Unit testing in Styra DAS

If you are using Styra DAS there are a couple things to consider. The main thing is all of the policy definitions are summed up into a single policy. Let’s take a look at an example.

Here we have two definitions, but notice that both are named enforce. Recall that with our unit tests, we call the definition by name to execute a test.

view rawrego_testing4.rego hosted with ❤ by GitHub

So how do we test this? Well, we have options:

  1. Don’t write any tests at all. Since we’re only consuming pre-built content, there’s really no value in writing tests.
  2. Write your tests so they test the policy as a whole. Provide “known good” input data in the test so all the definitions pass. This way, if a definition is changed, the test will fail.
  3. If we really need to test individual definitions, we can give them specific names so we can call them separately. We lose some of the GUI functionality in DAS by doing this as the definitions become completely custom and not DAS managed. We also need to add an additional definition to include the result of our now custom one into the main DAS policy.

Let’s look at an example of the last option. We’ll use the same enforce definitions above but rename them so we can test them individually.

view rawrego_testing5.rego hosted with ❤ by GitHub

If you’re wondering why there are two enforce rules, remember that in Rego, multiple definitions with the same name act as an OR. In this case, we’re saying that we want enforce to be true if either block_priv_mode OR require_audit are true.

Now that we’ve got our DAS policy structured in a way that allows individual unit testing, let’s look at an example test.

Two things to note:

  • On the second line, we import our rules package.
  • Since our rules package is imported as rules, we need to use that namespace to call the definitions we want to test. In this example, we use rules.block_priv_mode.

view rawrego_testing6.rego hosted with ❤ by GitHub


Hopefully this post has been helpful getting started. The Open Policy Agent documentation has a lot more info on policy testing.

This post was originally published here on February 23, 2021. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact @jamesmassardo.


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