3 minute read

If you’ve been to Fort Kickass before, you’ll notice a different look. I spent the last couple weeks of nights and weekends migrating off my AWS EC2 and WordPress site and onto a Gitlab Pages and Jekyll blogging platform. The reasons for this were manyfold but what I was looking for, in a word, was simplicity.


However, what I got into was a bit of a struggle with Amazon Route 53 and Gitlab’s process to confirm ownership of the domain. In order to make use of HTTPS, Gitlab supports autogeneration of a Lets Encrypt certificate. Part of this process is adding records to your domain to prove you have ownership of it. I am certainly not a DNS wizard nor do I pretend to have done anything with DNS records apart from pointing a new domain to a hosting IP address. But domain verification is nothing I haven’t done before to set up other services.

The instructions provided by Gitlab appear to tell you to create two records. An “alias” record pointing to domain.gitlab.io and the usual TXT record with a verification code. Data for both records were provided in code boxes with copy buttons.

Screenshot of Gitlab "Pages Domain" page instructing the user to add DNS records

I copy and pasted the TXT record data into the Route 53 UI and then struggled mightily with various combinations of A alias records, CNAME records, subdomains, and alias trickery. I broke access to this site on a few occasions with my experiments but, try as I might, I could NOT get the domain verified with Gitlab.

Screenshot of a Route 53 TXT record entry

Who’s to Blame?

I directed my frustration at AWS for a long time, thinking they were artificially preventing me from inserting a record outside of the Route 53 hosted zone by only providing a dropdown menu with AWS products and records only inside the hosted zone.

Screenshot of a Route 53 A alias record entry with a dropdown menu of acceptable values

Big red box with the error "...the alias target name does not lie within the target zone"

Big red box wiht the error "...type CNAME ... is not permitted at apex in zone"


I decided to reach out to my VetSec network for assistance and Drew Hjelm answered the call. After going back and forth over direct messages for a while, Drew said something that clicked in my head.

Drew Hjelm:
If it’s not validating ownership then it would be the _gitlab txt record that it’s having an issue with right?


I took a closer look at that TXT entry from the beginning of this struggle.

A screenshot of my TXT record verification entry in Route 53 for _gitlab-pages-verification-code-patrickriggs.com.patrickriggs.com


I copied the data from Gitlab and just pasted it into my entries without editing for the automatic addition of .patrickriggs.com by AWS. It’s a record for _gitlab-pages-verification-code-patrickriggs.com.patrickriggs.com.

A small snippet of the doubled-up entry of patrickriggs.com.patrickriggs.com

It never needed an “alias” record as outlined in the Gitlab instructions. It only ever needed the TXT record to confirm ownership of the site. I was only too happy to click that little copy button on the Gitlab code block and paste it into the text box.

Once I fixed the double entry on my TXT record, my domain ownership was verified about 2 minutes later. The Let’s Encrypt certificate took longer to generate than it did for the records to propagate.

And with that, I was able to close 20 Firefox tabs.

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