Running w3af

w3af has two user interfaces, the console user interface and the graphical user interface. This user guide will focus on the console user interface where it’s easier to explain the framework’s features. To fire up the console UI execute:

$ ./w3af_console

From this prompt you will be able to configure framework and plugin settings, launch scans and ultimately exploit a vulnerability. At this point you can start typing commands. The first command you have to learn is help (please note that commands are case sensitive):

w3af>>> help
| start         | Start the scan.                                |
| plugins       | Enable and configure plugins.                  |
| exploit       | Exploit the vulnerability.                     |
| profiles      | List and use scan profiles.                    |
| cleanup       | Cleanup before starting a new scan.            |
| help          | Display help. Issuing: help [command] , prints |
|               | more specific help about "command"             |
| version       | Show w3af version information.                 |
| keys          | Display key shortcuts.                         |
| http-settings | Configure the HTTP settings of the framework.  |
| misc-settings | Configure w3af misc settings.                  |
| target        | Configure the target URL.                      |
| back          | Go to the previous menu.                       |
| exit          | Exit w3af.                                     |
| kb            | Browse the vulnerabilities stored in the       |
|               | Knowledge Base                                 |
w3af>>> help target
Configure the target URL.

The main menu commands are explained in the help that is displayed above. The internals of every menu will be seen later in this document. As you already noticed, the help command can take a parameter, and if available, a detailed help for that command will be shown, e.g. help keys.

Other interesting things to notice about the console UI is the ability for tabbed completion (type ‘plu’ and then TAB) and the command history (after typing some commands, navigate the history with the up and down arrows).

To enter a configuration menu, you just have to type it’s name and hit enter, you will see how the prompt changes and you are now in that context:

w3af>>> http-settings

All the configuration menus provide the following commands:

  • help
  • view
  • set
  • back

Here is a usage example of these commands in the http-settings menu:

w3af/config:http-settings>>> help
| view  | List the available options and their values.            |
| set   | Set a parameter value.                                  |
| save  | Save the configured settings.                           |
| back  | Go to the previous menu.                                |
| exit  | Exit w3af.                                              |
w3af/config:http-settings>>> view
| Setting                | Value    | Description                                               |
| url_parameter          |          | Append the given URL parameter to every accessed URL.     |
|                        |          | Example:;<parameter>?id=2 |
| timeout                | 15       | The timeout for connections to the HTTP server            |
| headers_file           |          | Set the headers filename. This file has additional headers|
|                        |          | which are added to each request.                          |
| basic_auth_user        |          | Set the basic authentication username for HTTP requests   |
| basic_auth_passwd      |          | Set the basic authentication password for HTTP requests   |
| basic_auth_domain      |          | Set the basic authentication domain for HTTP requests     |
w3af/config:http-settings>>> set timeout 5
w3af/config:http-settings>>> save
w3af/config:http-settings>>> back

To summarize, the view command is used to list all configurable parameters, with their values and a description. The set command is used to change a value. Finally we can execute back or press CTRL+C to return to the previous menu. A detailed help for every configuration parameter can be obtained using help parameter as shown in this example:

w3af/config:http-settings>>> help timeout
Help for parameter timeout:
Set low timeouts for LAN use and high timeouts for slow Internet connections.


The http-settings and the misc-settings configuration menus are used to set system wide parameters that are used by the framework. All the parameters have defaults and in most cases you can leave them as they are. w3af was designed in a way that allows beginners to run it without having to learn a lot of its internals.

It is also flexible enough to be tuned by experts that know what they want and need to change internal configuration parameters to fulfill their tasks.

Running w3af with GTK user interface

The framework has also a graphical user interface that you can start by executing:

$ ./w3af_gui

The graphical user interface allows you to perform all the actions that the framework offers and features a much easier and faster way to start a scan and analyze the results.


The GUI has different third party dependencies and might require you to install extra OS and python packages.

Plugin configuration

The plugins are configured using the “plugins” configuration menu.

w3af>>> plugins
w3af/plugins>>> help
| list             | List available plugins.                                  |
| back             | Go to the previous menu.                                 |
| exit             | Exit w3af.                                               |
| output           | View, configure and enable output plugins                |
| audit            | View, configure and enable audit plugins                 |
| crawl            | View, configure and enable crawl plugins                 |
| bruteforce       | View, configure and enable bruteforce plugins            |
| grep             | View, configure and enable grep plugins                  |
| evasion          | View, configure and enable evasion plugins               |
| infrastructure   | View, configure and enable infrastructure plugins        |
| auth             | View, configure and enable auth plugins                  |
| mangle           | View, configure and enable mangle plugins                |

All plugins except the attack plugins can be configured within this menu. Lets list all the plugins of the audit type:

w3af>>> plugins
w3af/plugins>>> list audit
| Plugin name        | Status | Conf | Description                            |
| blind_sqli         |        | Yes  | Identify blind SQL injection           |
|                    |        |      | vulnerabilities.                       |
| buffer_overflow    |        |      | Find buffer overflow vulnerabilities.  |

To enable the xss and sqli plugins, and then verify that the command was understood by the framework, we issue this set of commands:

w3af/plugins>>> audit xss, sqli
w3af/plugins>>> audit
| Plugin name        | Status  | Conf | Description                          |
| sqli               | Enabled |      | Find SQL injection bugs.             |
| ssi                |         |      | Find server side inclusion           |
|                    |         |      | vulnerabilities.                     |
| ssl_certificate    |         | Yes  | Check the SSL certificate validity   |
|                    |         |      | (if https is being used).            |
| un_ssl             |         |      | Find out if secure content can also  |
|                    |         |      | be fetched using http.               |
| xpath              |         |      | Find XPATH injection                 |
|                    |         |      | vulnerabilities.                     |
| xss                | Enabled | Yes  | Identify cross site scripting        |
|                    |         |      | vulnerabilities.                     |
| xst                |         |      | Find Cross Site Tracing              |
|                    |         |      | vulnerabilities.                     |

Or if the user is interested in knowing exactly what a plugin does, he can also run the desc command like this:

w3af/plugins>>> audit desc xss

This plugin finds Cross Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities.

One configurable parameters exists:
    - persistent_xss

To find XSS bugs the plugin will send a set of javascript strings to
every parameter, and search for that input in the response.

The "persistent_xss" parameter makes the plugin store all data
sent to the web application and at the end, request all URLs again
searching for those specially crafted strings.


Now we know what this plugin does, but let’s check its internals:

w3af/plugins>>> audit config xss
w3af/plugins/audit/config:xss>>> view
| Setting        | Value | Description                                        |
| persistent_xss | True  | Identify persistent cross site scripting           |
|                |       | vulnerabilities                                    |
w3af/plugins/audit/config:xss>>> set persistent_xss False
w3af/plugins/audit/config:xss>>> back
The configuration has been saved.

The configuration menus for the plugins also have the set command for changing the parameters values, and the view command for listing existing values. On the previous example we disabled persistent cross site scripting checks in the xss plugin.

Saving the configuration

Once the plugin and framework configuration is set, it is possible to save this information to a profile:

w3af>>> profiles
w3af/profiles>>> save_as tutorial
Profile saved.

Profiles are saved as files in ~/.w3af/profiles/. The saved configuration can be loaded in order to run a new scan:

w3af>>> profiles
w3af/profiles>>> use fast_scan
The plugins configured by the scan profile have been enabled, and their options configured.
Please set the target URL(s) and start the scan.

Sharing a profile with another user might be problematic, since they include full paths to the files referenced by plugin configurations which would require users to share the profile, referenced files, and manually edit the profile to match the current environment. To solve this issue the self-contained flag was added:

w3af>>> profiles
w3af/profiles>>> save_as tutorial self-contained
Profile saved.

A self-contained profile bundles all the referenced files inside the profile and can be easily shared with other users.

Starting the scan

After configuring all desired plugins the user has to set the target URL and finally start the scan. The target selection is done this way:

w3af>>> target
w3af/config:target>>> set target http://localhost/
w3af/config:target>>> back

Finally, run start in order to run all the configured plugins.

w3af>>> start

At any time during the scan, you can hit <enter> in order to get a live status of the w3af core. Status lines look like this:

Status: Running discovery.web_spider on http://localhost/w3af/ | Method: GET.