Advanced use cases

Complex Web applications

Some Web applications use browser-side technologies such as JavaScript, Flash and Java applets, technologies that the browsers understand; and w3af is still unable to.

A plugin called spider_man was created to solve this issue, allowing users to analyze complex Web applications. The plugin starts an HTTP proxy which is used by the user to navigate the target site, during this process the plugin will extract information from the requests and send them to the enabled audit plugins.


The spider_man plugin can be used when Javascript, Flash, Java applets or any other browser side technology is present. The only requirement is for the user to manually browse the site using spider_man as HTTP(s) proxy.


See Certificate authority configuration for details about how to configure w3af‘s certificate authority (CA) in your browser.

A simple example will clarify things, let’s suppose that w3af is auditing a site and can’t find any links on the main page. After a closer inspection of the results by the user, it is clear that the main page has a Java applet menu where all the other sections are linked from. The user runs w3af once again and now activates the crawl.spider_man plugin, navigates the site manually using the browser and the spiderman proxy. When the user has finished his browsing, w3af will continue with all the hard auditing work.

This is a sample spider_man plugin run:

w3af>>> plugins
w3af/plugins>>> crawl spider_man
w3af/plugins>>> audit sqli
w3af/plugins>>> back
w3af>>> target
w3af/target>>> set target http://localhost/
w3af/target>>> back
w3af>>> start
spider_man proxy is running on .
Please configure your browser to use these proxy settings and navigate the target site.
To exit spider_man plugin please navigate to .

Now the user configures his browser to use the address as HTTP proxy and navigates the target site, when he finishes navigating the site sections he wants to audit he navigates to which will stop the proxy and finish the plugin. The audit.sqli plugin will run over the identified HTTP requests.


w3af can be used to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in REST APIs. The two most common ways to consume a REST API are:

  • JavaScript which is delivered as part of a Web application
  • A program that runs outside the browser

It’s important to notice that from w3af‘s point of view it’s exactly the same if the HTTP requests are generated from a browser or any other program, thus it is possible to use spider_man proxy from any REST API client.

Just follow these steps to identify vulnerabilities in a REST API which is consumed using a non-browser application:

  • Start spider_man using the steps outlined in the previous section
  • Configure the REST API client to send HTTP requests through ```
  • Run the REST API client
  • Stop the spider_man proxy using curl -X GET --proxy


Since REST APIs can not be crawled w3af will only audit the HTTP requests captured by the proxy. The manual step(s) where the user teaches w3af about all the API endpoints and parameters is key to the success of the security audit.