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.

Choosing which forms to ignore

w3af allows users to configure which forms to ignore using a feature called form ID exclusions. This feature was created when users identified limitations in the previous (more simplistic) exclusion model which only allowed forms to be ignored using URL matching.

Exclusions are configured using a list of form IDs provided in the following format:

  "inputs": ["comment"],
  "attributes": {"class": "comments-form"},
  "hosted_at_url": "/products/.*",
  "method": "get"}]


  • action is a regular expression matching the URL path of the form action,
  • inputs is a list containing the form inputs,
  • attributes is a map containing the <form> tag attributes,
  • hosted-at-url is a regular expression matching the URL path where the form was found,
  • method is the HTTP method using to submit the form.

So, for example, if a user wants to ignore all forms which are sent using the HTTP POST method he would configure the following form ID:

[{"method": "post"}]

If the user decides to ignore all forms which are sent to a specific action and contain the class attribute with value comments-form he would configure:

  "attributes": {"class": "comments-form"}}]

More than one form ID can be specified in the list, for example the following will exclude all forms with methods POST and PUT:

[{"method": "post"}, {"method": "put"}]

Ignoring all forms is also possible using:


This feature is configured using two variables in the misc-settings menu:

  • form_id_list: A string containing the format explained above to match forms.
  • form_id_action: The default action is to exclude the forms which are found by w3af and match at least one of the form IDs specified in form_id_list, but the user can also specify include to only scan the forms which match at least one of the form IDs in the list.

To ease the configuration of this setting w3af will add a debug line to the output (make sure to set verbose to true to see these lines in the output file plugin) containing the form ID of each identified form.


This feature works well together with non_targets. w3af will only send requests to the target if they match both filters.