Are you into web development? Or do you own a website? If yes, then chances are that you have used PHP at some point. PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor, is one of the most commonly used scripting languages for web development.

Well-known websites such as Facebook, Wikipedia and WordPress are built using PHP as their back end script language. However, as reported by Wikipedia, more than half of PHP websites are on discontinued and EOLed versions. Further, over 55% of PHP websites run versions prior to 7.2 and are not supported by The PHP Development Team.

Consequently, more than 55% of websites are susceptible to hacks. Updating to the latest version is always a recommendation, but that’s not all. You need to test your PHP for all the underlying vulnerabilities and loopholes. A careful PHP Penetration Testing is something we vouch for.

Today we will take PHP Penetration testing and break it bit by bit for your understanding. You will also get a close look at the steps involved in a PHP Penetration test and the tools that can come handy for a manual PHP Penetration Test.

But first, let’s evaluate – How secure is PHP?

How secure is PHP?

PHP is just a scripting language and thus, security depends on the coder. Just like other programming languages, you can make your website insecure by writing insecure codes in PHP. Meanwhile, you can use various security-centric functions to make your web application secure against a multitude of attacks. However, many websites such as WordPress, which is built on PHP, have seen a rise in web attacks. PHP is one of the oldest programming languages used for web application and not much was done earlier in terms of security.

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But in more recent versions of PHP, several security measures have been added as well as the overall security protocols have been revamped. In spite of the security measures already present in PHP, websites can be vulnerable to attacks such as SQL injection attacks, cross-site scripting attacks, session hijacking, to name a few. To prevent such attacks, we need to put the websites through intensive testing and PHP security audits.

Why you need PHP security audit & Penetration Testing?

We have already discussed how websites built using PHP can be vulnerable to a number of attacks. To better protect your website, it’s necessary to conduct regular PHP Security Audit & PHP Penetration Testing.

The purpose of a security audit & penetration test is to detect all vulnerable areas in your website which can be exploited by an attacker. A penetration test also includes exploiting a vulnerability to examine it’s gravity. Once the test is done, the results help in patching the vulnerabilities and sanitizing the application or website.

These tests are also necessary to ensure that all control measures are active and effective. Sometimes, patches to fix bugs can introduce newer bugs. Hence a regular vulnerability audit is required to find and rectify these bugs. Long story short, it is better to identify your vulnerabilities before hackers do.

How to carry out a PHP Penetration Test?

Penetration testing includes exploits that can test various security features of your application or website. Before PHP penetration testing software became common, most of the testing was done manually. Which could take hours to run.

Things have changed for better. You can easily find both paid and free penetration testing software that can simplify the manual testing for you. In fact, using a software alongside manual testing is recommended.

Mentioned below are some of the most popular and effective penetration testing software in the market:

  1. Zed Attack Proxy:

    If you are a penetration tester then you must be familiar with OWASP. Developed by OWASP, Zed Attack Proxy is an open-source security tool for testing web applications.

    It can be easily operated by anyone as it supports an interactive GUI and also has access to command line. This tool can expose vulnerabilities such as SQL Injection, XSS injection, application error disclosure and also exposes missing anti-CSRF tokens, to name a few. It is written in JAVA and is one of the most famous projects by OWASP.

    PHP penetration testing tool
    Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP); Source:
  2. Wapiti:

    Wapiti is also an open-source tool for testing built by Devloop and SourceForge. It only supports command line access. So having some knowledge of commands is necessary to use this tool.

    This tool supports brute force attacks, using file names and brute force directories. This PHP penetration testing tool can expose XSS as well as XXE injection, command execution detection, database injection, bash or shellshock bug, etc.

    Wapiti Penetration Tool; Source: Prodefence
  3. W3af:

    This is one of the most popular security tools built using python. This PHP penetration testing tool can detect over 200 types of security threats, which makes it an effective PHP security audit tool. It has a user-friendly GUI interface and is easy to get started with. It can detect vulnerabilities such as blind SQL injection, buffer overflow, XSS attacks, etc.

    w3af php penetration testing results
    w3af PHP penetration testing results
  4. SonarQube:

    SonarQube is another PHP penetration testing tool written in Java. Though it is written in Java, this tool can conduct a PHP security audit on over 20 programming languages. It not only exposes security flaws in web applications but also tests the quality of the source code. With an extremely easy to use interface and support for command line for advanced users, this tool can be effectively used for exposing vulnerabilities such as SQL Injection, DDoS attacks, memory corruption, etc.

    PHP Pentest tools
    SonarQube Find Bugs Plugin; Source: Wikipedia

Hassle-Free PHP Security Audit & Penetration Testing with Astra

All PHP penetration testing tools are partly automated and always require manual intervention. Also, not all tools are tailor-made to fit your PHP security audits. Based on your needs and to provide a complete arsenal to secure your web application, Astra created the Vulnerability Management Platform.

With custom made audits for your specific application, you can be sure of a thorough analysis and all-round testing. Automated testing combined with manual audits provides you with the most comprehensive PHP security audit that you will ever need.

Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Testing by Astra
Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Testing by Astra

Post the audit & pentest, Astra provides a detailed VAPT report for your reference.

astra penetration testing sample report

Astra security experts also go out of their way to assist your developers in fixing those vulnerabilities. All this is made seamless by our one-stop Security audit dashboard.

security audit by Astra
Astra’s VAPT dashboard

Get a professional PHP Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Testing for your website now.

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About The Author


Your usual nerd with an avid interest in everything tech. If not writing then following up on cyber security news and preparing for my next article. If there is something new out there you can bet I will write about it.

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