FCGI_PARAMS FastCGI record format

Published: February 4, 2019


Recently I was trying update Gopherus’ FastCGI payload to clear PHP-FPM’s security.limit_extensions value. Using Wireshark I knew I needed to edit an FCGI_PARAMS record.

Screenshot showing an FCGI_PARAMS record in Wireshark

However, no matter how much time I spent with Google I couldn’t find a decent explanation of the format of a FCGI_PARAMS record.

Fortunately, after going through the a FCGI_PARAMS record byte-by-byte in Wireshark, I figured out what was going on. Here I’m documenting my findings for anyone else who finds them selves in the same shoes…

How It Works

Let’s look at the example again.

Screenshot showing an FCGI_PARAMS name value pair  in Wireshark

In Wireshark there are two bytes (09 and 4b) before the key / value pair (PHP_VALUE = allow_url_include = On \ndisable_functions = \nauto_prepend_file = php://input). What are they?

It turns out the first byte is the length of the key and the second byte is the length of the value.

  • PHP_VALUE is 9 characters long in decimal, or 09 in hex.
  • allow_url_include = On \ndisable_functions = \nauto_prepend_file = php://input is 75 characters long in decimal, or 4b in hex.

The entire Params component of a FCGI_PARAMS record is made up of key / value pairs in this format.

Actually Finding The Answer In The Spec.

It turns out this is explained in in the spec:

FastCGI transmits a name-value pair as the length of the name, followed by the length of the value, followed by the name, followed by the value.


Sometimes, specs can be a bit dense and difficult to extract information out of, so hopefully you found this blog post useful.

Max Chadwick Hi, I'm Max!

I'm a software developer who mainly works in PHP, but loves dabbling in other languages like Go and Ruby. Technical topics that interest me are monitoring, security and performance. I'm also a stickler for good documentation and clear technical writing.

During the day I lead a team of developers and solve challenging technical problems at Something Digital where I mainly work with the Magento platform. I've also spoken at a number of events.

In my spare time I blog about tech, work on open source and participate in bug bounty programs.

If you'd like to get in contact, you can find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.