Insights and Research

PHP Deobfuscation

PHP Deobfuscation

When I was analyzed the PHP scripts used for the "Hot Video" pages, I had to find a way to deobfuscate the PHP code. There are many tools and online services to obfuscate PHP, but very few to deobfuscate it.

Obfuscated PHP code: one big eval()

PHP obfuscation is generally done with:

  • Base64 encoding
  • Encoding strings into hexadecimal and octal values
  • Assigning functions to variables
  • Multiple calls to eval()


This code can be deobfuscated by hand, but it takes multiple iterations and can be time-consuming. Fortunately, Steffan Esser wrote evalhook to make deobfuscation easier. His article about the tool describes how it works. Basically, it is a library used with PHP to render code that is executed by the eval() function.

There are no instructions for compiling the source code, so it took me a little bit of time to understand all the necessary steps to use the code on CentOS5. Here are basic instructions to compile the code.

First, you need:


  • PHP >= v5.2
  • php-devel
  • PHP Zend Optimizer

CentOS5 comes with PHP 5.1, so you will need to obtain a newer version from another YUM repository. I used AtomicCorp to install the new PHP version and Zend.

Then, run these commands:



  tar xvfz evalhook-0.1.tar.gz  cd evalhook  phpize   ./configure  make  sudo make install

Now, you can use the evahlhook library to deobfuscate PHP files.


  $ php -d encoded_script.php

The only inconvenience I had to deal with when using evalhook, was that the resulting code still has strings encoded with hexadecimal and octal. So I wrote a small (and ugly!) Perl script to parse these strings into ASCII. Download if you're interested in using it.





  perl source.php target.php

-- Julien



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