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Fix “access denied” error when parsing HTML as PHP with Nginx

If you are attempting to get files with a .html extension parsed as PHP with Nginx + php-fpm, you might get an “access denied” error in your browser, and the error message “Access to the script ‘…’ has been denied (see security.limit_extensions)” in your Nginx error log. This post shows how to allow html files to be parsed successfully as PHP with Nginx + php-fpm.

Nginx configuration block

Your Nginx configuration block will look something like this to parse HTM files as PHP:

server {
  ... configuration options ...
  location ~ .html$ {
    fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock;
    fastcgi_param	QUERY_STRING		$query_string;
    fastcgi_param	REQUEST_METHOD		$request_method;
    fastcgi_param	CONTENT_TYPE		$content_type;
    fastcgi_param	CONTENT_LENGTH		$content_length;
    ... etc etc ...

Error message

And yet when you access e.g. somefile.html you get “Access denied” in the browser.

You check the Nginx error log and see this:

2015/04/25 07:38:28 [error] 5942#0: *108814 FastCGI sent in stderr: “Access to the script ‘/path/to/somefile.html’ has been denied (see security.limit_extensions)” while reading response header from upstream, client:, server: www.example.com, request: “GET / HTTP/1.1”, upstream: “fastcgi://unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock:”, host: “www.example.com”

The fix needed is suggested in the error message: “see security.limit_extensions”

Set security.limit_extensions

On Debian 7 Wheezy, the configuration file to edit this setting is at /etc/php5/fpm/pool.d/www.conf; on other distributions it may be in a different place.

Then search for security.limit_extensions. It should look something like this in the file by default:

; Limits the extensions of the main script FPM will allow to parse. This can
; prevent configuration mistakes on the web server side. You should only limit
; FPM to .php extensions to prevent malicious users to use other extensions to
; exectute php code.
; Note: set an empty value to allow all extensions.
; Default Value: .php
;security.limit_extensions = .php .php3 .php4 .php5

If the security.limit_extensions has been set already, then add .html to it; if it hasn’t then add it in with all the extensions you need to allow, e.g.:

security.limit_extensions = .php .html

Is it safe to do this?

When enabling this myself, my first thought was “Is this safe” and “Can a regular HTML file suddenly be parsed as PHP” and then obviously “Will this cause security issues with any WordPress blogs installed on my server?”

As far as I can tell, it shouldn’t cause any issues, because you still have to allow .html files to be parsed through php-fpm in the Nginx config. If you haven’t done that, then they won’t.

If I am wrong, please add a comment below.