Sunday, 27 January 2013

Reverse Engineering an iOS application


When you are PenTesting an iOS application, you would want to read the code of the provided application and understand the backend classes and hidden information. Using this, you can try and exploit the application to gain access to sensitive information or to redirect the flow of the application in an malicious manner.

Reverse Engineering an iOS application is completely different as compared to an Android apk. The complete original source code cannot be revivied from an existing iOS application. Only, declarations for the classes, categories and protocols can be decompiled from an given application.

  • iOS device must be jailbroken.
  • OpenSSH should be installed on the iOS device.
  • SSH Client on your machine.
  • "Class Dump" should be installed on the iOS device via "Cydia"
Detailed Steps:

Step 1: SSH in to your iOS device using credentials as root:alpine.

Step 2: Launch the application on your device and note down the application location on your device using the "ps -ax | grep "App"" command.

As shown in the above diagram, the application is running from location “ /Applications/”

Step 3: Navigate to that location “/Applications/” via the shell.
We will use “Class dump” to reverse engineer this application. It is a command-line utility for examining the Objective-C runtime information stored in Mach-O files. It generates declarations for the classes, categories and protocols. We will do this using the command
class-dump Stocks > /tmp/dinesh/Stockreversed.txt

As shown in the below screenshot, the application was decompiled properly and the header and implementation files are copied to location /tmp/dinesh/ in the file Stockreversed.txt

Below screenshot shows the contents of the file “Stockreversed.txt” is clearly readable and all kinds of hidden secrets and logical flaws can be understood from here.

The above screenshot shows that the source code is in cleartext and can be easily analysed.
Now that you have the declarations of the classes and the protocols you can go ahead an debug the application using GDB or, hook on to the functions present in the application via MobileSubstrate and try to change its behavior.

However, many a times this process is not so straight forward and the developers put in additional security feature to prevent the attackers from reversing the applications by using debugging techniques. The ways by which, we can bypass this restrictions and try and dump the class declarations in an encrypted iOS application would be explained in the next blog post. 



  1. To dump the class information using Class-dump is it really required to have a jailbroken device and carry out the process on it?
    Will it not be sufficient if we have the ipa file and class-dump-z on a machine?

  2. Hi Anonymous,

    Using classdump on your jailbroken device is not compulsary. You can pull the ipa file from the device and run classdumpz on your local machine also. It would yield the same result.

    1. On running class-dump on non- jailbroken deivce it shows following error.
      class-dump: Input file (appName xxxxxxipa) is neither a Mach-O file nor a fat archive.

  3. Thanks, worked perfectly.

  4. Do we have any emulator for testing iOS application?

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  7. I am getting errors saying the file is not a Mach-O file nor a fat archive. Any idea why?

    1. I figured it out... Class-dump does not support 64-bit Mach-O files... And I am on an iPad mini 3 and most apps are 64-bit.

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