2 minute read

iOS apps under the microscope

I once wrote a note about poking around Android apps. The other day I realised I still haven’t done it for iOS. Let’s fix the gap (:

Nice to have

Here we go

As an example I’ll take default Apple’s Calendar app:


Binary neighbours

At first we should somehow get hold of decrypted app file (.ipa). To do so we can jump over to another branch where I explained the process in details.

As soon as we got the decrypded .ipa we are able to:

  1. Imagine .ipa as archived folder:

     mv Calendar.ipa Calendar.zip
  2. Unzip that folder

     unzip Calendar.zip
  3. Get inside

     cd Payload/MobileCal.app/

Being there we can find binary itself (that names «MobileCal» without extension) and figure out what else lives near the binary, e.g.: .json and .plist files.

Strings and pseudocode

As soon as we got the binary file we can dive much deeper – inside the Assembler code via Hopper:

  1. Open Hopper Disassembler app

  2. Navigate to «File ↝ Open…»

  3. Chose the app’s binary file

  4. Confirm all default options by tapping on «OK» button

  5. Wait for Hopper will analyze binary code

When Hopper has done its awesome work we are able to:

  • Consider strings «representation» of our sample app
  • Look for methods names
  • Enjoy pseudocode of those methods
  • Or block diagrams

Classes, methods and variables

Then we could get a list of the classes from the app in a readable format via class-dump:

  1. As I mentioned before binary selection depends on your app:

    • if your app is written in Objective-C, so grab ObjC binary
    • elsif your app is written in Swift, just grab Swift binary
  2. Put the binary to /usr/local/bin/ folder

  3. Dump the app’s binary using class-dump

     class-dump-swift Payload/MobileCal.app/MobileCal > dump.txt
  4. Enjoy classes content by opening dump.txt file

Keychain, local storage, url-schemes and much more

To get this data we could use for example: passionfruit or objection. For most day to day actions, these tools are pretty much the same with only one correction:

  • passionfruit is about UI
  • objection is about CLI

Just take your choice, but I’ll do a short intro how to get app’s data using both of them:


objection -g "Calendar" explore
Command Description
ios cookies get Show app’s cookies
ios keychain dump Show app’s keychain
ios nsurlcredentialstorage dump Show nsurlcredentialstorage data
ios ui dump Show current app’s screen hierarchy
ios bundles list_frameworks Show app’s frameworks list
ios plist cat Show content of chosen plist file
sqlite connect Show content of chosen DB file


  1. Run passionfruit server

  2. Open its main web page

     open http://localhost:31337
  3. Chose your device and the app

  4. Enjoy handy design with a lot of intuitive features


Widescale static analysis

There were many interesting tools, but let’s come back to old but cozy frida and grep all useful information about the app.

Just run the command and enjoy the output:

frida -U "Calendar" --codeshare interference-security/ios-app-static-analysis


Hope it helped on your way, see ya (: