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Last updated: November 22, 2023

Runtime Reverse Engineering

Runtime reverse engineering can be seen as the on-the-fly version of reverse engineering where you don't have the binary data to your host computer. Instead, you'll analyze it straight from the memory of the app.

We'll keep using the HelloWorld JNI app, open a session with r2frida r2 frida://usb//sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni and you can start by displaying the target binary information by using the :i command:

[0x00000000]> :i
arch                arm
bits                64
os                  linux
pid                 13215
uid                 10096
objc                false
runtime             V8
java                true
cylang              false
pageSize            4096
pointerSize         8
codeSigningPolicy   optional
isDebuggerAttached  false
cwd                 /
dataDir             /data/user/0/sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni
codeCacheDir        /data/user/0/sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni/code_cache
extCacheDir         /storage/emulated/0/Android/data/sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni/cache
obbDir              /storage/emulated/0/Android/obb/sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni
filesDir            /data/user/0/sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni/files
noBackupDir         /data/user/0/sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni/no_backup
codePath            /data/app/sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni-1/base.apk
packageName         sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni
androidId           c92f43af46f5578d
cacheDir            /data/local/tmp
jniEnv              0x7d30a43c60

Search all symbols of a certain module with :is <lib>, e.g. :is

[0x00000000]> \is


Which are empty in this case. Alternatively, you might prefer to look into the imports/exports. For example, list the imports with :ii <lib>:

[0x00000000]> :ii
0x7dbe1159d0 f __cxa_finalize /system/lib64/
0x7dbe115868 f __cxa_atexit /system/lib64/

And list the exports with :iE <lib>:

[0x00000000]> :iE
0x7d1c49954c f Java_sg_vantagepoint_helloworldjni_MainActivity_stringFromJNI

For big binaries it's recommended to pipe the output to the internal less program by appending ~.., i.e. \ii (if not, for this binary, you'd get almost 2500 lines printed to your terminal).

The next thing you might want to look at are the currently loaded Java classes:

[0x00000000]> \ic~sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni

List class fields:

[0x00000000]> :ic sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni.MainActivity~sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni
public native java.lang.String sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni.MainActivity.stringFromJNI()
public sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni.MainActivity()

Note that we've filtered by package name as this is the MainActivity and it includes all methods from Android's Activity class.

You can also display information about the class loader:

[0x00000000]> :icL
   directory "."]
[email protected][
   zip file "/data/app/sg.vantagepoint.helloworldjni-1/base.apk"]

Next, imagine that you are interested into the method exported by 0x7d1c49954c f Java_sg_vantagepoint_helloworldjni_MainActivity_stringFromJNI. You can seek to that address with s 0x7d1c49954c, analyze that function af and print 10 lines of its disassembly pd 10:

[0x7d1c49954c]> pdf
╭ (fcn) fcn.7d1c49954c 18   fcn.7d1c49954c (int32_t arg_40f942h);           ; arg int32_t arg_40f942h @ x29+0x40f942
│           0x7d1c49954c      080040f9       ldr x8, [x0]           0x7d1c499550      01000090       adrp x1, 0x7d1c499000
│           0x7d1c499554      21801591       add x1, x1, 0x560         ; hit0_4
│           0x7d1c499558      029d42f9       ldr x2, [x8, 0x538]       ; [0x538:4]=-1 ; 1336           0x7d1c49955c      4000           invalid

Note that the line tagged with ; hit0_4 corresponds to the string that we've previously found: 0x7d1c499560 hit0_4 Hello from C++.

To learn more, please refer to the r2frida wiki.