Skip to content
Last updated: September 29, 2023

Accessing the Device Shell

One of the most common things you do when testing an app is accessing the device shell. In this section we'll see how to access the iOS shell both remotely from your host computer with/without a USB cable and locally from the device itself.

Remote Shell

In contrast to Android where you can easily access the device shell using the adb tool, on iOS you only have the option to access the remote shell via SSH. This also means that your iOS device must be jailbroken in order to connect to its shell from your host computer. For this section we assume that you've properly jailbroken your device and have either Cydia (see screenshot below) or Sileo installed. In the rest of the guide we will reference to Cydia, but the same packages should be available in Sileo.

In order to enable SSH access to your iOS device you can install the OpenSSH package. Once installed, be sure to connect both devices to the same Wi-Fi network and take a note of the device IP address, which you can find in the Settings -> Wi-Fi menu and tapping once on the info icon of the network you're connected to.

You can now access the remote device's shell by running ssh root@<device_ip_address>, which will log you in as the root user:

$ ssh [email protected]
[email protected]'s password:
iPhone:~ root#

Press Control + D or type exit to quit.

When accessing your iOS device via SSH consider the following:

  • The default users are root and mobile.
  • The default password for both is alpine.

Remember to change the default password for both users root and mobile as anyone on the same network can find the IP address of your device and connect via the well-known default password, which will give them root access to your device.

If you forget your password and want to reset it to the default alpine:

  1. Edit the file /private/etc/master.password on your jailbroken iOS device (using an on-device shell as shown below)
  2. Find the lines:
 root:xxxxxxxxx:0:0::0:0:System Administrator:/var/root:/bin/sh
 mobile:xxxxxxxxx:501:501::0:0:Mobile User:/var/mobile:/bin/sh
  1. Change xxxxxxxxx to /smx7MYTQIi2M (which is the hashed password alpine)
  2. Save and exit

Connect to a Device via SSH over USB

During a real black box test, a reliable Wi-Fi connection may not be available. In this situation, you can use usbmuxd to connect to your device's SSH server via USB.

Connect macOS to an iOS device by installing and starting iproxy:

$ brew install libimobiledevice
$ iproxy 2222 22
waiting for connection

The above command maps port 22 on the iOS device to port 2222 on localhost. You can also make iproxy run automatically in the background if you don't want to run the binary every time you want to SSH over USB.

With the following command in a new terminal window, you can connect to the device:

$ ssh -p 2222 root@localhost
root@localhost's password:
iPhone:~ root#

Small note on USB of an iDevice: on an iOS device you cannot make data connections anymore after 1 hour of being in a locked state, unless you unlock it again due to the USB Restricted Mode, which was introduced with iOS 11.4.1

On-device Shell App

While usually using an on-device shell (terminal emulator) might be very tedious compared to a remote shell, it can prove handy for debugging in case of, for example, network issues or check some configuration. For example, you can install NewTerm 2 via Cydia for this purpose (it supports iOS 6.0 to 12.1.2 at the time of this writing).

In addition, there are a few jailbreaks that explicitly disable incoming SSH for security reasons. In those cases, it is very convenient to have an on-device shell app, which you can use to first SSH out of the device with a reverse shell, and then connect from your host computer to it.

Opening a reverse shell over SSH can be done by running the command ssh -R <remote_port>:localhost:22 <username>@<host_computer_ip>.

On the on-device shell app run the following command and, when asked, enter the password of the mstg user of the host computer:

ssh -R 2222:localhost:22 [email protected]

On your host computer run the following command and, when asked, enter the password of the root user of the iOS device:

ssh -p 2222 root@localhost