Frida supports two modes of operation, depending on whether your iOS device is jailbroken or not.

Table of contents

  1. With Jailbreak
  2. Without Jailbreak

With Jailbreak

This is the most powerful setup, as it lets you instrument system services and apps with very little effort.

In this tutorial we will show you how to do function tracing on your iOS device.

Setting up your iOS device

Start Cydia and add Frida’s repository by going to Manage -> Sources -> Edit -> Add and enter You should now be able to find and install the Frida package which lets Frida inject JavaScript into apps running on your iOS device. This happens over USB, so you will need to have your USB cable handy, though there’s no need to plug it in just yet.

A quick smoke-test

Now, back on your Windows or macOS system it’s time to make sure the basics are working. Run:

$ frida-ps -U
Using a Linux-based OS?

As of Frida 6.0.9 there's now usbmuxd integration, so -U works. For earlier Frida versions you can use WiFi and set up an SSH tunnel between localhost:27042 on both ends, and then use -R instead of -U.

Unless you already plugged in your device, you should see the following message:

Waiting for USB device to appear...

Plug in your device, and you should see a process list along the lines of:

 488 Clock
 116 Facebook
 312 IRCCloud
1711 LinkedIn

Great, we’re good to go then!

Tracing crypto calls in the Twitter app

Alright, let’s have some fun. Fire up the Twitter app on your device, and while making sure it stays in the foreground without the device going to sleep, go back to your desktop and run:

$ frida-trace -U -i "CCCryptorCreate*" Twitter
Uploading data...
CCCryptorCreate: Auto-generated handler …/CCCryptorCreate.js
CCCryptorCreateFromData: Auto-generated handler …/CCCryptorCreateFromData.js
CCCryptorCreateWithMode: Auto-generated handler …/CCCryptorCreateWithMode.js
CCCryptorCreateFromDataWithMode: Auto-generated handler …/CCCryptorCreateFromDataWithMode.js
Started tracing 4 functions. Press Ctrl+C to stop.

Now, CCryptorCreate and friends are part of Apple’s libcommonCrypt.dylib, and is used by many apps to take care of encryption, decryption, hashing, etc.

Reload your Twitter feed or exercise the UI in some way that results in network traffic, and you should see some output like the following:

3979 ms	CCCryptorCreate()
3982 ms	CCCryptorCreateWithMode()
3983 ms	CCCryptorCreate()
3983 ms	CCCryptorCreateWithMode()

You can now live-edit the aforementioned JavaScript files as you read man CCryptorCreate, and start diving deeper and deeper into your iOS apps.

Without Jailbreak

Frida is able to instrument debuggable apps, and will inject Gadget automatically as of Frida 12.7.12.

Only a few requirements to be aware of:

  • The iOS device should ideally be running iOS 13 or newer. Support for older versions is considered experimental.
  • The Developer Disk Image must be mounted. Xcode will mount it automatically as soon as it discovers the iOS USB device, but you can also do it manually by using ideviceimagemounter.
  • Latest Gadget must be present in the user’s cache directory. On macOS this is ~/.cache/frida/gadget-ios.dylib, but you can figure out the exact path by attempting to attach to a debuggable app and then reading the error message.

Building your own tools

While the CLI tools like frida, frida-trace, etc., are definitely quite useful, there might be times when you’d like to build your own tools harnessing the powerful Frida APIs. For that we would recommend reading the chapters on Functions and Messages, and anywhere you see frida.attach() just substitute that with frida.get_usb_device().attach().