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This is an IDA plugin that helped me reverse-engineer the DTXConnectionServices framework.

This plugin was a core topic of my presentation Discovering the iOS Instruments Server at Recon Montreal 2018.


DTXConnectionServices is a library developed by Apple that facilitates interoperability between iOS and OSX. It is notably used to transmit debugging statistics between the iOS Instruments Server and Xcode.

The goal of this plugin is to help uncover how this communication mechanism works.

dtxmsg detects critical pieces of logic in the DTXConnectionServices binary, sets breakpoints at these locations, then hooks into IDA's debugger events and dumps the packets of information transmitted between iOS and OSX.

Apple calls these packets "DTXMessages", hence the name of the plugin.

The plugin can also decode these messages and print the contents to a file in plain text.


In order to build and run dtxmsg, you must have access to the following:

  • IDA 7.1 or later, with decompiler support
  • IDA SDK 7.1 or later
  • hexrays_sdk 7.1 or later
  • a jailbroken iOS device (this is required for debugging the Instruments server. however, simply communicating with the server does not require a jailbroken device. see dtxmsg_client)
  • a patched iOS debugserver
  • OSX with Xcode installed

This plugin was tested with iOS 9.3.1 and OSX 10.13.

Theoretically, the plugin can work with any iOS between 9.3-11.4, and any OSX between 10.10-10.13, but these have not been explicitly tested.


To build dtxmsg, run the following commands:

$ export IDA_INSTALL_DIR=/path/to/your/IDA/installation
$ export IDASDK=/path/to/your/idasdk
$ cd $IDASDK/plugins
$ git clone
$ cd dtxmsg
$ __EA64__=1 NDEBUG=1 $IDASDK/bin/


To demonstrate the dtxmsg plugin in action, we will use it to log all the messages received by the iOS Instruments Server when Xcode queries the process list ("Debug>Attach to Process" in the Xcode IDE).

  1. It may be a good idea brush up on how IDA's iOS Debugger Works

  2. Launch Xcode, and open an iOS project (make sure your device is selected as the build target)

  3. download ios_deploy and run the following commands:

    $ ios_deploy -d  usbproxy -r 22 -l 2222 &
    $ ios_deploy -d  usbproxy -r 1234 -l 4321 &
    $ ssh -p 2222 [email protected]
    Connected to port 22 on device
    iPhone-6-jailbroken:~ root# ps aux | grep DTServiceHub
    root           11451   0.0  0.5   712144  10960   ??  Ss   Tue04PM   0:02.91 /Developer/Library/PrivateFrameworks/DVTInstrumentsFoundation.framework/DTServiceHub
    iPhone-6-jailbroken:~ root# ./debugserver *:1234
    [email protected](#)PROGRAM:debugserver  PROJECT:debugserver-340.3.124 for arm64.
    Listening to port 1234 for a connection from *...
    Note the PID of the application DTServiceHub (11451). This is the Instruments Server process. If this process is not running, go to your Xcode window and select menu Debug>Attach to process. This should launch the Instruments server.
  4. Be sure to set the following options in $IDA_INSTALL_DIR/

    SYMBOL_PATH = "~/Library/Developer/Xcode/iOS DeviceSupport//Symbols"
    DEVICE_ID = ""
  5. Run the plugin in IDA:

    $ hdiutil mount /Applications/
    $ mkdir /tmp/dtxmsg
    $ $IDA_INSTALL_DIR/ -Odtxmsg:11451:/tmp/dtxmsg:v -o/tmp/dtxmsg/DTXConnectionServices.i64 -L/tmp/dtxmsg/ida.log /Volumes/DeveloperDiskImage/Library/PrivateFrameworks/DTXConnectionServices.framework/DTXConnectionServices
    Note the plugin options: -Odtxmsg:11451:/tmp/dtxmsg:v
    • 11451 = PID of the Instruments Server process
    • /tmp/dtxmsg = directory where messages will be logged (must be an absolute path)
    • v = enable verbose mode. captured messages will be deserialized and printed to a file in plain text

If the plugin loads successfully, it will automatically attach to the given PID and allow the process to run idle, waiting for incoming messages.

  1. Go back to Xcode, and select menu Debug>Attach to Process. If dtxmsg was able to intercept communications, it will print some messages to the console:
    DTXMSG: message: /tmp/dtxmsg/dtxmsg_1_0.bin
    DTXMSG: message: /tmp/dtxmsg/dtxmsg_2_0.bin
    DTXMSG: message: /tmp/dtxmsg/dtxmsg_3_0.bin
    There will also be .txt files that contain the decoded data.


This project also includes a standalone application that can communicate with the iOS Instruments Server independently. It serves as an example of how to "speak the language" of the DTXConnectionServices framework.

This app can communicate with any device, provided the Instruments Server has been installed. The app does not require a jailbreak, and so far has worked with any iOS version from 9.3-12.0.

To run it, see:

$ $IDASDK/bin/dtxmsg_client -h

Note that you can install the Instruments Server with ios_deploy:

$ ios_deploy mount -h

UPDATE: the dtxmsg_client app has been moved to its own repository: ios_instruments_client. Due to the popularity of this client code, it made sense to create a standalone repo that does not depend on the IDA SDK to build. For any inquiries about the dtxmsg_client app, please use the ios_instruments_client repo instead.

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