Ethereum Smart Contract Decompiler

Update: Jan 2, 2019:
– The full EVM decompiler shipped with JEB 3.0-beta.8
– Download a sample JEB Python script showing how to use the API
Update: Nov 20, 2018:
– We uploaded the decompiled code of an interested contract, the second part of the PolySwarm challenge (a good write-up can be found here)

We’re excited to announce that the pre-release of our Ethereum smart contract decompiler is available. We hope that it will become a tool of choice for security auditors, vulnerability researchers, and reverse engineers examining opaque smart contracts running on Ethereum platforms.

TL;DR: Download the demo build and start reversing contracts

Keep on reading to learn about the current features of the decompiler; how to use it and understand its output; its current limitations, and planned additions.

This opaque multisig wallet is holding more than USD $22 million as of 10/26/2018 (on mainnet, address 0x3DBB3E8A5B1E9DF522A441FFB8464F57798714B1)

Overall decompiler features

The decompiler modules provide the following specific capabilities:

    • The EVM decompiler takes compiled smart contract EVM 1 code as input, and decompiles them to Solidity-like source code.
    • The initial EVM code analysis passes determine contract’s public and private methods, including implementations of public methods synthetically generated by compilers.
    • Code analysis attempts to determine method and event names and prototypes, without access to an ABI.
  • The decompiler also attempts to recover various high-level constructs, including:
      • Implementations of well-known interfaces, such as ERC20 for standard tokens, ERC721 for non-fungible tokens, MultiSigWallet contracts, etc.
      • Storage variables and types
    • High-level Solidity artifacts and idioms, including:
        • Function mutability attributes
      • Function payability state
      • Event emission, including event name
      • Invocations of address.send() or address.transfer()
      • Precompiled contracts invocations

On top of the above, the JEB back-end and client platform provide the following standard functionality:

    • The decompiler uses JEB’s optimizations pipeline to produce high-level clean code.
    • It uses JEB code analysis core features, and therefore permits: code refactoring (eg, consistently renaming methods or fields), commenting and annotating, navigating (eg, cross references), typing, graphing, etc.
    • Users have access to the intermediate-level IR representation as well as high-level AST representations though the JEB API.
  • More generally, the API allows power-users to write extensions, ranging from simple scripts in Python to complex plugins in Java.

Our Ethereum modules were tested on thousands of smart contracts active on Ethereum mainnet and testnets.

Basic usage

Open a contract via the “File, Open smart contract…” menu entry.

You will be offered two options:

  • Open a binary file already stored on disk
  • Download 2 and open a contract from one of the principal Ethereum networks: mainnet, rinkeby, ropsten, or kovan:
    • Select the network
    • Provide the contract 20-byte address
    • Click Download and select a file destination
Open a contract via the File, Open smart contract menu entry

Note that to be recognized as EVM code, a file must:

  • either have a “.evm-bytecode” extension: in this case, the file may contain binary or hex-encoded code;
  • or have be a “.runtime” or “.bin-runtime” extension (as generated by the solc Solidity compiler), and contain hex-encoded Solidity generated code.

If you are opening raw files, we recommend you append the “.evm-extension” to them in order to guarantee that they will be processed as EVM contract code.

Contract Processing

JEB will process your contract file and generate a DecompiledContract class item to represent it:

The Assembly view on the right panel shows the processed code.

To switch to the decompiled view, select the “Decompiled Contract” node in the Hierarchy view, and press TAB (or right-click, Decompile).

Right-click on items to bring up context menus showing the principal commands and shortcuts.
The decompiled view of a contract.

The decompiled contract is rendered in Solidity-like code: it is mostly Solidity code, but not entirely; constructs that are illegal in Solidity are used throughout the code to represent instructions that the decompiler could not represent otherwise. Examples include: low-level statements representing some low-level EVM instructions, memory accesses, or very rarely, goto statements. Do not expect a DecompiledContract to be easily recompiled.

Code views

You may adjust the View panels to have side-by-side views if you wish to navigate the assembly and high-level code at the same time.

  • In the assembly view, within a routine, press Space to visualize its control flow graph.
  • To navigate from assembly to source, and back, press the TAB key. The caret will be positioned on the closest matching instruction.
Side by side views: assembly and source

Contract information

In the Project Explorer panel, double click the contract node (the node with the official Ethereum Foundation logo), and then select the Description tab in the opened view to see interesting information about the processed contract, such as:

  • The detected compiler and/or its version (currently supported are variants of Solidity and Vyper compilers).
  • The list of detected routines (private and public, with their hashes).
  • The Swarm hash of the metadata file, if any.
The contract was identified as being compiled with Solidity <= 0.4.21


The usual commands can be used to refactor and annotate the assembly or decompiled code. You will find the exhaustive list in the Action and Native menus. Here are basic commands:

  • Rename items (methods, variables, globals, …) using the N key
  • Navigate the code by examining cross-references, using the X key (eg, find all callers of a method and jump to one of them)
  • Comment using the Slash key
  • As said earlier, the TAB key is useful to navigate back and forth from the low-level EVM code to high-level decompiled code

We recommend you to browser the general user manual to get up to speed on how to use JEB.

Rename an item (eg, a variable) by pressing the N key

Remember that you can change immediate number bases and rendering by using the B key. In the example below, you can see a couple of strings present in the bad Fomo3D contract, initially rendered in Hex:

All immediates are rendered as hex-strings by default.
Use the B key to cycle through base (10, 16, etc.) and rendering (number, ascii)

Understanding decompiled contracts

This section highlights idioms you will encounter throughout decompiled pseudo-Solidity code. The examples below show the JEB UI Client with an assembly on the left side, and high level decompiled code on the right side. The contracts used as examples are live contracts currently active Ethereum mainnet.

We also highlight current limitations and planned additions.

Dispatcher and public functions

The entry-point function of a contract, at address 0, is generally its dispatcher. It is named start() by JEB, and in most cases will consist in an if-statement comparing the input calldata hash (the first 4 bytes) to pre-calculated hashes, to determine which routine is to be executed.

  • JEB attempts to determine public method names by using a hash dictionary (currently containing more than 140,000 entries).
  • Contracts compiled by Solidity generally use synthetic (compiler generated) methods as bridges between public routines, that use the public Ethereum ABI, and internal routines, using a compiler-specific ABI. Those routines are identified as well and, if their corresponding public method was named, will be assigned a similar name __impl_{PUBLIC_NAME}.

NOTE/PLANNED ADDITION: currently, JEB does not attempt to process input data of public routines and massage it back into an explicit prototype with regular variables. Therefore, you will see low-level access to CALLDATA bytes within public methods.

A dispatcher.

Below, see the public method collectToken(), which is retrieving its first parameter – a 20 byte address – from the calldata.

A public method reading its arguments from CALLDATA bytes.

Interface discovery

At the time of writing, implementation of the following interfaces can be detected: ERC20, ERC165, ERC721, ERC721TokenReceiver, ERC721Metadata, ERC721Enumerable, ERC820, ERC223, ERC777, TokenFallback used by ERC223/ERC777 interfaces, as well as the common MultiSigWallet interface.

Eg, the contract below was identified as an ERC20 token implementation:

This contract implements all methods specified by the ERC20 interface.

Function attributes

JEB does its best to retrieve:

  • low-level state mutability attributes (pure, read-only, read-write)
  • the high-level Solidity ‘payable’ attribute, reserved for public methods

Explicitly non-payable functions have lower-level synthetic stubs that verify that no Ether is being received. They REVERT if it is is the case. If JEB decides to remove this stub, the function will always have an inline comment /* non payable */ to avoid any ambiguity.

The contract below shows two public methods, one has a default mutability state (non-payable); the other one is payable. (Note that the hash 0xFF03AD56 was not resolved, therefore the name of the method is unknown and was set to sub_AF; you may also see a call to the collect()’s bridge function __impl_collect(), as was mentioned in the previous section).

Two public methods, one is payable, the other is not and will revert if it receives Ether.

Storage variables

The pre-release decompiler ships with a limited storage reconstructor module.

  • Accesses to primitives (int8 to int256, uint8 to uint256) is reconstructed in most cases
  • Packed small primitives in storage words are extracted (eg, a 256-bit storage word containing 2x uint8 and 1x int32, and accessed as such throughout the code, will yield 3 contract variables, as one would expect to see in a Solidity contract
Four primitive storage variables were reconstructed.

However, currently, accesses to complex storage variables, such as mappings, mappings of mappings, mappings of structures, etc. are not simplified. This limitation will be addressed in the full release.

When a storage variable is not resolved, you will see simple “storage[…]” assignments, such as:

Unresolved storage assignment, here, to a mapping.

Due to how storage on Ethereum is designed (a key-value store of uint256 to uint256), Solidity internally uses a two-or-more indirection level for computing actual storage keys. Those low-level storage keys depend on the position of the high level storage variables. The KECCAK256 opcode is used to calculate intermediate and final keys. We will detail this mechanism in detail in a future blog post.

Precompiled contracts

Ethereum defines four pre-compiled contracts at addresses 1, 2, 3, 4. (Other addresses (5-8) are being reserved for additional pre-compiled contracts, but this is still at the ERC stage.)

JEB identifies CALLs that will eventually lead to pre-compiled code execution, and marks them as such in decompiled code: call_{specific}.

The example below shows the __impl_Receive (named recovered) method of the 34C3 CTF contract, which calls into address #2, a pre-compiled contract providing a fast implementation of SHA-256.

This contract calls address 2 to calculate the SHA-256 of a binary blob.

Ether send()

Solidity’s send can be translated into a lower-level call with a standard gas stipend and zero parameters. It is essentially used to send Ether to a contract through the target contract fallback function.

NOTE: Currently, JEB renders them as send(address, amount) instead of address.send(amount)

The contract below is live on mainnet. It is a simple forwarder, that does not store ether: it forwards the received amount to another contract.

This contract makes use of address.send(…) to send Ether

Ether transfer()

Solidity’s transfer is an even higher-level variant of send that checks and REVERTs with data if CALL failed. JEB identifies those calls as well.

NOTE: Currently, JEB renders them as transfer(address, amount) instead of address.transfer(amount)

This contract makes use of address.transfer(…) to send Ether

Event emission

JEB attempts to partially reconstruct LOGx (x in 1..4) opcodes back into high-level Solidity “emit Event(…)”. The event name is resolved by reversing the Event method prototype hash. At the time of writing, our dictionary contains more than 20,000 entries.

If JEB cannot reverse a LOGx instruction, or if LOG0 is used, then a lower-level log(…) call will be used.

NOTE: currently, the event parameters are not processed; therefore, the emit construct used in the decompiled code has the following form: emit Event(memory, size[, topic2[, topic3[, topic4]]]). topic1 is always used to store the event prototype hash.

An Invocation of LOG4 reversed to an “emit Deposit(…)” event emission


JEB API allows automation of complex or repetitive tasks. Back-end plugins or complex scripts can be written in Python or Java. The API update that ship with JEB 3.0-beta.6 allow users to query decompiled contract code:

  • access to the intermediate representation (IR)
  • access to the final Solidity-like representation (AST)

API use is out-of-scope here. We will provide examples either in a subsequent blog post or on our public GitHub repository.


As said in the introduction, if you are reverse engineering opaque contracts (that is, most contracts on Ethereum’s mainnet), we believe you will find JEB useful.

You may give a try to the pre-release by downloading the demo here. Please let us know your feedback: we are planning a full release before the end of the year.

As always, thank you to all our users and supporters. -Nicolas

  1. EVM: Ethereum Virtual Machine
  2. This Open plugin uses Etherscan to retrieve the contract code

Android NDK Libraries Signatures

In this blog post, we present a new batch of native signatures released with JEB3 to identify Android Native Development Kit (NDK) libraries.

First, let’s briefly give some context. The Android NDK is a set of tools allowing developers to embed compiled C/C++ code into their Android applications. Thus, developers can integrate existing native code libraries, develop performance-sensitive code in C/C++ or obfuscate algorithms with native code protectors.

In practice, native code within Android applications comes in the form of ELF shared libraries (“.so”); the native methods can then be called from Java using Java Native Interface (JNI), which we described in a previous blog post.

NDK Pre-Built Libraries

Android NDK provides some pre-built libraries that can be linked against. For example, there are several C++ Standard Template Library (STL) 1 , or the Zlib decompression library.

As an example, let’s compile a “hello world” Android NDK C++ library with NDK r17. By default, the C++ implementation will be gnustl — the default choice before NDK r18.

Here is the C++ code:

When compiled with Android Studio’s default settings, libraries are linked dynamically, and is directly included in the application — because it is not a system library –, for each supported Application Binary Interface (ABI).

Files hierarchy of the Android application containing our “hello world” native library

If we open the ARM library we can pretty easily understand the — already convoluted — logic of our “hello world” routine, thanks to the names of gnustl external API calls:

Control-flow graph of ARM “hello world” with gnustl dynamically linked. Note that JEB displays mangled names when API calls correspond to external routines.

Now, Android NDK also provides static versions for most of the pre-built libraries. A developer — especially a malware developer wishing to hinder analysis — might prefer to use those.

When compiled in static mode, gnustl library is now ‘included’ in our native library, and here is our “hello world” routine:

Control-flow graph of ARM “hello world” with gnustl statically linked. Subroutines bear no specific names.

In this case, the analysis will be slowed down by the numerous routine calls with no specific names; each of this subroutine will need to be looked at to understand the whole purpose.

This brings us to a common reverse-engineering problem: is there a way to automatically identify and rename static library code, such that the analyst can focus on the application code?

JEB3 NDK Signatures

That’s when JEB native signatures come to the rescue! Indeed JEB3 now provides signatures for the following Android NDK  static libraries:

  • gnustl
  • libc++
  • STLport
  • libc
  • libmath
  • zlib

We provide signatures for ARM/ARM64 ABIs (including all variants like arm-v7a, arm-v7a-hard, thumb or ARM mode, etc) of these libraries, from NDK r10 to NDK r18.

These signatures are built in a similar fashion to our x86/x64 Visual Studio native signatures, and are intended to be “false-positive free”, which means a match should be blindly trustable. Note that JEB users can create their own signatures directly from the UI.

So, within JEB, if we open our statically-linked library with the signatures loaded, gnustl library routines are identified and renamed:

Control-flow graph of ARM “hello world” with gnustl statically linked and NDK signatures loaded. Subroutines have been renamed.

Note: the attentive reader might have noticed some “unk_lib_subX” routines in the previous image. Those names correspond to cases where several library routines match the routine. The user can then see the conflicting names in the target routine and use the most suitable one.

Due to the continuous evolution of compilers and libraries, it is not an easy task to provide up-to-date and useful signatures, but we hope this first NDK release will help our users. Nevertheless, more libraries should certainly be signed in the future, and we encourage users to comment on that  (email, Twitter, Slack).

  1.  NDK C++ support is a turbulent story, to say the least. Historically, different implementations of C++ have been provided with the NDK (gnustl, STLport, libc++,…), each of them coming with a different set of features (exceptions handling, RTTI…). Since the very recent r18 version (released in september 2018) Android developers must now use only libc++.

JEB3 Auto-Signing Mode

In this video we introduce a novel JEB 3.0 feature: auto-signing mode for native code.

In a nutshell, when this mode is activated all modifications made by users to native code in JEB (renaming a routine, adding a comment, etc) are “signed”.

The newly created signatures can then be loaded against another executable, and all the information of the original analysis will be imported if the same code is recognized. Therefore, the user only needs to analyze each routine once.

Without further ado, here is the video, which begins by introducing native signatures before showcasing auto-signing:

As usual, feel free to reach out to us (email, Twitter, Slack) if you have questions or suggestions.

Dynamic JNI Detection Plugin

Update (Nov 29): the plugin was open-sourced on our GitHub repository. JEB 3.0.7+ is required to load and run it.

Java applications can call native methods stored in dynamic libraries via the Java Native Interface (JNI) framework. Android apps can do the same: developers can use the NDK to write their own .so library to use and distribute.

In this post, we briefly present how the binding mechanisms work, allowing a piece of bytecode to invoke native code routines.

Named Convention Method

The easiest way to call native method is as such:

In Java, class com.example.hellojni.HelloJni:

In C:

The native method name adheres to the standard JNI naming convention, allowing automatic resolution and binding.

The corresponding Dalvik bytecode is:

and here are the the corresponding ARM instructions:

JEB automatically binds those methods together, to allow easy debugging from bytecode to native code.

However, there is another way to bind native code to Java.

Dynamic JNI Method

One can decide to bind any function to Java without adhering to the naming convention, by using the JNIEnv->RegisterNatives method.

For example, the following line of code dynamically binds the Java method add(II)I to the native method add():

Due to its dynamic nature, statically resolving those bindings can prove difficult in practice, e.g. if names were removed or mangled, or if the code is obfuscated. Therefore, not all calls to RegisterNatives may be found and/or successfully processed.

However, JEB 3.0-beta.2 (to  be released this week) ships with an EnginesPlugin to heuristically detect – some of – these methods, and perform binding – and of course, you will also be able to debug into them.

Execute the plugin via the File, Plugins menu

Once run, it will :

  • annotate the dex code with the target addresses:

  • rename targets (prefixing names with __jni_) :

  • enable you to seamlessly debug into them (jump from Java to this JNI method)



As of this writing, the plugin uses several heuristics, implemented for ARM and ARM64 (Aarch64):

  • The first is the simplest one: the JNIEnv->RegisterNatives method is commonly called from the standard JNI initialization function JNI_OnLoad, so JEB searches for this method and attempt to find calls to RegisterNatives.

Once the ‘BL RegisterNatives‘ is found, JEB uses the decompiler to create an IR representation of the block, and determines the values of R2 and R3 (X2 and X3 on Aarch64). R3 indicates the number of native methods to register, R2 is a pointer to the array of JNI native methods (structure with a pointer to method name, a pointer to method signature and a pointer to the native function bound):

Even if accurate, this method does not work when a Branch is issued via a register (BL R4) or method name is hidden.

  • The second heuristic is based on method name. First, in Dalvik, we search for all invocations to native methods. Then, for each method found, we search in binaries if there is a String reference matching the method name. (This heuristic is dangerous but yields decent results. A future plugin update may allow users to disable it.)

If found, the plugin looks at cross references of this String and checks if it looks like the expected JNI structure.

  • The third and last heuristic is the same as the previous one, but based on arguments. Since names can be shortened, they may not be interpreted as String, and thus not referenced, whereas it is easier to find argument signatures.

These three heuristics only work when methods are defined as a static array variable. Dynamic variables would need some emulation of the JNI_OnLoad method to be resolved.

As you can see, detection is currently based on heuristics, so obfuscated methods may be missing. Feel free to tweak and improve the plugin, it is available on our GitHub repository. As usual, feel free to reach out to us (email, Twitter, Slack) if you have questions or suggestions.

Reverse Engineering WebAssembly

Note: Download the demo of “JEB Decompiler for WebAssembly” here.

We published a paper deep-diving into WebAssembly from a reverse engineer point of view (wasm format, bytecode, execution environment, implementation details, etc.).

The paper annex details how JEB can be used to analyze and decompiler WebAssembly modules.

Code and decompilation view of a WebAssembly module

Thank you – Nicolas.

JEB3 Beta is available

The demo builds of JEB3 Beta are available for download on our website. The full builds are also available, however, you will need to make that demand explicit by emailing us.

What’s new in JEB3? This major release contains hundreds of changes, which can be roughly categorized as follows:

  • New desktop client. The JEB3 client is leaner and faster than the client that shipped with JEB2. It also comes with a Dark theme, supports configurable keyboard shortcuts, and easily supports multiple instances.
  • Interactive global graphs. On top of the interactive control flow graphs, JEB3 presents the user with additional smart, global graphs, such as call graphs and class graphs.
  • Improved native decompilation pipeline. A large bulk of the update as well as future trend for JEB3 is refining and opening access to our native code decompilers. We will publish several blogs regarding advanced use of decompilers, including how to use the API to customize a decompilation, write intermediate optimization passes, or even write a custom decompiler or custom analysis modules.
  • Intel x86 decompilers. JEB Pro ships with our Intel x86 32-bit decompiler and Intel x86 64-bit decompiler modules. You can already try them out in the demos.
  • Additional decompilers. We are planning to ship additional decompilers. In fact JEB3 Beta already ships with a WebAssembly decompiler. It can be used to decompile web apps or EOS smart contracts to C. We will soon provide an Ethereum decompiler as well.
  • C++ class reconstruction. The full builds will ship with experimental support for class hierarchy discovery and reconstruction of Visual Studio-compiled x86 stripped programs, as well as C++ decompilation, as was demo’ed in this YouTube video.
  • More Type Libraries. Our type library system was improved, and we generated typelibs for the following environments:
    • Android NDK on ARM 32-bit
    • Android NDK on ARM 64-bit
    • Android NDK on x86 32-bit
    • Android NDK on x86 64-bit
    • Windows win32 on Intel x86 32-bit
    • Windows win32 on Intel x86 64-bit
    • Windows win32 on ARM 32-bit
    • Windows win32 on ARM 64-bit
    • Windows DDK on Intel x86 32-bit
    • Windows DDK on Intel x86 64-bit
    • Linux glibc on Intel x86 32-bit
    • Linux glibc on ARM 32-bit
    • Linux glibc on MIPS 32-bit
  • More Signature Libraries. JEB3 ships with complete library signature sets for:
    • Android NDK libraries. Common libraries (libc, libc++, zlib, etc.) are signed from from NDK v11 up to the latest version (v17 as of 08/18).
    • Visual Studio compiled binaries. This system allows the recognition of statically linked library code in binaries compiled for x86 and x86-64 architectures.
  • Full support for Windows malware analysis. The Intel decompilers, Windows type libraries and signature libraries make JEB a great platform to analyze win32 malware or malicious kernel drivers.

If you are a registered user, you can request to be put on the early adopters list and use JEB3 right now. You may also decide to wait and automatically receive your build when it becomes publicly available for all. The release date is scheduled for the early Fall.

DEX Version 39, Dalvik and ART Opcode Overlaps, and JEB 2.3.11

JEB 2.3.11 is out We’re getting close to completion on our 2.3 branch! 1

Before we get into the matter of this blog post, a couple of noteworthy changes in terms of licensing:

  • The Android Basic builds require an active Internet connection; however, if the JEB license is current, we allow a much longer grace period before requesting a connection with our licensing server. This is to take care of scenarios where the connectivity would drop for a relatively extended period of time on either end.
  • Most interestingly, expired licenses of all types may now be used past their expiration date to reload and work on existing JDB2. New projects cannot be created with expired licenses though.

In terms of features, JEB 2.3.11 includes upgrades to our ARM64, MIPS64 and x86-64 parsers 2, as well as fixes and additions to the DEX parser. One interesting update, which prompted writing this blog post, is the support of DEX 39 opcodes.

DEX 39 Opcodes

Here they are, per the official documentation:

  • const-method-handle vAA, method_handle@BBBB
  • const-method-type vAA, proto@BBBB

Version 39 of the DEX format will be supported with the release of Android P 3. DEX 38 had been introduced to support Oreo’s new opcodes related to dynamic programming. We wrote a lengthy post about them on this very blog.

The new instructions const-method-handle and const-method-types are natural additions to retrieve method handles (basically, the same as a function pointer in C, a concept foreign to the JVM until lambdas and functional-style programming made its way into the language) and method prototypes. Those opcodes simply query into the prototypes and handles pools.

In fact, support for those two opcodes was added in JEB months ago,  right after their introduction in ART, which dates back to September 2017 (AOSP commit). Now, if you’ve been following through the Dalvik, DEX and ART intricacies, you may know that we are facing opcode overlaps:

  • The original non-optimized DEX instruction set spans from 0 to 0xFF, with undefined ranges (inclusive brackets omitted for clarity): 3E-43, 73, 79-7A, E3-FF
    • DEX 38 defines the range FA-FD (4x new invoke-xxx)
    • DEX 39 defines the range FE-FE for the aforementioned new opcodes (2x new const-method-xxx)
  • The now defunct optimized DEX (ODEX) set, predating ART, used the reserved sub-range E3-FE
  • The deadborn extended set used FF as an extension code to address 2-byte opcodes (FFxx); they were defined but unimplemented in Ice Cream Sandwich, and removed soon after in Jelly Bean.
  • Finally, ART opcodes: also used for optimizing DEX execution, those opcodes use the 73 and E3-FF ranges

ART opcodes in E3-FE are not necessarily the same as the original ODEX’s! The following table recaps the differences between ODEX and OART:

legend: red= removed in ART, orange= moved, green= added in ART

When you feed a piece of optimized DEX file to JEB, it may not know which instruction set to use. Normally, the following rules apply:

  • For stand-alone (within or outside an APK) DEX files advertising a version code less than or equal to 37, the legacy ODEX set would be used if any opcodes within that range are encountered;
  • For DEX files with version 38 or above, or that are part of an OAT ELF file, the newer ART set will be used.

However, if the determination is incorrect (eg, you are opening a stand-alone DEX 37 file using ART opcodes), you may manually specify which optimized opcodes set the Dalvik parser should use by opening the project’s settings (Edit/Options, Advanced…), and setting the property DalvikParserMode 4 to:

  • 0: legacy DEX (default value)
  • 50: ART
  • 100: DEX 38
  • 110: DEX 39
  • 1000: latest

That’s it for today’s DEX clarifications. Remember to upgrade to JEB 2.3.11. On a side-note, let us know if you’d like to be part of our group of early testers: those users receive beta builds ahead of time (eg, JEB 2.3.12-beta this week).

Thank you.

  1. A couple more updates are in the pipe before we start publishing betas of JEB 3.
  2. The x86 modules now support the newest AVX-512 instruction set, although we do not decompile it
  3. Per Google’s habits, we may expect a beta of Android P with API level 28 this Spring
  4. That property is not as accessible as we’d like; an upcoming update will clarify and improve the UX around that.

A new APK Resources Decoder with de-Obfuscation Capabilities

The latest JEB release ships with our all-new Android resources (ARSC) decoder, designed to reliably handle tweaked, obfuscated, and sometimes malformed resource files.

As it appears that optimizing resources for space (eg, the WeChat team has made their compressor/refactoring module publicly available,  etc.) or complexity (eg, commercial app protectors have been doing it for some time now) is becoming more and more commonplace, we hope that our users will come to appreciate this new module.

Here are the key points, followed by examples of what to expect from the new module.

ARSC Decoder Workflow

In terms of workflow, nothing changes: starting with JEB 2.3.10, the new Android Resources decoder module is enable by default.

If you ever need to switch back to the legacy module, simply open the Options, Advanced panel, filter on AndroidResourcesDecoderSelector and set the value to 1 (instead of 2).

ARSC Decoder Output

In terms of output, users should see improvements in at least three areas:

  • First, the module can deal with obfuscated resources and malformed files better, resulting in lower failure rates. Ideally, we’d like to get as close as possible to a 0-failure, so please report issues!
  • Second, flattened, renamed, or generally refactored resources are handled as well, and the original res/ folder will be reconstructed, resulting in a readable Resources sub-tree.
  • Finally, the module can generate an aapt2-like text output to cope with the limitations of AOSP’s aapt/aapt2 (eg, crashes); the output can be quite large, so currently, aapt2-like output generation is disabled by default. To enable it,  go to the Options, Advanced panel, filter on AndroidResourcesGenerateAapt2LikeOutput and set the value to true.  The output will be visible as an additional fragment of the APK unit view:
aapt2-like output on a file that failed aapt2

Additional Input (APK Frameworks)

By default, the latest Android framework (currently API 27) is dropped by JEB in [HOME_FOLDER]/.jeb-android-frameworks/1.apk.

If an app you are analyzing requires additional framework libraries, drop them as [package_id].apk in that folder, and you should be good to go.

Example 1: flattened resources in a banking app

Here’s a sample that demonstrates what the output looks like with an app found on VirusTotal. The app is called itsme and is produced by the ING bank. It may have been obfuscated by GuardSquare’s DexGuard 1, which performs extensive resources refactoring (res/ folder flattening) and trimming (renaming of files, name-less resource objects, etc.).

Have a look at the APK contents:

Protected app contents

aapt2 fails on it (resource id overlap):

error: trying to add resource 'be.bmid.itsme:attr/' with ID 0x7f010001 but resource already has ID 0x7f010000.

apktool 2.3.1 cannot reconstruct the resource tree either. Resources are moved to an unknown/ folder; on non-Linux system, resources manipulation also fail due to illegal character names.

JEB does its best to rebuild the resources tree, and renames illegally named resources as well across the Resources base, consistently:

A rebuilt resources tree, originally obfuscated by GuardSquare (?)

Example 2: tweaked xml

The second file is a version of the Xapo Bitcoin wallet app 2, also found on VirusTotal. This app does not fail aapt2, however, it does fail other tools, including apktool 2.3.1

I: Using Apktool 2.3.1 on 96cbabe2fb11c78a283348b2f759dc742f18368e0d65c5d0a15aefb4e0bdc645
I: Loading resource table...
I: Decoding AndroidManifest.xml with resources...
I: Loading resource table from file: [...]/1.apk
Exception in thread "main" java.lang.ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException: 8601

The resources are flattened and renamed; the XML resources are oddly structured and stretch the XML specifications as well.

JEB handles things smoothly.


There are many more examples of “stretched” resources in APKs we’ve come across, however we cannot share them at the moment.

If you come across unsupported scenarios or bugs, feel free to issue a report, we’ll happily investigate and update the module.


Having Fun with Obfuscated Mach-O Files

Last week was the release of JEB 2.3.7 with a brand new parser for Mach-O, the executable file format of Apple’s macOS and iOS operating systems. This file format, like its cousins PE and ELF, contains a lot of technical peculiarities and implementing a reliable parser is not a trivial task.

During the journey leading to this first Mach-O release, we encountered some interesting executables. This short blog post is about one of them, which uses some Mach-O features to make reverse-engineering harder.


The executable in question belongs to a well-known adware family dubbed InstallCore, which is usually bundled with others applications to display ads to the users.

The sample we will be using in this post is the following:

57e4ce2f2f1262f442effc118993058f541cf3fd: Mach-O 64-bit x86_64 executable

Let’s first take a look at the Mach-O sections:

Figure 1 – Mach-O sections

Interestingly, there are some sections related to the Objective-C language (“__objc_…”). Roughly summarized, Objective-C was the main programming language for OS X and iOS applications prior the introduction of Swift. It adds some object-oriented features around C, and it can be difficult to analyze at first, in particular because of its way to call methods by “sending messages”.

Nevertheless, the good news is that Objective-C binaries usually come with a lot of meta-data describing methods and classes, which are used by Objective-C runtime to implement the message passing. These metadata are stored in the “__objc_…” sections previously mentioned, and the JEB Mach-O parser process them to find and properly name Objective-C methods.

After the initial analysis, JEB leaves us at the entry point of the program (the yellow line below):

Figure 2 – Entry point

Wait a minute… there is no routine here and it is not even correct x86-64 machine code!

Most of the detected routines do not look good either; first, there are a few objective-C methods with random looking names like this one:

Figure 3 – Objective-C method

Again the code makes very little sense…

Then comes around 50 native routines, whose code can also clearly not be executed “as is”, for example:

Figure 4 – Native routine

Moreover, there are no cross-references on any of these routines! Why would JEB disassembler engine – which follows a recursive algorithm combined with heuristics – even think there are routines here?!

Time for a Deep Dive

Code Versus Data

First, let’s deal with the numerous unreferenced routines containing no correct machine code. After some digging, we found that they are declared in the LC_FUNCTION_STARTS Mach-O command – “command” being Mach-O word for an entry in the file header.

This command provides a table containing function entry-points in the executable. It allows for example debuggers to know function boundaries without symbols. At first, this may seem like a blessing for program analysis tools, because distinguishing code from data in a stripped executable is usually a hard problem, to say the least. And hence JEB, like other analysis tools, uses this command to enrich its analysis.

But this gift from Mach-O comes with a drawback: nothing prevents miscreants to declare function entry points where there are none, and analysis tools will end up analyzing random data as code.

In this binary, all routines declared in LC_FUNCTION_STARTS command are actually not executable. Knowing that, we can simply remove the command from the Mach-O header (i.e. nullified the entry), and ask JEB to re-analyze the file, to ease the reading of the disassembly. We end up with a much shorter routine list:

Figure 5 – Routine list

The remaining routines are mostly Objective-C methods declared in the metadata. Once again, nothing prevents developers to forge these metadata to declare method entry points in data. For now, let’s keep those methods here and focus on a more pressing question…

Where Is the Entry Point?

The entry point value used by JEB comes from the LC_UNIXTHREAD command contained in the Mach-O header, which specifies a CPU state to load at startup. How could this program be even executable if the declared entry point is not correct machine code (see Figure 2)?

Surely, there has to be another entry point, which is executed first. There is one indeed, and it has to do with the way the Objective-C runtime initializes the classes. An Objective-C class can implement a method named “+load” — the + means this is a class method, rather than an instance method –, which will be called during the executable initialization, that is before the program main() function will be executed.

If we look back at Figure 5, we see that among the random looking method names there is one class with this famous +load method, and here is the beginning of its code:

Figure 6 – +load method

Finally, some decent looking machine code! We just found the real entry point of the binary, and now the adventure can really begin…

That’s it for today, stay tuned for more technical sweetness on JEB blog!

Language Translation Contribution in Python; VirusTotal Hash Check Plugin in Java.

This post is geared toward power-users who would like to take advantage of API additions that shipped with the latest JEB update.1

TL;DR: see below for a language translation contribution in Python, and a VirusTotal hash check plugin in Java.


With JEB 2.3.6, users can now write their own unit contribution plugins in Python (or Java, of course).

First, let’s recap: JEB extensions consist of back-end plugins, and front-end scripts. Front-end scripts are written in Python and execute in the context  of a client (generally, the UI client, but it could also be a script executed by a headless, command-line JEB client). Back-end plugins form a more diverse realm: they consist of parser plugins (eg, disassemblers, decompilers, decoders, etc.), generic engines plugins, and contribution plugins.  They are mostly written in Java – although that is slowly changing as we are adding program-wide support for JEB extensions in Python.

Contribution plugins can enhance the output produced by parser plugins. A concrete example: an interactive disassembly or other text output (eg, a decompiled piece of Java or C code) is made of text items; a contribution can provide additional information to a client about a given item, when the client requests it. When it comes to the main JEB UI client, that information can be requested when a user hovers its mouse over an interactive text item.

Several contributions are already built-in, such as those providing live variable and register values when debugging a program; or the Javadoc contribution that displays API documentation on Java disassembly. Users may also write their own contributions.

  • Contributions extend IUnitContribution;
  • They can target any type of unit;
  • They can be written in Java or in Python;
  • They are plugins,  and as such, should be dropped into the JEB’s coreplugins/ folder (Python contributions will need a Jython package in that folder as well);
  • A Python contribution must be named exactly like the contribution class name (in the above below,

The skeleton of a Python contribution that would enhance all code units would look like:

class SampleContributionPlugin(IUnitContribution):

  def __init__(self):
  def getPluginInformation(self):
    return PluginInformation(...)

  def isTarget(self, unit):
    return isinstance(unit, ICodeUnit)

  def setPrimaryTarget(self, unit): = unit

  def getPrimaryTarget(self):

  def getItemInformation(self, targetUnit, itemId, itemText):
    # provide info about an item or a bit of text

  def getLocationInformation(self, targetUnit, location):
    return None

We uploaded a sample contribution plugin that works for text documents produced by any type of parser plugin (eg, disassembly, decompiled code, etc.). The contribution uses Google to provide real-time translations of the text snippet your mouse pointer is currently on:

The translation contribution translates foreign language text items to English when the user hovers their mouse over them; here, an Arabic string found in a malware sample of Mirai is being translated.

Note that you do not need a Google API key for it to work: the plugin scrapes Google search out; as such it is quite brittle and will almost certainly break in the future, but keep in mind this is a demo/sample to get you started for your own contributions.

VirusTotal Report Plugin

On a side-note, JEB 2.3.6 also ships with a VirusTotal hash checker plugin (disabled by default). This plugin automatically checks the hash of top-level units against the VirusTotal database.

We open-sourced it on GitHub (

To set it up, run File, Plugins, Execute an Engines Plugin, VT Report Plugin:

To set up the VT plugin, you will need a VT API key.

Then, enter your VirusTotal API key; you’re good to go. Newly processed files will be automatically checked against VT and a log message as well as a notification will be stored to let you know the outcome.

The notification produced by the JEB VT plugin: here, the file looks bad (28 anti-virus products marked it as such)

That’s it for today — until next time!