Intercepting and Decrypting iOS communications


Ever wondered how you can view the network communications between the apps on your iPhone and the internet - me too, let’s have a look.

This will allow you to view some un-encrypted data, but not all, some apps have additional protection that I’ll cover at the end.


There are two things I’d like to do

  1. Intercept the network communications
  2. Decrypt the communications so I can see what they’re doing

Intercepting Network Communications

We somehow need to inject an intermediary between the phone and the internet that can accept the network communications, and forward the traffic to the intended recipients.

That intermediary is called a proxy - cool, 1 down ✔️

Decrypting Communications

For this one we need to be able to generate SSL certificates for the domains with which the applications are trying to communicate.

By doing this, we own the private key associated with the certificate, and are able to decrypt and view the communications before re-encrypting it with the real public key, and passing it on the the intended recipient.

This combination of interception and decryption is commonly refered to as a “man-in-the-middle” or “MITM” attack.

All SSL certificates are created by a Certificate Authority or CA, so we’re going to need one of those.

Crucially, trust is very important, the operating system will only trust limited number of verified CA’s, and this list is automatically maintained by Apple for iOS.

Fortunately, having physical access to the device means we can tell the operating system to trust our custom Certificate Authority ✔️

Okay okay, show me how

Some quick Googling led me to an open source, cross platform project named mitmproxy that meets all my requirements above.

To get everything up and running, we’re going to need to start the proxy, and then do some configuration on the phone.

Starting mitmproxy

This part is super easy, but first, let’s take note of the IP address we’re going to need to configure the phone.

For Windows, open Terminal, or PowerShell or a command prompt and run this command.


The result should look something like this - Note down the IPv4 Address associated with your WiFi adapter - in my case, that is

IP Configuration

I chose to use the official docker variant of mitmproxy.

To get this up and running, run the following docker command.

docker run --rm -it -p 8080:8080 mitmproxy/mitmproxy

This will start mitmproxy using the docker interactive mode, and bind it to port 8080.

If you see this, you’re good to go - and we’re done starting mitmproxy - Do not close the window.

mitm running

iOS configuration

The following will all be done on your phone.

It’s a bit of a pain, but is also fairly easy.

The overall steps are:

  1. Configure iOS to use our new proxy (mitmproxy)
  2. Install a custom profile
  3. Tell iOS to trust our custom Certificate Authority

Proxy Configuration

  • Navigate to Settings/Wi-Fi and tap on the blue circled i on the right.
  • Scroll to the bottom, and tap on Configure Proxy
  • Select Manual and enter the the IP configuration we noted earlier, and enter 8080 as the port
  • Save

Here is mine for reference

Proxy Configuration

That’s it for the proxy configuration, but lets see what its done.

If you open Safari, and navigate to - you should see something like this.

Invalid Certificate

The warning is telling us that there is something wrong with the SSL certificate for this website.

This is entirely expected becuase the certificate was generated by an untrusted Certificate Authority - the mitmproxy.

Install a custom profile

  • Open Safari
  • Navigate to
  • Tap on the Apple option
  • Select Allow for the prompt, and select your iPhone device if prompted
  • Navigate to Settings/General/Profiles
  • Tap the mitmproxy profile, and follow the prompts to install and enable the profile.

The result should look like this.

Profile Installed

Trust the custom Certificate Authority

Okay, last stretch

  • Navigate to Settings/General/About
  • Scroll to the bottom and tap Certificate Trust Settings
  • Enable the mitmproxy root certificate, and accept the prompts

You should get to this

Certificate Trust Settings

If you go back to your browser now and refresh the abc website - the warning should be gone!

And, if you now view the mitm terminal window you started earlier, you will see the unencrypted contents of the communications. (note the HTTPS)

mitm terminal capturing

And, if you select one of the lines, you can dive into the actual request and response data - wooohooo jiggle

mitm terminal capturing - response

When this won’t work

While this strategy does work for many apps, some applications include some additional security by using Certificate Pinning

Essentially, what this does is explicitly tell the application which certificates it can trust, even if the operating system says its okay.

I still need to explore options for working around this, but it will very likely mean Jail Breaking iOS.

For a quick reference, here are some applications I tried.

Apps that worked

  • Safari
  • Weather
  • Photos
  • Gmail
  • LinkedIn

Apps that didn’t work

  • App Store
  • FaceBook
  • Instagram

How do I undo all this?

Turn off the proxy

To get your phone back to normal working order.

  • Navigate to Settings/Wi-Fi and tap on the blue circled i on the right.
  • Scroll to the bottom, and tap on Configure Proxy
  • Select Off and save

Uninstall a custom profile

  • Navigate to Settings/General/Profiles
  • Tap the mitmproxy profile
  • Tap the Remove Profile button and follow the prompts

Removing the profile also removes the certificate settings - so you’re done.