Command gef-remote

It is possible to use gef in a remote debugging environment. Required files will be automatically downloaded and cached in a temporary directory (/tmp/gef on most Unix systems). Remember to manually delete the cache if you change the target file or gef will use the outdated version.

With a local copy

If you want to remotely debug a binary that you already have, you simply need to tell to gdb where to find the debug information.

For example, if we want to debug uname, we do on the server:

$ gdbserver /bin/uname
Process /bin/uname created; pid = 32280
Listening on port 1234

And on the client, simply run gdb:

$ gdb /bin/uname
gef➤ target remote
Process /bin/uname created; pid = 10851
Listening on port 1234


$ gdb
gef➤ file /bin/uname
gef➤ target remote

Without a local copy

It is possible to use gdb internal functions to copy our targeted binary.

Following our previous example, if we want to debug uname, run gdb and connect to our gdbserver. To be able to locate the right process in the /proc structure, the command gef-remote requires 1 argument, the target host and port. The option -p must be provided and indicate the process PID on the remote host, only if the extended mode (-E) is being used.

$ gdb
gef➤ gef-remote
[+] Connected to ''
[+] Downloading remote information
[+] Remote information loaded, remember to clean '/tmp/gef/10851' when your session is over

As you can observe, if it cannot find the debug information, gef will try to automatically download the target file and store in the local temporary directory (on most Unix /tmp). If successful, it will then automatically load the debug information to gdb and proceed with the debugging.


You can then reuse the downloaded file for your future debugging sessions, use it under IDA and such. This makes the entire remote debugging process (particularly for Android applications) a child's game.

QEMU-user mode

Although GDB through QEMU-user works, QEMU only supports a limited subset of all commands existing in the gdbremote protocol. For example, commands such as remote get or remote put (to download and upload a file from remote target, respectively) are not supported. As a consequence, the default remote mode for gef will not work either, as gef won't be able to fetch the content of the remote procfs.

To circumvent this and still enjoy gef features with QEMU-user, a simple stub can be artificially added, with the option -q option of gef-remote. Note that you need to set the architecture properly first:

$ qemu-arm -g 1234 ./my/arm/binary
$ gdb-multiarch ./my/arm/binary
gef➤  set architecture arm
gef➤  gef-remote -q localhost:1234