Instrumenting JVM Programs With Frida

Frida is very commonly used to instrument Android applications written in Java and compiled to Dalvik bytecode. It is a less well known fact that Frida gained support for instrumenting Java programs running on the HotSpot JVM in a recent version which should work on most JVM versions running on Linux and macOS.

Attempting to instrument a program using the default JVM shipped with most Linux distributions should result in the following error:

[Local::PID::8297]-> Java.available
Error: Java API only partially available; please file a bug. Missing: _ZN6Method4sizeEb, _ZN6Method19set_native_functionEPhb, _ZN6Method21clear_native_functionEv, _ZN6Method24restore_unshareable_infoEP6Thread, _ZN6Method10jmethod_idEv, _ZN20ClassLoaderDataGraph10classes_doEP12KlassClosure, _ZN10JavaThread27thread_from_jni_environmentEP7JNIEnv_, _ZN8VMThread7executeEP12VM_Operation, _ZN11OopMapCache22flush_obsolete_entriesEv, _ZN14NMethodSweeper16sweep_code_cacheEv, _ZTV18VM_RedefineClasses, _ZN18VM_RedefineClasses4doitEv, _ZN18VM_RedefineClasses13doit_prologueEv, _ZN18VM_RedefineClasses13doit_epilogueEv, _ZNK18VM_RedefineClasses26allow_nested_vm_operationsEv, _ZN19Abstract_VM_Version19jre_release_versionEv, _ZN14NMethodSweeper11_traversalsE, _ZN14NMethodSweeper13_should_sweepE
    at P (frida/node_modules/frida-java-bridge/lib/jvm.js:143)
    at C (frida/node_modules/frida-java-bridge/lib/jvm.js:12)
    at _tryInitialize (frida/node_modules/frida-java-bridge/index.js:17)
    at v (frida/node_modules/frida-java-bridge/index.js:9)
    at <anonymous> (frida/node_modules/frida-java-bridge/index.js:312)
    at call (native)
    at o (/_java.js)
    at <anonymous> (/_java.js)
    at <anonymous> (frida/runtime/java.js:1)
    at call (native)
    at o (/_java.js)
    at r (/_java.js)
    at <eval> (frida/runtime/java.js:3)
    at _loadJava (native)
    at get (frida/runtime/core.js:114)
    at <anonymous> (<input>:22)

This is because Frida requires the JVM contain symbols in order to locate specific functions required for instrumentation. The default JVM shopped with most Linux distributions have symbols stripped.

$ nm /usr/lib/jvm/java-1.11.0-openjdk-amd64/lib/server/
nm: /usr/lib/jvm/java-1.11.0-openjdk-amd64/lib/server/ no symbols

The easiest way to obtain a JVM with symbols is by downloading a pre-built binary from the AdoptOpenJDK project. By configuring the target program to use a JVM with symbols, Frida can then be used for instrumentation.

    / _  |   Frida 14.2.3 - A world-class dynamic instrumentation toolkit
   | (_| |
    > _  |   Commands:
   /_/ |_|       help      -> Displays the help system
   . . . .       object?   -> Display information about 'object'
   . . . .       exit/quit -> Exit
   . . . .
   . . . .   More info at

[Local::PID::10925]-> Java.available

The full power of Frida can then be leveraged for reverse engineering and analysis of Java programs.

If you have any feedback or notice any errors in the post, I'd love to hear from you. You can find various ways of contacting me at the about me page!