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Command gef-remote

target remote is the traditional GDB way of debugging process or system remotely. However this command by itself does a limited job (80's bandwith FTW) to collect more information about the target, making the process of debugging more cumbersome. GEF greatly improves that state with the gef-remote command.

📝 Note: If using GEF, gef-remote must be your way or debugging remote processes, never target remote. Maintainers will not provide support or help if you decide to use the traditional target remote command. For many reasons, you cannot use target remote alone with GEF.

gef-remote can function in 2 ways:

  • remote which is meant to enrich use of GDB target remote command, when connecting to a "real" gdbserver instance
  • qemu-mode when connecting to GDB stab of either qemu-user or qemu-system.

The reason for this difference being that Qemu provides a lot less information that GEF can extract to enrich debugging. Whereas GDBServer allows to download remote file (therefore allowing to create a small identical environment), GDB stub in Qemu does not support file transfer. As a consequence, in order to use GEF in qemu mode, it is required to provide the binary being debugged. GEF will create a mock (limited) environment so that all its most useful features are available.

Remote mode


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  :1234 /tmp/default.out
Process /tmp/default.out created; pid = 258932
Listening on port 1234


On the client, when the original gdb would use target remote, GEF's syntax is roughly similar (shown running in debug mode for more verbose output, but you don't have to):

$ gdb -ex 'gef config gef.debug 1'
GEF for linux ready, type `gef' to start, `gef config' to configure
90 commands loaded and 5 functions added for GDB 10.2 using Python engine 3.8
gef➤ gef-remote localhost 1234
[=] [remote] initializing remote session with localhost:1234 under /tmp/tmp8qd0r7iw
[=] [remote] Installing new objfile handlers
[=] [remote] Enabling extended remote: False
[=] [remote] Executing 'target remote localhost:1234'
Reading /tmp/default.out from remote target...
warning: File transfers from remote targets can be slow. Use "set sysroot" to access files locally instead.
Reading /tmp/default.out from remote target...
Reading symbols from target:/tmp/default.out...
[=] [remote] in remote_objfile_handler(target:/tmp/default.out))
[=] [remote] downloading '/tmp/default.out' -> '/tmp/tmp8qd0r7iw/tmp/default.out'
Reading /lib64/ from remote target...
Reading /lib64/ from remote target...
[=] [remote] in remote_objfile_handler(/usr/lib/debug/.build-id/45/87364908de169dec62ffa538170118c1c3a078.debug))
[=] [remote] in remote_objfile_handler(target:/lib64/
[=] [remote] downloading '/lib64/' -> '/tmp/tmp8qd0r7iw/lib64/'
[=] [remote] in remote_objfile_handler(system-supplied DSO at 0x7ffff7fcd000))
[*] [remote] skipping 'system-supplied DSO at 0x7ffff7fcd000'
0x00007ffff7fd0100 in _start () from target:/lib64/
[=] Setting up as remote session
[=] [remote] downloading '/proc/258932/maps' -> '/tmp/tmp8qd0r7iw/proc/258932/maps'
[=] [remote] downloading '/proc/258932/environ' -> '/tmp/tmp8qd0r7iw/proc/258932/environ'
[=] [remote] downloading '/proc/258932/cmdline' -> '/tmp/tmp8qd0r7iw/proc/258932/cmdline'

And finally breaking into the program, showing the current context:


You will also notice the prompt has changed to indicate the debugging mode is now "remote". Besides that, all of GEF features are available:



Extended mode works the same as remote. Being an extended session, gdbserver has not spawned or attached to any process. Therefore, all that's required is to add the --pid flag when calling gef-remote, along with the process ID of the process to debug.

Qemu mode

Qemu mode of gef-remote allows to connect to the Qemu GDB stub which allows to live debug into either a binary (qemu-user) or even the kernel (qemu-system), of any architecture supported by GEF, which makes now even more sense 😉 And using it is very straight forward.


  1. Run qemu-x86_64 :1234 /bin/ls
  2. Use --qemu-user and --qemu-binary /bin/ls when starting gef-remote



To test locally, you can use the mini image linux x64 vm here.

  1. Run ./
  2. Use --qemu-user and --qemu-binary vmlinuz when starting gef-remote