Quick tip: Using mitmproxy for mobile testing

Quick tip: Using mitmproxy for mobile testing

This article is meant to offer a hopefully simple solution for testing web applications that run on your local machine, on actual mobile devices, without altering your router's DNS configuration, or resorting to other, less elegant solutions.

Table of contents

Use case

I have an application running on my machine, and I access it on http://myapp.dev as it depends on the domain it is running on, in order to bootstrap itself and offer different functionality based on the domain where it is being loaded. I want to be able to navigate to http://myapp.dev on my phone and get the application running on my computer.

Solution 1

Have the mapping added to my local DNS(the router's DNS) and every time a device on my network navigates to http://myapp.dev it will be redirected to my machine — highly impractical as I have multiple devices and I'd probably like to keep my router's config as sane as possible.

Solution 2

Set my computer as a Man-In-The-Middle between my phone and the Internet — in other words, make my computer act as an HTTP proxy. This way, I can trick the phone into believeing that all its traffic needs to be routed through my laptop.

How DNS resolution works

  • I navigate to http://myapp.dev from my phone
  • My phone looks at its internal hostfile — usually /etc/hosts on UNIX-like operating systems — for entries resolving to that specific hostname.
  • If it doesn't find anything it looks at the local DNS (the router's DNS)
  • If no result is returned by the local DNS, then the external DNS is queried - via recursion
  • If nothing comes back from the external DNS, then it means that the address is either inexistent or down.

The setup

  • A copy of mitmproxy
  • A mobile device to test on


What I want to do is to trick my phone into thinking that http://myapp.dev resolves to 192.168.xxx.xxx — my laptop's local IP address — and the way I can do that is by using mitmproxy.

If you're on a Mac, you have two options for installing mitmproxy:

  • Through pip by issuing pip install mitmproxy at your terminal prompt.
  • Through homebrew by issuing another command at your terminal prompt: brew install mitmproxy.

If you are on a different operating system please check the mitmproxy installation guide

Proxy server setup

All you have to do now is to start the proxy server, and set your machine's local IP (192.168.xxx.xxx) as the proxy through which the phone connects to the Internet.

# Start the proxy server on port 7654
$ mitmproxy -p 7654

After starting the proxy server go to your phone's wireless network settings, and add your computer's ip as an HTTP proxy that every connection on your phone goes through. Note that the phone and the computer need to be on the same network, or otherwise you will need to get the public IP that your computer uses when it accesses the Internet.

# UNIX - Get your computer's router-assigned IP (see image below)
$ ifconfig -a | grep inet

# Windows - Get the network configuration for all interfaces
> ipconfig /all
Image of the output of the ifconfig
command on UNIX like systems.

iPhone proxy setup

In order to add a proxy to your wireless connection, navigate to "Settings -> Wi-Fi", find the network you whish to connect to and tap the "i" symbol, to the far right of the network's name. This will move you to the network's settings panel, and at the bottom of this panel you have the "HTTP PROXY" section, which is set to "Off" by default. Tap "Manual" and add your machine's IP and the port you used when you started mitmproxy. The setup should look like the image below.

Image of HTTP PROXY settings on the iPhone

Once you're done performing the steps above, you should try and visit any web page, and you will see some activity in the terminal window where you started mitmproxy. This means that the proxy is working correctly and that your phone's connection is routed through your laptop. Now, you can start your application on your machine, add an entry to your /etc/hosts file, that makes myapp.dev point to your local machine's IP, and visit http://myapp.dev:<port> from your phone.

You're done! You should now be able to see the application that is running on your computer.

Credits: kevinLot of mobile phones + accessories (FREE)

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