Signing Embedded Frameworks in an Embedded Framework

I have been working on a feature for a mobile application that was developed by another company. My feature is written in Swift while the main app is in Objective-C. No biggie there – the bridging between the two works great. However, my feature is built as a dynamic framework and it has framework dependencies itself. When I add the framework by itself to the Objective-C application, I can run in the simulator but not on the device. The crash I sometimes get is often nothing more than below, with no messages in the console window:

    0x4f53cc <+0>:  mov    r12, sp
    0x4f53d0 <+4>:  push   {r4, r5, r6, r8}
    0x4f53d4 <+8>:  ldm    r12, {r4, r5, r6}
    0x4f53d8 <+12>: mov    r12, #512
    0x4f53dc <+16>: orr    r12, r12, #9
    0x4f53e0 <+20>: svc    #0x80
->  0x4f53e4 <+24>: pop    {r4, r5, r6, r8}
    0x4f53e8 <+28>: blo    0x4f5400                  ; <+52>
    0x4f53ec <+32>: ldr    r12, [pc, #0x4]           ; <+44>
    0x4f53f0 <+36>: ldr    r12, [pc, r12]
    0x4f53f4 <+40>: b      0x4f53fc                  ; <+48>
    0x4f53f8 <+44>: andeq  r9, r0, r8, lsl #27
    0x4f53fc <+48>: bx     r12
    0x4f5400 <+52>: bx     lr

Other times, I get text in the console complaining about an unsigned framework, with the framework name being one of the frameworks embedded in my own:

dyld: Library not loaded: @rpath/Siesta.framework/Siesta
  Referenced from: /private/var/containers/Bundle/Application/6370F0D4-4D48-4EBF-82DC-2E63EB421341/
  Reason: no suitable image found.  Did find:
    /private/var/containers/Bundle/Application/6370F0D4-4D48-4EBF-82DC-2E63EB421341/ required code signature missing for '/private/var/containers/Bundle/Application/6370F0D4-4D48-4EBF-82DC-2E63EB421341/'

Note that I had previously updated the Runpath Search Paths build setting value with $executable_path/Frameworks/TaskMe.framework/Frameworks so that the dynamic linker would see into my custom framework. However, clearly the code signing stage that takes place automatically in Xcode does not descend into such embedded framworks. Fortunately a quick look at a build log shows what needs to take place:

/usr/bin/codesign --force --deep --sign "${EXPANDED_CODE_SIGN_IDENTITY}" --entitlements
"${TARGET_TEMP_DIR}/${PRODUCT_NAME}.app.xcent" --timestamp=none <FILE>

Here <FILE> is the object to sign, such as a framework.

Deep into Nothiing

The man page for codesign documents a flag called --deep which seems like the perfect match for this problem. Unfortunately, the codesign step is not configurable as far as I can tell. Natch.

A New Hope (in a BuildPhase)

Fortunately, Xcode does allow for build customizations in the Build Phases tab of a target, and one such customization option is the ability to run a shell script. I created a new one with the following content that signs each of the embedded frameworks in my own framework:

pushd ${TARGET_BUILD_DIR}/${PRODUCT_NAME}.app/Frameworks/TaskMe.framework/Frameworks
for EACH in *.framework; do
    echo "-- signing ${EACH}"
    /usr/bin/codesign --force --deep --sign "${EXPANDED_CODE_SIGN_IDENTITY}" --entitlements "${TARGET_TEMP_DIR}/${PRODUCT_NAME}.app.xcent" --timestamp=none $EACH

Here we move into the Frameworks directory of my own framework called TaskMe and I iterate over all *.framework entities found there. Each one gets the codesign treatment using the same parameter settings that I found in the original build log. Note that the --deep flag above is left-over from my other attempts – these embedded-embedded frameworks do not have any frameworks of their own to sign, so --deep is useless here.

A quick clean and rebuild, and my app runs fine on my device.


I feel confident that this addition to the build process is kosher, but there is always a chance that future changes to Xcode iOS building will break it – or render it obsolete. There is an alternative approach which also works: embed all embedded frameworks in the top-level target. However, I am less enamoured with this approach due to the fact that if I add or remove a framework from my own, I have to remember to do the same with the top-level app target. With my ‘Build Process’ script, this is handled for me automagically.