Recovering ProtoBuf Descriptors to Readable Definitions

Below is some code I wrote that was helpful for recovering proto definition files from encoded descriptor blobs that were embedded in binaries. This uses a DebugString() function that's available in the C++ binding, but a Python-based implementation of this is available in PBTK (Protobuf Toolkit) by @marin-m. I don't think my implementation provides any advantage, and I probably would have used PBTK instead if I had found it earlier.


  1. Identify the descriptor blob and extract it out of the binary/code as a file.
  2. Pass the file to the program below as argv[1].
  3. The program will return the definition in stdout.


#include <iostream>
#include <fstream>

#include <google/protobuf/descriptor.h>
#include <google/protobuf/descriptor.pb.h>
#include <google/protobuf/descriptor_database.h>

using namespace std;
using namespace google::protobuf;

int main(int argc, char* argv[])
    // Read contents of file in argv[1].
    ifstream events_file;[1], ios::in | ios::binary | ios::ate);
    streampos size = events_file.tellg();
    char* events_data = new char[size];
    events_file.seekg(0, ios::beg);, size);

    // Add the raw data to an EncodedDescriptorDatabase.
    auto edd = new EncodedDescriptorDatabase();
    edd->Add(events_data, size);

    // Get the name of the file in the database.
    vector<string> files;

    // Get FileDescriptorProto.
    auto fdp = new FileDescriptorProto();
    edd->FindFileByName(files[0], fdp);

    // Build a DescriptorPool with it, to get a FileDescriptor out of it.
    auto dp = new DescriptorPool();
    auto fd = dp->BuildFile(*fdp);

    // Get the debug string out of the FileDescriptor.
    std::cout << fd->DebugString(); 

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