IDA pro is able to display the data contained in the read only data section of ELF files, but the section is defined as type SHT_PROGBITS.

To my knowledge, we cannot parse sections of this type to resolve information such as constant data/variable names.

So my question is how do tools such as IDA actually get the information in .rodata or other SHT_PROGBITS sections such as .PLT.


1 Answer 1


According to ELF-format SHT_PROGBITS meens only that

The section holds information defined by the program, whose format and meaning are determined solely by the program.

But ELF-section's type is not the only (and not main) attribute for parsing data from file. There are also section's name and attributes.

Sections like .text and .data also have SHT_PROGBITS-type, but their names are special.

Generally (and very simply) the process of ELF-parsing is so:

  1. Read File header
  2. Read Section Headers table
  3. Read Symbol table
  4. Make Relocations

More info you can take from IDA's ELF-loader (IDA_Dir\loaders\elf.ldw (or dll)) or from a tools like readelf.

  • could you elaborate on names being special? Thanks Commented Mar 6, 2018 at 20:09
  • Special names are .bss, .comment, .data .debug, .dynamic, .dynstr, .dynsym, .fini, .got, .hash, .init, .interp, .line, .note, .plt, .rel<name>, .rodata, .shstrtab, .strtab, .symtab, .text
    – prusanov
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 6:14

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