Archive for the ‘Assembly’ Category


Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Hey guys

I’ve been pretty busy in the last few months, working, and working.

I am thinking about coming up with a diStorm-ARM version, it’s pretty self-explanatory. 😉
For the ones who are not familiar with diStorm, it is a disassembler that returns a binary structure that describes an x86/x64 instruction, instead of textual output.

Would love to hear your thoughts, as always.

IsDebuggerPresent – When To Attach a Debugger

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

This API is really helpful sometimes. And no, I’m not talking about using it for anti-debugging, com’on.
Suppose you have a complicated application that you would like to debug on special occasions.
Two concerns arise:
1 – you don’t want to always DebugBreak() at a certain point, which will nuke the application every time the code is running at that point (because 99% of the times you don’t have a debugger attached, or it’s a release code, obviously).
2 – on the other hand, you don’t want to miss that point in execution, if you choose you want to debug it.

An example would be, to set a key in the registry that each time it will be checked and if it is set (no matter the value), the code will DebugBreak().
A similar one would be to set a timeout, that on points of your interest inside the code, it will be read and wait for that amount of time, thus giving you enough time for attaching a debugger to the process.
Or setting an environment variable to indicate the need for a DebugBreak, but that might be a pain as well, cause environment blocks are inherited from parent process, and if you set a system one, it doesn’t mean your process will be affected, etc.
Another idea I can think of is pretty obvious, to create a file in some directory, say, c:\debugme, that the application will check for existence, and if so it will wait for attaching a debugger.

What’s in common for all the approaches above? Eventually they will DebugBreak or get stuck waiting for you to do the work (attaching a debugger).

But here I’m suggesting a different flow, check that a debugger is currently present, using IsDebuggerPresent (or thousands of other tricks, why bother?) and only then fire the DebugBreak. This way you can extend it to wait in certain points for a debugger-attach.

The algorithm would be:

read timeout from registry (or check an existence of a file, or whatever you’re up to. Which is most convenient for you)
if exists, while (timeout not passed)
if IsDebuggerPresent DebugBreak()
sleep(100) – or just wait a bit not to hog CPU

That’s it, so the application would always run normally, unless there’s some value set to hint you would like to attach a debugger in certain points, and if you don’t want to, it will timeout and continue normally. Of course, it’s possible to add some log messages, you will know it’s time to attach a debugger, in case you haven’t attached it earlier…

It’s always funny to see people call MessageBox, and then they attach a debugger, they then want to set a breakpoint at some function or instruction or even straight away at the caller itself, but can’t find that place easily without symbols or expertise. Instead, put a breakpoint at the end of the MessageBox function and step out of it.

Thanks to Yuval Kokhavi for this great idea. If you have a better idea or implementation please share it with us 😉

isX64 Gem

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

I needed a multi-arch shellcode for both x86 and x64 in the same code. Suppose you want to attack a platform, which can either be x86 or x64 where you don’t know in advance which it is. The problem is which version you really need to use at runtime then, right?

This is a tiny trick I’ve been using for a long while now which tells whether you run on x64 or not:

INC EAX ; = DB 0x40
JZ x64_code
bits 32
bits 64

The idea is very simple, since x64 and x86 share most opcodes’ values, there is a small in-similarity with the range of 0x40-0x50, in x86 it used for one byte INC and DEC opcodes. Since there’re 8 GPRs (General Purpose Register), and 2 opcodes, it spans over the whole range of 0x40-0x50.
Now when AMD64’s ISA (Instruction Set Architecture) was designed, they added another set of 8 GPRs, making it a total of whopping 16 GPRs. In a world where x86 ruled, you only needed 3 bits in the ModRM byte (some byte in the instruction that tells the processor how to read its operands) to access a specific register from 0 to 8. With the new ISA, an extra bit was required in order to be able to address all 16 registers. Therefore, a new prefix (called the REX prefix) was added to solve this problem with an extra bit (and there’s more to it, not relevant for now). The new prefix used the range of 0x40-0x50, thus eliminating old one byte INC/DEC (no worries however, now compilers use the 2 bytes existent variation for these instructions).

Back to our assembly code, it depends on the fact that in x86 the INC EAX, really increments EAX by one, and so it will become 1 if the code runs on x86. And when it’s run on x64, it becomes a prefix to the NOP instruction, which doesn’t do anything anyway. And hence, EAX stays zero. Just a final note for the inexperienced that in x64, operations on 32 bit registers are automatically promoted to 64 bit registers, so RAX is also 0.

Finding Kernel32 Base Address Shellcode

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Yet another one…
This time, smaller, more correct, and still null-free.
I looked a bit at some shellcodes at exploit-db and googled too, to see whether anyone got a smaller way to no avail.

I based my code on:
AFAIK, who based his post on:

And this is my version:

00000000 (02) 6a30                     PUSH 0x30
00000002 (01) 5e                       POP ESI
; Use DB 0x64; LODSD
00000003 (02) 64ad                     LODS EAX, [FS:ESI]
00000005 (03) 8b700c                   MOV ESI, [EAX+0xc]
00000008 (03) 8b761c                   MOV ESI, [ESI+0x1c]
0000000b (03) 8b5608                   MOV EDX, [ESI+0x8]
0000000e (04) 807e1c18                 CMP BYTE [ESI+0x1c], 0x18
00000012 (02) 8b36                     MOV ESI, [ESI]
00000014 (02) 75f5                     JNZ 0xb

The tricky part was how to read from FS:0x30, and the way I use is the smallest one, at least from what I checked.
Another issue that was fixed is the check for kernel32.dll, usually the variation of this shellcode checks for a null byte, but it turned out to be bogous on W2k machines, so it was changed to check for a null word. Getting the shellcode by a byte or two longer.

This way, it’s only 22 bytes, it doesn’t assume that kernel32.dll is the second/third entry in the list, it actually loops till it finds the correct module length (len of ‘kernel32.dll’ * 2 bytes). Also since kernelbase.dll can come first and that renders lots of implementations of this technique unusable.
And obviously the resulting base address of kernel32.dll is in EDX.


[Update July 9th:]
Here’s a link to an explanation about PEB/LDR lists.
See first comment for a better version which is only 17 bytes.

Private Symbols Look Up by Binary Signatures

Friday, July 1st, 2011

This post could really be extended and divided into a few posts, but I decided to try and keep it small as much as I can. If I see it draws serious attention I might elaborate on the topic.

Signature matching for finding functions is a very old technique, but I haven’t found anyone who talks about it with juicy details or at all, and decided to show you a real life example. It is related to the last post about finding service functions in the kernel. The problem is that sometimes inside the kernel you want to use internal functions, which are not exported. Don’t start with “this is not documented story”, I don’t care, sometimes we need to get things done no matter what. Sometimes there is no documented way to do what you want. Even in legitimate code, it doesn’t have to be a rootkit, alright? I can say, however, that when you wanna add new functionality to an existing and working system, in whatever level it might be, you would better depend as much as you can on the existing functionality that was written by the original programmers of that system. So yes, it requires lot of good reversing, before injecting more code and mess up with the process.
The example of a signature I’m going to talk about is again about getting the function ZwProtectVirtualMemory address in the kernel. See the old post here to remember what’s going on. Obviously the solution in the older post is almost 100% reliable, because we have anchors to rely upon. But sometimes with signature matching the only anchors you have are binary pieces of:
* immediate operand values
* strings
* xrefs
* disassembled instructions
* a call graph to walk on
and the list gets longer and can really get crazy and it does, but that’s another story.

I don’t wanna convert this post into a guideline of how to write a good signature, though I have lots of experience with it, even for various archs, though I will just say that you never wanna put binary code as part of your signature, only in extreme cases (I am talking about the actual opcode bytes), simply because you usually don’t know what the compiler is going to do with the source code, how it’s going to look in assembly, etc. The idea of a good signature is that it will be as generic as possible so it will survive (hopefully) the updates of the target binary you’re searching in. This is probably the most important rule about binary signatures. Unfortunately we can never guarantee a signature is to be future compatible with new updates. But always test that the signature matches on a few versions of the binary file. Suppose it’s a .DLL, then try to get as many versions of that DLL file as possible and make a script to try it out on all of them, a must. The more DLLs the signature is able to work on successfully, the better the signature is! Usually the goal is to write a single signature that covers all versions at once.
The reason you can’t rely on opcodes in your binary signature is because they get changed many times, almost in every compilation of the code in a different version, the compiler will allocate new registers for the instructions and thus change the instructions. Or since code might get compiled to many variations which effectively do the same thing, I.E: MOV EAX, 0 and XOR EAX, EAX.
One more note, a good signature is one that you can find FAST. We don’t really wanna disassemble the whole file and run on the listing it generated. Anyway, caching is always a good idea and if you have many passes to do for many signatures to find different things, you can always cache lots of stuff, and save precious loading time. So think well before you write a signature and be sure you’re using a good algorithm. Finding an XREF for a relative branch takes lots of time, try to avoid that, that should be cached, in one pass of scanning the whole code section of the file, into a dictionary of “target:source” pairs, with false positives (another long story) that can be looked up for a range of addresses…

I almost forgot to mention, I used such a binary signature inside the patch I wrote as a member of ZERT, for closing a vulnerability in Internet Explorer, I needed to find the weak function and patch it in memory, so you can both grab the source code and see for yourself. Though the example does use opcodes (and lots of them) as part of the signature, but there’s special reason for it. Long story made short: The signature won’t match once the function will get officially patched by MS (recall that we published that solution before MS acted), and then this way the patcher will know that it didn’t find the signature and probably the function was already patched well, so we don’t need to patch it on top of the new patch.. confusing shit.

The reason I find signatures amazing is because only reversers can do them well and it takes lots of skills to generate good ones,
happy signaturing :)

And surprisingly I found the following link which is interesting:

So let’s delve into my example, at last.
Here’s a real example of a signature for ZwProtectVirtualMemory in a Kernel driver.

Signature Source Code

From my tests this signature worked well on many versions…though always expect it might be broken.

diStorm Goes on Diet

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

I just wanted to share my happiness with you guys. After a long hard work (over a month in my free time, which ain’t much these days), I managed to refactor all the data-structures of the instructions DB in diStorm3. As the title says, I spared around 40kb in data! The original distorm3.dll file took around 130kb and currently it takes 90kb. I then went ahead and reconfigured the settings of the project in Visual Studio and instructed the compiler not to include the CRT shits. Then it bitched about “static constructors won’t be called and the like”, well duh. But since diStorm is written in C and I don’t have anything static to initialize (which is based on code) before the program starts, I didn’t mind it at all. And eventually I got the .dll file size to ~65kb. That’s really 50% of the original file size. This is sick.

I really don’t want to elaborate with the details of what I did, it’s really deep shit into diStorm. Hey, actually I can give you an simple example. Suppose I have around 900 mnemonics. Do not confuse mnemonic with opcodes – some opcodes share the same mnemonic although they are completely different in their behavior. You have so many variations of the instruction ‘ADD’, for instance. Just to clarify: mnemonic=display name of an opcode, opcode: the binary byte code which identifies the operation to do, instruction: all the bytes which represent the opcode and the operands, the whole.
Anyway, so there are 900 mnemonics, and the longest mnemonic by length takes 17 characters, some AVX mofo. Now since we want a quick look up in the mnemonics table, it was an array of [900][19], which means 900 mnemonics X 19 characters per mnemonic. Why 19? An extra character for the null terminating char, right? And another one for the Pascal string style – means there’s a leading length byte in front of the string data. Now you ask why I need them both: C string and Pascal string together. That’s because in diStorm all strings are concatenated very fast by using Pascal strings. And also because the guy who uses diStorm wants to use printf to display the mnemonic too, which uses C string, he will need a null terminating character at the end of the string, right?
So back to business, remember we have to allocate 19 bytes per mnemonic, even if the mnemonic is as short as ‘OR’, or ‘JZ’, we waste tons of space, right? 900×19=~17kb. And this is where you get the CPU vs. MEMORY issue once again, you get random access into the mnemonic, which is very important but it takes lots of space. Fortunately I came up with a cooler idea. I packed all the strings into a very long string, which looks something like this (copied from the source):

“\x09” “UNDEFINED\0” “\x03” “ADD\0” “\x04” “PUSH\0” “\x03” “POP\0” “\x02” “OR\0” \
“\x03” “ADC\0” “\x03” “SBB\0” “\x03” “AND\0” “\x03” “DAA\0” “\x03” “SUB\0”
and so on… 


You can see the leading length and the extra null terminating character for each mnemonic, and then it’s being followed by another mnemonic. And now it seems like we’re lost with random-access cause each string has a varying length and we can never get to the one we want… but lo and behold! Each instruction in the DB contains a field ‘opcodeId’ which denotes the index in the mnemonics array, the offset into the new mnemonics uber string. And now if you use the macro mnemonics.h supplies, you will get to the same mnemonic nevertheless. And all in all I spared around 10kb only on mnemonic strings!

FYI the macro is:

#define GET_MNEMONIC_NAME(m) ((_WMnemonic*)&_MNEMONICS[(m)])->p

As you can see, I access the mnemonics string with the given OpcodeId field which is taken from the decoded instruction and returns a WMnemonic structure, which is a Pascal string (char length; char bytes[1])…

The DB was much harder to compact, but one thing I can tell you when you serialize trees is that you can (and should) use integer-indices, rather than pointers! In x64, each pointer takes 8 bytes, for crying out loud! Now in the new layout, each index in the tree takes only 13 bits, the rest 5 bits talks about the type, where/what the index really points to… And it indirectly means that now the DB takes the same size both for x86 and x64 images, since it is not based on pointers.

Thanks for your time, I surely had pure fun :)

Binary Hooking Problems

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Most binary hooking engines write a detour in the entry point of the target function. Other hooking engines patch the IAT table, and so on. One of the problems with overwriting the entry point with a JMP instruction is that you need enough room for that instruction, usually a mere 5 bytes will suffice.

How do the hooking algorithms decide how much is “enough”?

Pretty easy, they use a dissasembler to query the size of each instruction they scan, so if the total size of the instructions that were scanned is more than 5 bytes, they’re done.
As an example, usually, functions start with these two instructions:

which take only 3 bytes. And we already said that we need 5 bytes total, in order to replace the first instructions with our JMP instruction. Hence the scan will have to continue to the next instruction or so, till we got at least 5 bytes.

So 5 bytes in x86 could contain from one instruction to 5 instructions (where each takes a single byte, obviously). Or even a single instruction whose size is longer than 5 bytes. (In x64 you might need 12-14 bytes for a whole-address-space JMP, and it only makes matter worse).

It is clear why we need to know the size of instructions, since we overwrite the first 5 bytes, we need to relocate them to another location, the trampoline. There we want to continue the execution of the original function we hooked and therefore we need to continue from the next instruction that we haven’t override. And it is not necessarily the instruction at offset 5… otherwise we might continue execution in the middle of an instruction, which is pretty bad.

Lame hooking engines don’t use disassemblers, they just have a predefined table of popular prologue instructions. Come a different compiled code, they won’t be able to hook a function. Anyway, we also need a disassembler for another reason, to tell whether we hit a dead end instruction, such as: RET, INT 3, JMP, etc. These are hooking spoilers, because if the first instruction of the target function is a simple RET (thus the function doesn’t do anything, leave aside cache side effects for now), or even a “return 0” function, which usually translates into “xor eax, eax; ret”, still takes only 3 bytes and we can’t plant a detour. So we find ourselves trying to override 5 bytes where the whole function takes several bytes (< 5 bytes), and we cannot override past that instruction since we don’t know what’s there. It might be another function’s entry point, data, NOP slide, or what not. The point is that we are not allowed to do that and eventually cannot hook the function, fail.

Another problem is relative-offset instructions. Suppose any of the first 5 bytes is a conditional branch instruction, we will have to relocate that instruction. Usually conditional branch instruction are only 2 bytes. And if we copy them to the trampoline, we will have to convert them into the longer variation which is 6 bytes and fix the offset. And that would work well. In x64, RIP-relative instructions are also pain in the butt, as well as any other relative-offset instruction which requires a fix. So there’s quiet a long list of those and a good hooking engine has to support them all, especially in x64 where there’s no standard prologue for a function.

I noticed a specific case where WaitForSingleObject is being compiled to:
JMP short WaitForSingleObjectEx

in x64 of course; the xor takes 3 bytes and the jmp is a short one, which takes 2 bytes. And so you got 5 bytes total and should be able to hook it (it’s totally legal), but the hook engine I use sucked and didn’t allow that.

So you might say, ok, I got a generic solution for that, let’s follow the unconditional branch and hook that point. So I will hook WaitForSingleObjectEx instead, right? But now you got to the dreaded entry points problem. You might get called for a different entry point that you never meant to hook. You wanted to hook WaitForSingleObject and now you end up hooking WaitForSingleObjectEx, so all callers to WaitForSingleObject get to you, that’s true. In addition, now all callers to WaitForSingleObjectEx get to you too. That’s a big problem. And you can’t ever realize on whose behalf you were called (with a quick and legitimate solution).

The funny thing about the implementation of WaitForSingleObject is that it was followed immediately by an alignment NOP slide, which is never executed really, but the hooking engine can’t make a use of it, because it doesn’t know what we know. So unconditional branches screw up hooking engines if they show up before 5 bytes from the entry point, and we just saw that following the unconditional branch might screw us up as well with wrong context. So if you do that, it’s ill.

What would you do then in such cases? Cause I got some solutions, although nothing is perfect.

Uh Ah! I Happened To Use POP ESP

Friday, April 15th, 2011

I was telling the story to a friend of mine about me using POP ESP in some code I wrote, and then he noted how special it is to use such an instruction and probably I’m the first one whom he’s heard of that used it. So I decided to share. I’m sorry to be mystical about my recent posts, it’s just that they are connected to the place I work at, and I can’t talk really elaborate about everything.

Here we go.
I had to call a C++ function from my Assembly code and keep the return value untouched so the caller will get it. Usually return values are passed on EAX, in x86 that is. But that’s not the whole truth, they might be passed on EDX:EAX, if you want to return 64 bits integer, for instance.
My Assembly code was a wrapper to the C++ function, so once the C++ function returned, it got back to me, and so I couldn’t touch both EDX and EAX. The problem was that I had to clean the stack, as my wrapper function acted as STDCALL calling convention. Cleaning the stack is pretty easy, after you popped EBP and the stack pointer points to the return address, you still have to do POPs as the number of arguments your function receives. The calling convention also specifies which registers are to be preserved between calls, and which registers are scratch. Therefore I decided to use ECX for my part, because it’s a scratch register, and I didn’t want to dirty any other register. Note that by the time you need to return to the caller and both clean the arguments on the stack, it’s pretty hard to use push and pop instructions to back up a register so you can freely use it. Again, because you’re in the middle of cleaning the stack, so by the time you POP that register, the ESP moved already. Therefore I got stuck with ECX only, but that’s fine with me. After the C++ function returned to me, I read from some structure the number of arguments to clean. Suppose I had the pointer to that structure in my frame and it was easily accessible as a local variable. Then I cleaned my own stack frame, mov esp, ebp and pop ebp. Then ESP pointed the return address.
This is where it gets tricky:

Assume ECX holds the number of arguments to clean:
lea ecx, [esp + ecx*4 + 4]

That calculation gets the fixed stack address, like the ESP that a RET N instruction would get it to. So it needs to skip the number of arguments multiplied by 4, 4 bytes per argument, and add to that the return value itself.

Going on with:
xchg [esp], ecx

Which puts on the stack the fixed stack address, and getting ECX with the return address. This is where usually people get confused, take your time. I’m waiting 😉

And then the almighty:
pop esp
jmp ecx

We actually popped the fixed stack pointer from the stack itself into the stack pointer. LOL
And since we got ECX loaded with the return address, we just have to branch to it.

What I was actually doing is to simulate the RET N instruction, using only ECX. And ESP should be used anyway. Now the function I was returning to, could access both the optional EDX and EAX as return values from the C++ function.

It seems that the solution begged a SMC (self modifying code) so I could just patch the N, in the RET N instruction, which is a 16 bits immediate value. But SMC is bad for performance, and obviously for multi threading…

Also note that I could just clean the stack, and then branched to something like: jmp [esp – argsCount*4 – 4],
but I don’t like reading off my stack pointer, that’s a bad practice (mostly from the days of interrupts…).


Getting RAX Register in C/C++ or coders that should be killed ;)

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Just a weird story, suppose I need to get the value of RAX register in x64 inside some function I wrote.
I was using Visual Studio and as you might know in x64 you are not allowed to use the declspec(naked) or the inline __asm keyword anymore, what a shame. So obviously, I could write some .asm file and link it in. But I prefered to come up with more elegant idea. Anyway, I just wanna show you the solution.

if I set up a function such as:
uint64_t getRax() { }
An empty function which doesn’t do anything. The compiler will shout at me that it cannot compile such a function because there’s no any return statement. What a shame. But suppose we could compile that function, we could then just call it and it would immediately return to the caller without doing anything, then we could read the return value, which wasn’t changed cause the function is empty, thus we could get RAX. Following so far?

A single cast should do the trick. So first, we will have to change the function into:
void getRax() { }
Now the compiler will actually compile it. And now we will add a new pointer to a function that returns an actual uint64_t.

Defining a pointer to a function as follows:
uint64_t (*_getRax)()) = getRax;
But that wouldn’t compile as well, because the compiler is smart enough to know that we are messing up with types here. We will either end up with a warning or an error, too bad. As we know everything can be casted to void* and that’s why we need to cast through void* for success, such as:
uint64_t (*_getRax)() = (void*) getRax;

This way we got rid off the warnings when using W3/4 or treat warning as errors, the way I usually work. Though I could also disable the warning for the region of that fugly code. However, this is one of the reasons C/C++ is probably one of the strongest programming languages, this flexibility…
Surprisingly, I just found that GCC is more permissive in this case than VS.

And then we can simply use it:
uint64_t rax = _getRax();

I wish this could also work:
unsigned char getRax[] = { 0xc3 };
uint64_t (*_getRax)() = (void*) getRax;
But obviously since DEP is enabled nowadays, it will fail with an awful death :(

It really bothers me that I have to CALL to a RET in order to get RAX accessible in C, LOL. Anyone aware of any intrinsic to do similar things with registers? For some reason I remember something like __EAX in VS, but I couldn’t find it.

Calling System Service APIs in Kernel

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

In this post I am not going to shed any new light about this topic, but I didn’t find anything like this organized in one place, so I decided to write it down, hope you will find it useful.

Sometimes when you develop a kernel driver you need to use some internal API that cannot be accessed normally through the DDK. Though you may say “but it’s not an API if it’s not officially exported and supported by MS”. Well that’s kinda true, the point is that some functions like that which are not accessible from the kernel, are really accessible from usermode, hence they are called API. After all, if you can call NtCreateFile from usermode, eventually you’re supposed to be able to do that from kernel, cause it really happens in kernel, right? Obviously, NtCreateFile is an official API in the kernel too.

When I mean using system service APIs, I really mean by doing it platform/version independent, so it will work on all versions of Windows. Except when MS changes the interface (number of parameters for instance, or their type) to the services themselves, but that rarely happens.

I am not going to explain how the architecture of the SSDT and the transitions from user to kernel or how syscalls, etc work. Just how to use it to our advantage. It is clear that MS doesn’t want you to use some of its APIs in the kernel. But sometimes it’s unavoidable, and using undocumented API is fine with me, even in production(!) if you know how to do it well and as robust as possible, but that’s another story. We know that MS doesn’t want you to use some of these APIs because a) they just don’t export it in kernel on purpose, that is. b) starting with 64 bits versions of Windows they made it harder on purpose to use or manipulate the kernel, by removing previously exported symbols from kernel, we will get to that later on.

Specifically I needed ZwProtectVirtualMemory, because I wanted to change the protection of some page in the user address space. And that function isn’t exported by the DDK, bummer. Now remember that it is accessible to usermode (as VirtualProtectMemory through kernel32.dll syscall…), therefore there ought to be a way to get it (the address of the function in kernel) in a reliable manner inside a kernel mode driver in order to use it too. And this is what I’m going to talk about in this post. I’m going to assume that you already run code in the kernel and that you are a legitimate driver because it’s really going to help us with some exported symbols, not talking about shellcodes here, although shellcodes can use this technique by changing it a bit.

We have a few major tasks in order to achieve our goal: Map the usermode equivalent .dll file. We need to get the index number of the service we want to call. Then we need to get the base address of ntos and the address of the (service) table of pointers (the SSDT itself) to the functions in the kernel. And voila…

The first one is easy both in 32 and 64 bits systems. There are mainly 3 files which make the syscalls in usermode, such as: ntdll, kernel32 and user32 (for GDI calls). For each API you want to call in kernel, you have to know its prototype and in which file you will find it (MSDN supplies some of this or just Google it). The idea is to map the file to the address space as an (executable) image. Note that the cool thing about this mapping is that you will get the address of the required file in usermode. Remember that these files are physically shared among all processes after boot time (For instance, addresses might change because of ASLR but stay consistent as long as the machine is up). Following that we will use a similar functionality to GetProcAddress, but one that you have to write yourself in kernel, which is really easy for PE and PE+ (64 bits).

Alright, so we got the image mapped, we can now get some usermode API function’s address using our GetProcAddress, now what? Well, now we have to get the index number of the syscall we want. Before I continue, this is the right place to say that I’ve seen so many approaches to this problem, disassemblers, binary patterns matching, etc. And I decided to come up with something really simple and maybe new. You take two functions that you know for sure that are going to be inside kernel32.dll (for instance), say, CreateFile and CloseHandle. And then simply compare byte after byte from both functions to find the first different byte, that byte contains the index number of the syscall (or the low byte out of the 4 bytes integer really). Probably you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me show you some usermode API’s that directly do syscalls:

XP SP3 ntdll.dll
B8 25 00 00 00                    mov     eax, 25h        ; NtCreateFile
BA 00 03 FE 7F                    mov     edx, 7FFE0300h
FF 12                             call    dword ptr [edx]
C2 2C 00                          retn    2Ch

B8 19 00 00 00                    mov     eax, 19h        ; NtClose
BA 00 03 FE 7F                    mov     edx, 7FFE0300h
FF 12                             call    dword ptr [edx]
C2 04 00                          retn    4

Vista SP1 32 bits ntdll.dll

B8 3C 00 00 00                    mov     eax, 3Ch        ; NtCreateFile
BA 00 03 FE 7F                    mov     edx, 7FFE0300h
FF 12                             call    dword ptr [edx]
C2 2C 00                          retn    2Ch

B8 30 00 00 00                    mov     eax, 30h        ; NtClose
BA 00 03 FE 7F                    mov     edx, 7FFE0300h
FF 12                             call    dword ptr [edx]
C2 04 00                          retn    4

Vista SP2 64 bits ntdll.dll

4C 8B D1                          mov     r10, rcx        ; NtCreateFile
B8 52 00 00 00                    mov     eax, 52h
0F 05                             syscall
C3                                retn

4C 8B D1                          mov     r10, rcx        ; NtClose
B8 0C 00 00 00                    mov     eax, 0Ch
0F 05                             syscall
C3                                retn

2008 sp2 64 bits ntdll.dll

4C 8B D1                          mov     r10, rcx        ; NtCreateFile
B8 52 00 00 00                    mov     eax, 52h
0F 05                             syscall
C3                                retn

4C 8B D1                          mov     r10, rcx        ; NtClose
B8 0C 00 00 00                    mov     eax, 0Ch
0F 05                             syscall
C3                                retn

Win7 64bits syswow64 ntdll.dll

B8 52 00 00 00                    mov     eax, 52h        ; NtCreateFile
33 C9                             xor     ecx, ecx
8D 54 24 04                       lea     edx, [esp+arg_0]
64 FF 15 C0 00 00+                call    large dword ptr fs:0C0h
83 C4 04                          add     esp, 4
C2 2C 00                          retn    2Ch

B8 0C 00 00 00                    mov     eax, 0Ch        ; NtClose
33 C9                             xor     ecx, ecx
8D 54 24 04                       lea     edx, [esp+arg_0]
64 FF 15 C0 00 00+                call    large dword ptr fs:0C0h
83 C4 04                          add     esp, 4
C2 04 00                          retn    4

These are a few snippets to show you how the syscall function templates look like. They are generated automatically by some tool MS wrote and they don’t change a lot as you can see from the various architectures I gathered here. Anyway, if you take a look at the bytes block of each function, you will see that you can easily spot the correct place where you can read the index of the syscall we are going to use. That’s why doing a diff on two functions from the same .dll would work well and reliably. Needless to say that we are going to use the index number we get with the table inside the kernel in order to get the corresponding function in the kernel.

This technique gives us the index number of the syscall of any exported function in any one of the .dlls mentioned above. This is valid both for 32 and 64 bits. And by the way, notice that the operand type (=immediate) that represents the index number is always a 4 bytes integer (dword) in the ‘mov’ instruction, just makes life easier.

To the next task, in order to find the base address of the service table or what is known as the system service descriptor table (in short SSDT), we will have to get the base address of the ntoskrnl.exe image first. There might be different kernel image loaded in the system (with or without PAE, uni-processor or multi-processor), but it doesn’t matter in the following technique I’m going to use, because it’s based on memory and not files… This task is really easy when you are a driver, means that if you want some exported symbol from the kernel that the DDK supplies – the PE loader will get it for you. So it means we get, without any work, the address of any function like NtClose or NtCreateFile, etc. Both are inside ntos, obviously. Starting with that address we will round down the address to the nearest page and scan downwards to find an ‘MZ’ signature, which will mark the base address of the whole image in memory. If you’re afraid from false positives using this technique you’re welcome to go further and check for a ‘PE’ signature, or use other techniques.

This should do the trick:

PVOID FindNtoskrnlBase(PVOID Addr)
    /// Scandown from a given symbol’s address.
    Addr = (PVOID)((ULONG_PTR)Addr &amp; ~0xfff);
    __try {
        while ((*(PUSHORT)Addr != IMAGE_DOS_SIGNATURE)) {
            Addr = (PVOID) ((ULONG_PTR)Addr – PAGE_SIZE);
        return Addr;
    __except(1) { }
    return NULL;

And you can call it with a parameter like FindNtoskrnlBase(ZwClose). This is what I meant that you know the address of ZwClose or any other symbol in the image which will give you some “anchor”.

After we got the base address of ntos, we need to retrieve the address of the service table in kernel. That can be done using the same GetProcAddress we used earlier on the mapped user mode .dll files. But this time we will be looking for the “KeServiceDescriptorTable” exported symbol.

So far you can see that we got anchors (what I call for a reliable way to get an address of anything in memory) and we are good to go, this will work in production without the need to worry. If you wanna start the flame war about the unlegitimate use of undocumented APIs, etc. I’m clearly not interested. :)
Anyway, in Windows 32 bits, the latter symbol is exported, but it is not exported in 64 bits! This is part of the PatchGuard system, to make life harder for rootkits, 3rd party drivers doing exactly what I’m talking about, etc. I’m not going to cover how to get that address in 64 bits in this post.

The KeServiceDescriptorTable is a table that holds a few pointers to other service tables which contain the real addresses of the service functions the OS supplies to usermode. So a simple dereference to the table and you get the pointer to the first table which is the one you are looking for. Using that pointer, which is really the base address of the pointers table, you use the index we read earlier from the required function and you got, at last, the pointer to that function in kernel, which you can now use.

The bottom line is that now you can use any API that is given to usermode also in kernelmode and you’re not limited to a specific Windows version, nor updates, etc. and you can do it in a reliable manner which is the most important thing. Also we didn’t require any special algorithms nor disassemblers (as much as I like diStorm…). Doing so in shellcodes make life a bit harder, because we had the assumption that we got some reliable way to find the ntos base address. But every kid around the block knows it’s easy to do it anyway.

Happy coding :)

References I found interesting about this topic:

And how to do it in 64 bits: