Chapter 3

The Windows Kernel

This chapter discusses the principles and techniques necessary for analyzing kernel-mode driver code, such as rootkits, on the Windows platform. Because drivers interact with the OS through well-defined interfaces, the analytical task can be decomposed into the following general objectives:

  • Understand how core OS components are implemented
  • Understand the structure of a driver
  • Understand the user-driver and driver-OS interfaces and how Windows implements them
  • Understand how certain driver software constructs are manifested in binary form
  • Systematically apply knowledge from the previous steps in the general reverse engineering process

If the process of reverse engineering Windows drivers could be modeled as a discrete task, 90% would be understanding how Windows works and 10% would be understanding assembly code. Hence, the chapter is written as an introduction to the Windows kernel for reverse engineers. It begins with a discussion of the user-kernel interfaces and their implementation. Next, it discusses linked lists and how they are used in Windows. Then it explains concepts such as threads, processes, memory, interrupts, and how they are used in the kernel and drivers. After that it goes into the architecture of a kernel-mode driver and the driver-kernel programming interface. It concludes by applying these concepts to the reverse engineering of a rootkit.

Unless specified otherwise, every example in this chapter is taken from Windows 8 RTM.

Windows ...

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