The kernel debugger block (named KdDebuggerDataBlock of the type _KDDEBUGGER_DATA64) is important for many things that Volatility and debuggers do. For example, it has a reference to the PsActiveProcessHead which is the list head of all processes required for process listing.
Because it is so useful the location of the kernel debugger block is also stored in the crash dump header. This assists the kernel debugger to find the _KDDEBUGGER_DATA64 quickly.
I wanted to add the ability to write crash dump files to the WinPmem memory acquisition tool. Many commercial acquisition tools also offer this useful feature. Storing the image in a crash dump format is convenient since it is possible to open the image using a variety of tools such as volatility and Microsoft’s own kernel debugger Windbg. (Of course its possible to convert a raw image to a crash dump using volatility’s raw2dmp plugins but its more convenient to take the image using a crash dump in the first place).
So I needed a way locate the kernel debugger block (KdDebuggerDataBlock) from the running system. Previously there have been two methods published for doing this Finding Kernel Global Variables in Windows:
- The first method involves finding the KPCR (Which I talked about previously) and following its KdVersionBlock member. This method is ideal for performing on the running system since the KPCR is simply stored in the fs/gs register of the running thread.
- The second method which is used by Volatility itself is to scan for KdDebuggerDataBlock using a specific signature for a valid _KDDEBUGGER_DATA64.
Both of these methods are not ideal. The first method was used by win32dd for a time and Matthew Suiche wrote about it here. Unfortunately this method stopped working in recent versions of Windows. Recently the KdVersionBlock member is always 0 and does not link to the kernel debugger block.
The second method would work but would be quite slow as it scans the entire kernel address space for the KDBG signature. It is also less reliable since there could be a number of hits for the KDBG signature and we might get the wrong hit.
There has to be an easier way :).
The first thing I asked myself was "What exactly is the kernel debugger block?". I used google to locate a definition for it in the sources for ReactOS (an open source reimplementation of windows). The relevant snippet shows:
So according to the ReactOS sources the debugger block is a statically allocated structure which seems to be filled in by KdInitSystem.
This is quite interesting since static structs are always located in the same position relative to the PE executable’s base address. The compiler usually places static variables in the .data section of the PE binary. This means that in practice, the KdDebuggerDataBlock can only exist within the .data section of the kernel binary.
The problem boils down to finding the kernel base address. Once we know that, we can easily find the valid ranges for the data section. In most kernel’s the .data section is very small (less than 100kb) and is super fast to scan. Also since there is only deterministic data there, there will never be another struct with the same signature in such a small region.
So how can the WinPmem driver locate the kernel base address? The base address itself is not actually exported, but many other symbols are exported from the kernel’s Export Address Tables (pretty much any kernel API). We know that the kernel export address table is usually located at a higher address than the kernel base, and that the kernel base address is page aligned. We now can scan for it:
Figure 1. KDBG Scan algorithm
We choose to use NtBuildNumber as the exported symbol to look for (just in case a real API function is hooked). We then round down to page align and step backwards looking for the PE header. In Windows 7, there are unmapped guard pages between the mapped kernel sections - trying to read from these will blue screen the system. We therefore check first that the pages are mapped using the MmIsAddressValid() API.
Once the PE header is found, we calculate the region for the .data section. Since this region is very small and we do not need to worry about false positives, we can relax the search criteria and just search for the OwnerTag "KDBG".
The result is an extremely fast and reliable way for locating the kernel debugger block in a live system. This allows the WinPmem kernel driver to report this address so that the user space component can write the crash dump files correctly.
The added benefit of the kernel driver locating the debugger block itself is that Volatility does not need to scan for it while it is analysing the live system. This saves a rather expensive call for the kdbgscan plugin, which would otherwise need to be made before running most plugins.