Rootkits: Direct Kernel Object Manipulation and Processes

DKOM is one of the methods commonly used and implemented by Rootkits, in order to remain undetected, since this the main purpose of a roottkit. To be able to access Kernel-Mode code and data structures without detection from security programs or tools used by security analysts and researchers. Rootkits are probably less of a problem than they used to be, with most rootkit detection tools being able to find all the variations of a rootkit, unless of course others are produced. Rootkits are able to steal information and hide other directories and files to remain undetected.

Usually, all objects are managed by the Object Manager, however, with DKOM, this technique completely bypasses the Object Manager, making it harder for rootkits to be detected. DKOM can also be used to modify the privilege level of a thread, hide processes and ports, and hide device drivers.

 Rootkits will commonly check the operating system version to be able to adapt to the environment in which it is running in. You can view the operating system version with the vertarget command in WinDbg.

As we should know, Processes are represented as a object with a _EPROCESS data structure. The diagram below shows us the general overview of how processes are managed by the operating system. I’ll apply this diagram to WinDbg.

The most important part of the diagram is the linked list of Processes and the pointers within the doubly linked list to connect each process together.

The Processor Region Control Block contains the address of the current running thread, the next thread scheduled to run and the currently idle thread. We can use the dt command with _KPRCB data structure or use the !prcb extension to view this information.

Each thread is represented by a _ETHREAD data structure, which contains the _KTHREAD data structure for the same thread.

We can then view the _KTHREAD data structure using the same WinDbg command.

Looking at the _EPROCESS data structure, you will notice a field called ActiveProcessLinks, and a pointer to the structure _LIST_ENTRY will represents a doubly linked list.

Since ActiveProcessLinks is a doubly linked list, it must have a Head. This head can be found by checking the PsActiveProcessHead symbol. Instead of using the dt command, you can use the dl command to display doubly and singly linked list in WinDbg.

The first entry should point to the starting process, which is always the System Process. We can check this is correct, by displaying the PsInitialSystemProcess global variable which points to the address of the _EPROCESS data structure for the System process.

Rootkits then take advantage of this linked list structure by modifying the pointers within the linked list through DKOM, and changing the Flink and Blink pointers to wrap around the process in which should be hidden.

The Blink and Flink pointers of the two processes will need to point to each other, in order to remain valid within the linked list, otherwise BSODs will result when PspExitProcess is called to terminate a process. You can determine if a linked list is valid with the !validatelist extension.

These types of rookits can be detected by checking the handle table for threads which do not appear to have any processes, or checking the thread scheduler list. The Handle Table for a Process can be found by looking within the _EPROCESS data structure, and then examining the ObjectTable field which contains a pointer to the _HANDLE_TABLE data structure.

The HandleTableList field within the _HANDLE_TABLE data structure contains the doubly linked list of all the connected Handle Tables for each process.

We can use the !list extension to transverse through the elements stored within the doubly linked list, and display each element.


Rootkits: Subverting the Windows Kernel
Ring of Fire: Rookits and DKOM
When Malware Meets Rookits – Symantec
Windows Memory Forensics and DKOM – Jesse Kornblum
Hidden Processes –  The Implication for Intrusion Detection

The Mis-leading ‘Active’ in PsActiveProcessHead and ActiveProcessLinks

About 0x14c

I'm a Computer Science student and writer. My primary interests are Graph Theory, Number Theory, Programming Language Theory, Logic and Windows Debugging.
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2 Responses to Rootkits: Direct Kernel Object Manipulation and Processes

  1. VnSpl0it says:

    Great, Thanks !


  2. Joseph says:

    Great explanation, thanks !


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