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PatchGuard Reloaded

A Brief Analysis of PatchGuard Version 3

September, 2007



Since the publication of previous bypass or circumvention techniques for Kernel Patch Protection (otherwise known as ``PatchGuard''), Microsoft has continued to refine their patch protection system in an attempt to foil known bypass mechanisms. With the release of Windows Server 2008 Beta 3, and later a full-blown distribution of PatchGuard to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2003 via Windows Update, Microsoft has introduced the next generation of PatchGuard to the general public (``PatchGuard 3''). As with previous updates to PatchGuard, version three represents a set of incremental changes that are designed to address perceived weaknesses and known bypass vectors in earlier versions. Additionally, PatchGuard 3 expands the set of kernel variables that are protected from unauthorized modification, eliminating several mechanisms that might be used to circumvent PatchGuard while co-existing (as opposed to disabling) it. This article describes some of the changes that have been made in PatchGuard 3. This article also proposes several new techniques that can be used to circumvent PatchGuard's defenses. Countermeasures for these techniques are also discussed.