Moving to Kernel Space (updated references with an eye on security)

If you develop and debug user space applications (and/or doing crash dump analysis in user space) or specialize in user space security and you want to understand Windows kernel dumps and device drivers better (and probably start writing your own kernel tools) or understand malware rootkits better here is the reading list I found the most effective over the last 7 years:

0.0. Read and re-read Windows Internals book in parallel while reading all other books. I read all editions by the way. It will show you the big picture and useful WinDbg commands and techniques but you need to read device driver books to fill the gaps and be confident in kernel space:

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0.1. Start with The Windows 2000 Device Driver Book: A Guide for Programmers. This short book will show you the basics and you can start writing your drivers and kernel tools immediately.

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0.2. Next read Windows NT Device Driver Development book to consolidate your knowledge. This book has been reprinted by OSR (I own the original New Riders Press edition):

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0.3. Don’t stop here. Read Developing Windows NT Device Drivers: A Programmer’s Handbook. This is the very good book explaining everything in great detail and good pictures. You will finally understand various buffering methods.

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0.4. Continue with WDM drivers and modern presentation: Programming the Microsoft Windows Driver Model. Must read even if your drivers are not WDM.

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0.5. Finally read Developing Drivers with the Windows Driver Foundation book. It also covers ETW (event tracing for Windows), WinDbg extensions, PREfast and static driver verifier.

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0.6. There is a forthcoming book Windows 7 Device Driver at the time of this writing that also covers WDF so you might want to start with #0.6 and continue with #0.5 as a reference:

Additional reading (not including DDK Help which you will use anyway) can be done in parallel after finishing “Windows NT Device Driver Development” book:

1.1. OSR NT Insider articles. I have their full printed collection 1996 - 2006 plus all the latest issues (looks like print editions are discontinued and the new ones are only digital):

http://www.osronline.com/

1.2. Windows NT File System Internals reprinted by OSR (I have the original O’Reilly edition):

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1.3. Windows NT/2000 Native API Reference is fun to browse occasionally and indispensable if you don’t have access to Windows source code:

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1.4. Rootkits: Subverting the Windows Kernel book will show you Windows kernel from the hacker perspective. In addition you will find the overview of kernel areas not covered in other books.

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1.5. The Rootkit Arsenal: Escape and Evasion in the Dark Corners of the System is another excellent book that is up to date and explains kernel staff from ab initio. I’m reading it at the time of this writing and recommend it to read first or in parallel to all other books:

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Of course, you must know C language and its idioms really well. Really know it down to assembly language level! I’ll publish other reading lists soon including reverse engineering classics. Stay tuned.

- Dmitry Vostokov @ DumpAnalysis.org + TraceAnalysis.org -

One Response to “Moving to Kernel Space (updated references with an eye on security)”

  1. Dmitry Vostokov Says:

    Looks like 0.6 has got a number of critical reviews:
    http://insider.osr.com/2011/ntinsider_2011_02.pdf

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