Starting with Windows Kernel Exploitation – part 1 – setting up the lab

Recently I started learning Windows Kernel Exploitation, so I decided to share some of my notes in form of a blog.

This part will be about setting up the lab. In further parts I am planning to describe how to do some of the exercises from HackSysExtremeVulnerableDriver by Ashfaq Ansari.

I hope someone will find this useful!

What I use for this part:

  • Kali Linux – as a host system (you can use anything you like)
  • VirtualBox
  • 2 Virtual Machines: Windows 7 32 bit (with VirtualBox Guest Additions installed) – one will be used as a Debugger and another as a Debugee
  • WinDbg (you can find it in Windows SDK)

When we do userland debugging, we can have a debugger and a debuggee on the same machine. In case of kernel debugging it is no longer possible – we need a full control over the debugee operating system. Also, when we will interrupt the execution, full operating system will freeze. That’s why we need two virtual machines with separate roles.

Setting up the Debugger

Debugger is the machine form where we will be watching the Debugee. That’s why, we need to install WinDbg there, along with symbols, that will allow us to interpret system structures.

In order to install WinDbg we need to download Windows SDK (depending on the version of Windows, sometimes we will also need to install some required updates).

It is important to choose Debugging Tools from the installer options:


Once we have WinDbg installed. we should add Symbols. In order to do this, we just need to add an environment variable, to which WinDbg will automatically refer:


… and fill it with the link from where it can download symbols.

Full variable content may look like this (downloaded symbols will be stored in C:\Symbols):


Setting up the Debugee

We need to enable Debugee to let it be controlled from outside. In order to do this, we are adding one more option in a boot menu – if we start the machine with this configuration, it is enabled for debugging.
We need to use a tool bcdedit. First we copy the current settings into a new entry, titled i.e. “Debug me”:

bcdedit /copy {current} /d "Debug me"

It gives us in return a GUID of the new entry. We need to copy it and use to enable debugging on this entry:

bcdedit /debug {MY_GUID} on

At the end we can see the settings where the debugging interface will be available:

bcdedit /dbgsettings

Setting up the connection between the Debugger and the Debuggee

Debugger and Debugge will be communicating via Serial Port COM1, that will be emulated in the host system by a Named Pipe.  It is very simple to configure, we just have to make sure that the debugger and the debuggee have the same pipe name set. Debugger will be creating the pipe, while the Debuggee will be connecting to the existing one (that’s why we always have to run Debugger first):

I use Linux as my host system, so I chose as a pipe name:


Note that if you are using Windows as your host system, your pipe name will have to follow different convention. Example:


Read more:

Testing the connection

We have everything set up, now we just need to test if it works correctly! Let’s start the Debugger first, run WinDbg, and make it wait for the connection from the Debugee. Example:

File->Kernel Debug


We are choosing COM as an interface:


Then we will run the Debugee machine, and when we see that it got connected to the pipe, we will send it interrupt. Example:

The Debugee is connected to the pipe:


Now we can interrupt it, clicking Debug->Break:


If we get the kd prompt, it means we are in control of the Debugee:


See the full process on the video:

The Debugee frozen, waiting for the instructions form the Debugger. By a ‘g’ command we can release the Debugee and let it run further:


Part 2:

About hasherezade

Programmer and researcher, interested in InfoSec.
This entry was posted in KernelMode, Tutorial, WKE and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Starting with Windows Kernel Exploitation – part 1 – setting up the lab

  1. Sai says:

    Good for beginner for windows exploitation!!

  2. DarkLord says:

    Cant wait for the next exploitation blog..keep writing!

  3. ms says:

    nice , waiting for part 2

  4. Pingback: IT Security Weekend Catch Up – June 2, 2017 – BadCyber

  5. albert says:

    Excellent article, I have high expectations on this series, this subject is super interesting.

  6. someone says:

    Excellent post!

  7. Hi, nice article. Perhaps you may or may not know the existence of VirtualKD.

    This allows you to skip all the configuration of pipes and it also speeds up remote kernel debugging by up to 20+%. Give it a shot. its super simple to setup and use as well.
    (Im not affiliated with sysprogs, but I stand by that product)

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  11. Pingback: Dipping into windows kernel exploitation with HEVD – Firzens Blog

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