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This flag (offset 0x18) can be used as an anti-debugging technique. This first heap contains a header with fields (ForceFlags, Flags) used to tell the kernel whether the heap was created within a debugger.

Below are the offsets (relative to ProcessHeap) for Windows XP and Windows 7.

Field Size Offset relative to ProcessHeap
(Windows XP)
Offset relative to ProcessHeap
(Windows 7)
ForceFlags DWORD 0x10 0x44
Flags DWORD 0x0C 0x40

Here is the assembly that checks for this value:

mov eax, large fs:30h           ; PEB saved to EAX
mov eax, dword ptr [eax+18h]    ; ProcessHeap (offset 0x18 relative to PEB) saved to EAX
cmp dword ptr ds:[eax+10h], 0   ; Check whether ForceFlags field (offset 0x10 relative to ProcessHeap) is 0
jne DebuggerDetected            ; If previous test returned non zero, debugger is present
Malware using this check bring valuable information about the target. Indeed, as offsets are hard coded, if you see a relative offset 0x10 relative to ProcessHeap, you know that the malware you're studying has been specifically developed for Windows XP machines.

Thwart ProcessHeap check

To thwart ProcessHeap checks, you can:

  • Manually change the ProcessHeap flag
  • In OllyDbg, use a hide-debug plugin (e.g. HideOD)
  • In WinDbg, start the program with the debug heap disabled (windbg -hd program.exe)

Below is an example that depicts how to manually update the flags. Given the following code:

.text:00403573     64 A1 30 00 00 00        mov     eax, large fs:30h    ; PEB struct loaded into EAX
.text:00403579     8B 40 18                 mov     eax, [eax+18h]       ; ProcessHeap (offset 0x18 relative to PEB) savec to EAX
.text:0040357C                              db      3Eh                  ; IDA Pro display error (notice that 0x3E is actually used as the 1st byte in the below instruction)
.text:0040357C     3E 8B 40 10              mov     eax, [eax+10h]       ; ForceFlags (offset 0x10 relative to ProcessHeap) saved to EAX
.text:00403580     89 85 DC E7 FF FF        mov     [ebp+var_1824], eax  ;
.text:00403586     83 BD DC E7 FF FF 00     cmp     [ebp+var_1824], 0    ; Check whether ForceFlags set to 0
.text:0040358D     74 05                    jz      short loc_40         ; If ForceFlags=0, no debugger...
.text:0040358F     E8 6C DA FF FF           call    sub_401000           ; ...else, debugger detected. Malware deleted

Open the malware in OllyDbg, set a breakpoint to offset 0x403579 and run the malware till it reaches the breakpoint. Then use the CommandLine plugin to reach the PEB.ProcessHeap.ForceFlags flag with the following command:


Select the 4 bytes of the ForceFlags flag, right click and select Binary > Fill with 00's:



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Keywords: peb Process Environment Block processheap forceflags flags dump ds:[fs:[30]+0x18]+0x10 structure