Master the Skills of Windows Debugging, Disassembling, Reversing: Training Course Review
Practical Foundations of Windows Debugging, Disassembling, Reversing: Training Course
Are you a Windows developer who wants to master the skills of debugging, disassembling, and reversing Windows applications? Do you want to learn how to use powerful tools such as WinDbg, disassemblers, and reverse engineering tools to analyze, understand, and modify Windows binaries? If so, then this article is for you.
READ BOOK Practical Foundations of Windows Debugging, Disassembling, Reversing: Training Course
In this article, I will introduce you to a training course that will teach you the practical foundations of Windows debugging, disassembling, reversing. This training course is written by Dmitry Vostokov, a software diagnostics expert and founder of Software Diagnostics Services. The training course is based on his two previous books: Windows Debugging: Practical Foundations and x64 Windows Debugging: Practical Foundations.
By reading this article, you will learn:
What is debugging, disassembling, and reversing and why are they important for Windows developers
What are the challenges and benefits of learning these skills
What are the main topics covered in the training course
What are the prerequisites and learning outcomes of the training course
How to use WinDbg for debugging Windows applications
How to use disassemblers for understanding Windows binaries
How to use reverse engineering tools for modifying Windows binaries
By the end of this article, you will have a clear idea of what this training course can offer you and how it can help you improve your Windows development skills. You will also find a link to buy the training course at a discounted price.
What is debugging, disassembling, and reversing?
Debugging, disassembling, and reversing are three related skills that involve analyzing, understanding, and modifying Windows applications at a low level.
Debugging is the process of finding and fixing errors or bugs in software. Debugging involves using tools such as debuggers or crash dump analyzers to examine the state and behavior of a running or crashed application, identify the root cause of the problem, and apply a solution.
Disassembling is the process of converting binary code into human-readable assembly code. Disassembling involves using tools such as disassemblers or decompilers to extract the instructions, data, and symbols from a binary file, such as an executable or a library. Disassembling can help developers understand how an application works, what algorithms and data structures it uses, and how it interacts with the operating system and other components.
Reversing is the process of modifying binary code to change its functionality or behavior. Reversing involves using tools such as hex editors, patchers, injectors, or hooking libraries to alter the instructions, data, or symbols in a binary file. Reversing can help developers customize an application, add new features, remove unwanted features, bypass security checks, or fix bugs.
Why are these skills important for Windows developers?
Debugging, disassembling, and reversing are important skills for Windows developers because they can help them:
Improve the quality and reliability of their software by finding and fixing bugs faster and more effectively
Enhance their knowledge and understanding of Windows internals, architecture, and APIs by seeing how they are implemented and used in real applications
Expand their creativity and problem-solving abilities by learning new techniques and methods for manipulating Windows binaries
Protect their intellectual property and security by detecting and preventing reverse engineering attempts on their software
Learn from other developers by studying their code and best practices
What are the challenges and benefits of learning these skills?
Learning debugging, disassembling, and reversing skills can be challenging but also rewarding for Windows developers. Some of the challenges are:
The complexity and diversity of Windows applications, which can vary in size, structure, format, language, platform, and functionality
The lack of documentation or source code for many Windows applications, especially third-party or proprietary ones
The legal and ethical issues involved in debugging, disassembling, and reversing Windows applications, especially without permission or authorization from the owners or creators
The steep learning curve and time investment required to master these skills and tools
However, these challenges can be overcome with proper guidance, practice, and motivation. Some of the benefits are:
The satisfaction and confidence of being able to debug, disassemble, and reverse any Windows application
The competitive advantage and career opportunities of having these skills in the Windows development market
The fun and excitement of exploring and experimenting with Windows binaries
The community and network of other Windows developers who share these skills and interests
Overview of the training course
Who is the author and what is his background?
The author of this training course is Dmitry Vostokov. He is a software diagnostics expert and founder of Software Diagnostics Services. He has more than 20 years of experience in software development, debugging, disassembling, reversing, memory forensics, malware analysis, log analysis, trace analysis, pattern-oriented software diagnostics, root cause analysis, debugging education. He is also the author of more than 50 books on software diagnostics topics.
Dmitry Vostokov has created this training course based on his two previous books: Windows Debugging: Practical Foundations (2010) and x64 Windows Debugging: Practical Foundations (2011). These books were well-received by the Windows development community and have been used as references by many developers. He has also updated the content of this training course to reflect the latest changes in WinDbg 10.
What are the main topics covered in the course?
This training course covers the practical foundations of Windows debugging, disassembling, reversing. It teaches you how to use WinDbg for debugging Windows applications, how to use disassemblers for understanding Windows binaries, and how to use reverse engineering tools for modifying Windows binaries.
The training course consists of two separate sets of chapters: one for 32-bit applications (Chapter x86.NN) and one for 64-bit applications (Chapter x64.NN). You can read either set independently depending on your needs. The chapters are organized as follows:
Chapter x86.NNChapter x64.NN
x86.01 Introduction to WinDbgx64.01 Introduction to WinDbg
02 WinDbg Commandsx64.02 WinDbg Commands
x86.03 Debugging x86 Applicationsx64.03 Debugging x64 Applications
x86.04 Crash Dump Analysisx64.04 Crash Dump Analysis
x86.05 Memory Leak Analysisx64.05 Memory Leak Analysis
x86.06 Introduction to Disassemblersx64.06 Introduction to Disassemblers
x86.07 Disassembling x86 Binariesx64.07 Disassembling x64 Binaries
x86.08 Identifying Functions, Variables, and Data Structuresx64.08 Identifying Functions, Variables, and Data Structures
x86.09 Introduction to Reverse Engineering Toolsx64.09 Introduction to Reverse Engineering Tools
x86.10 Reverse Engineering x86 Binariesx64.10 Reverse Engineering x64 Binaries
x86.11 Patching, Injecting, and Hooking x86 Binariesx64.11 Patching, Injecting, and Hooking x64 Binaries
x86.12 Conclusion and Further Readingx64.12 Conclusion and Further Reading
Each chapter contains theoretical explanations, practical examples, exercises, and tips for using the tools and techniques effectively.
What are the prerequisites and learning outcomes of the course?
This training course is designed for intermediate to advanced Windows developers who have some experience in programming with C/C++ or .NET languages and using Visual Studio or other IDEs.
The training course assumes that you have a basic understanding of Windows architecture, APIs, and data types, as well as some familiarity with assembly language and binary formats.
The training course also requires that you have access to a Windows system (preferably Windows 10) with WinDbg 10 installed and a set of sample applications and binaries that are provided with the course.
By completing this training course, you will be able to:
Use WinDbg for debugging Windows applications in 32-bit and 64-bit modes
Analyze crash dumps and memory leaks using WinDbg commands and extensions
Use disassemblers for disassembling Windows binaries in 32-bit and 64-bit modes
Identify functions, variables, and data structures in disassembled code using symbols and heuristics
Use reverse engineering tools for reverse engineering Windows binaries in 32-bit and 64-bit modes
Patch, inject, and hook Windows binaries using hex editors, patchers, injectors, or hooking libraries
Apply debugging, disassembling, and reversing skills to real-world scenarios such as malware analysis, software protection, software customization, software debugging, etc.
Learn more advanced topics and techniques from further reading resources
Highlights of the training course
How to use WinDbg for debugging Windows applications
The basics of WinDbg interface and commands
WinDbg is a powerful debugger that can debug both user-mode and kernel-mode applications on Windows systems. WinDbg has a graphical user interface (GUI) that consists of several windows such as the command window, the source window, the locals window, the watch window, the call stack window, the memory window, etc.
WinDbg also has a command-line interface (CLI) that allows you to enter commands to control the debugger and interact with the target application. WinDbg commands are divided into several categories such as execution control commands (e.g., g for go, p for step over), breakpoint commands (e.g., bp for set breakpoint), expression commands (e.g., ? for evaluate expression), memory commands (e.g., d for display memory), register commands (e.g., r for display registers), symbol commands (e.g., .reload for reload symbols), extension commands (e.g., !analyze for analyze exception), etc.
WinDbg commands can be entered in the command window or in the command bar at the bottom of the GUI. WinDbg commands can also be saved in script files and executed using the $$>
How to debug 32-bit and 64-bit applications
WinDbg can debug both 32-bit and 64-bit applications on Windows systems. WinDbg has two versions: WinDbg (X86) and WinDbg (X64). WinDbg (X86) can debug 32-bit applications on 32-bit or 64-bit systems, while WinDbg (X64) can debug 64-bit applications on 64-bit systems or 32-bit applications on 64-bit systems using WOW64 (Windows-on-Windows 64-bit).
To debug an application with WinDbg, you need to attach the debugger to the target process or launch the target process from the debugger. You can do this by using the File menu or the -pn or -p command-line options. You also need to load the symbols for the target application and its modules. Symbols are files that contain information about the names and addresses of functions, variables, and data structures in a binary file. You can load symbols by using the .sympath and .reload commands or by setting the _NT_SYMBOL_PATH environment variable.
Once you have attached the debugger to the target process and loaded the symbols, you can use various WinDbg commands and windows to examine and modify the state and behavior of the target application. For example, you can use the g, p, t, and k commands to control the execution flow, use the bp, bl, bc, and be commands to set and manage breakpoints, use the r, d, dd, dq, da, du, db, etc. commands to display and edit registers and memory, use the ln, x, uf, dt, etc. commands to display symbols and data types, use the !analyze, !heap, !locks, !stacks, etc. commands to use extensions for specific analysis tasks.
How to analyze crash dumps and memory leaks
A crash dump is a file that contains a snapshot of the memory and registers of a process at the time of a crash or an exception. A crash dump can be generated by Windows automatically when an application crashes or by using tools such as Task Manager or ProcDump. A crash dump can be analyzed by WinDbg to find out the root cause of the crash or exception.
To analyze a crash dump with WinDbg, you need to open the crash dump file using the File menu or the -z command-line option. You also need to load the symbols for the target application and its modules as described before. Then you can use the !analyze -v command to perform an automatic analysis of the crash dump. This command will display information such as the exception code, exception address, exception module, exception function, exception stack trace, probable cause, etc.
the registers at the time of the crash, use the d command to display the memory at the time of the crash, use the k command to display the stack trace at the time of the crash, use the ln command to display the nearest symbol to an address, use the uf command to display the disassembly of a function, etc.
A memory leak is a situation where an application allocates memory but does not free it properly, resulting in a gradual increase in memory usage and a possible degradation in performance or stability. A memory leak can be detected by using tools such as Task Manager or Performance Monitor to monitor the memory usage of an application over time. A memory leak can be analyzed by WinDbg to find out where and why the memory is leaking.
To analyze a memory leak with WinDbg, you need to attach the debugger to the target process or launch the target process from the debugger as described before. You also need to load the symbols for the target application and its modules as described before. Then you can use the !heap -s command to display a summary of the heap usage of the target process. This command will display information such as the number of heaps, heap segments, heap blocks, committed bytes, uncommitted bytes, etc.
You can also use other WinDbg commands and windows to perform a detailed analysis of the memory leak. For example, you can use the !heap -stat -h command to display statistics for a specific heap, use the !heap -flt s command to display heap blocks of a specific size, use the !heap -p -a command to display allocation stack traces for heap blocks, use the dt command to display data types for heap blocks, etc.
How to use disassemblers for understanding Windows binaries
The basics of assembly language and instruction sets
Assembly language is a low-level programming language that directly corresponds to machine code. Assembly language consists of instructions that perform basic operations such as arithmetic, logic, data movement, control flow, etc. Assembly language is specific to a processor architecture and instruction set.
An instruction set is a set of instructions that a processor can execute. An instruction set defines the format, syntax, and semantics of each instruction. An instruction set can also define registers, flags, modes, addressing modes, operands, etc.
Windows applications can use different instruction sets depending on their platform and mode. For example, 32-bit Windows applications use x86 instruction set in 32-bit mode (also known as IA-32 or Intel 32), while 64-bit Windows applications use x64 instruction set in 64-bit mode (also known as AMD64 or Intel 64). There are also other instruction sets such as ARM and ARM64 for Windows applications on mobile devices.
Assembly language can be represented in different notations depending on the convention and preference. For example, Intel notation and AT&T notation are two common notations for x86 and x64 assembly language. Intel notation uses operands in destination-source order and uses brackets for memory references. AT&T notation uses operands in source-destination order and uses prefixes for operand sizes and suffixes for instruction types.
How to disassemble 32-bit and 64-bit binaries
A disassembler is a tool that converts binary code into assembly code. A disassembler can help developers understand how a binary file works by showing its instructions, data, and symbols.
WinDbg has a built-in disassembler that can disassemble both 32-bit and 64-bit binaries. WinDbg can disassemble binaries that are loaded into memory or stored on disk. WinDbg can also disassemble binaries that are running or crashed.
and windows to display and examine the functions, variables, and data structures in the target application and its modules. For example, you can use the x command to display symbols that match a pattern, use the ln command to display the nearest symbol to an address, use the dt command to display data types and structures, use the dv command to display local variables in a function, use the Locals window to display local variables in a function graphically, etc.
WinDbg can also identify functions, variables, and data structures without symbols by using heuristics. For example, WinDbg can identify functions by looking for function prologues and epilogues, which are sequences of instructions that set up and clean up the stack frame for a function. WinDbg can identify variables by looking for references to memory addresses or registers that store values. WinDbg can identify data structures by looking for pointers or offsets that link different fields or elements.
How to use reverse engineering tools for modifying Windows binaries
The basics of reverse engineering concepts and techniques
Reverse engineering is the process of modifying binary code to change its functionality or behavior. Reverse engineering can help developers customize an application, add new features, remove unwanted features, bypass security checks, or fix bugs.
Reverse engineering involves several concepts and techniques such as patching, injecting, and hooking. Patching is the technique of changing the bytes or instructions in a binary file to alter its behavior. Injecting is the technique of inserting new code or data into a binary file or a running process to add new functionality. Hooking is the technique of intercepting or redirecting the execution flow of a binary file or a running process to modify its behavior.
Reverse engineering also involves several challenges and risks such as encryption, obfuscation, anti-debugging, anti-disassembly, anti-reversing, checksums, integrity checks, etc. These are methods or mechanisms that protect a binary file from being reverse engineered by making it harder to read, understand, or modify.
How to reverse engineer 32-bit and 64-bit binaries
A reverse engineering tool is a tool that can modify binary code to change its functionality or behavior. A reverse engineering tool can help developers perform patching, injecting, or hooking on Windows binaries.
WinDbg has some built-in reverse engineering capabilities that can mod