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Steam's anti-debugging code

I bought a few more steam games on friday (F.E.A.R. 3, DeusEx, Brinck, Fall out series, Duke Nukem) and ran into the annoying crash-at-breakpoint again. This time, however, I decided to put some time into it to try and find why this is happening.

After a lot of googling I ran into this blog post:
http://nsylvain.blogspot.com/2007/08/threadhidefromdebugger-but-why.html

While it does not specifically mention Steam, it does explain why WinDBG (and other debuggers like OllyDBG and C.E.) crash the game when a break point is triggered. Windows simply does not tell WinDBG about the break point and as such it crashes the game (as the game can't handle it either).

So I spend several hours figuring out ways to circumvent the "ThreadHideFromDebugger" flag.

At first I tried to undo the "ThreadHideFromDebugger" flag, but apparently once you've set this flag, it stays on  (there's no way to turn it off on a thread). I then tried to access the ETHREAD structure which gets modified by "NtSetInformationThread" but apparently you can't get access to the ETHREAD structure from User Space (at least not in any way that I could find).

So the only way to get rid of the "ThreadHideFromDebugger" flag is by not letting the application set the flag. There's two ways to do this, stop it in user mode or in kernel mode. Kernel mode is nice, but it really isn't funny to BSOD your system a lot while developing the driver. Also the whole 'need it to be signed' part for x64 sucks. But this is still a valid option which I might look into.

But I decided to write a user mode DLL which you can inject into Steam. Once it's injected, you simply have to start the game you want to debug from within steam and the DLL does all the work for you. It hooks 3 functions, CreateProcessA/W and NtSetInformationThread, the NtSetInformationThread hook is responsible for actually disabling the "ThreadHideFromDebugger" flag. The CreateProcess hooks are used to hook any game launched by Steam.

There's 1 big *read this*, do *not* start VAC-games (and probably also PunkBuster games) with this DLL loaded into Steam! It will most likely get you banned. Also a small disclaimer, only use this to cheat in single player games. Cheating in online-games is wrong mkay! ;)

You can download it here.

Posted by: Da_Teach on Sunday, August 7, 2011  •  C# Hack Cheat Engine WinDBG Anti-Debugger

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