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How to write a Memory Scanner using C#

, 23 Sep 2006 CPOL
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Search a process' memory to find specified 16, 32 or 64 bit data values.

Introduction

Have you ever had a problem completing a game because your health meter shows just 5% of your health available?
Have you ever used a game trainer to solve this problem?
Have you ever wondered how this trainer freezes your health meter to 100%?
These game trainers, do a simple job!
They write a little part of the Game's memory with the 100 value!
But how to find the exact part of memory?

The Question and the Answer

Q: How to find the location in which a program stores a value in its memory?
A: Some programs named 'Memory Scanners', are written to read and search a program's memory for exact location and help freezing it! (And I have written this article to show you, how to write a 'Memory Scanner')

Step 1: Where to begin?

Let's have a look at a program's memory.
Think that I have written a program and we can have a look at its memory.
To have a picture in mind, we can say, it looks something like this:

A look at the Memory - FirstLook.jpg

As you can see, the memory is made up of a huge number of small sectors, that hold a value in it. Our picture, just shows a small part of the memory, from sector 0 to sector 99 and a detail of sector 0 to sector 15. But as you know, a computer just knows the meaning of 0 and 1, so what do these Hexadecimal values mean?

Let's take a deep look at the memory again.

A look at the Memory Bits - Bits.jpg

As you can see, every byte is made up of 8 bits with each of them being just that 1 or 0, and in Binary mode, they can return the value stored in the byte((00010111)2 = (23)10 = (17)16).

As we saw, a computer's memory stores information by holding the 0 and 1s in the memory bits, and 8 bits of memory make a section of memory named byte, so a byte can hold values up to (11111111)2 = (255)10 = (FF)16, but how about the bigger values?
We usually work with values greater than 255!
Ok, the answer is that, we have bigger units of memory to hold the bigger values.

Let's look at another picture of memory that shows the bigger units and then, I will explain everything:

A look at the Memory Data Types - DataTypes.jpg

So we have 3 bigger memory units: 2 Bytes that make a 16 bit memory unit that we call 'short' in C#, 4 Bytes that make a 32 bit memory unit that we call it 'int' in C#, and 8 Bytes that make a 64 bit memory unit, and we call it 'long' in C#.

Step 2: What to look for?

Now that we have a simple picture of the memory in our mind, let's go back to the first picture:

Another look at the Memory - LookAgain.jpg

I know that, you are going to say: "Hey, it's just a row of bytes! How to find the memory units?" And then I'll tell you that, you asked the biggest question in writing a memory scanner!

Ok, let's think that it's a part of the memory of my program, and I know, where in the memory, I have stored the values and I will show you that:

Memory Units - MemoryUnits.jpg

As you see, a memory unit, can be stored in any part of the memory and start from any memory sector. In this program for example, I have stored a 32 bit value in the 0 sector, and because a 32 bit value takes 4 bytes of memory, from the sector 0 to sector 3 is assigned for a 32 bit variable in the program, and after that, from the sector 4, there is a 16 bit variable that takes 2 bytes of memory, next is a 64 bit variable and at the end, there is again a 16 bit variable.

Now let's think that the values of the sectors are the same, but the memory units start from different sectors:

The other Memory Units - TheOtherMemoryUnits.jpg

Why everything changed?
Because, a variable could be stored in any memory sector number, and most of the time, even the programmer doesn't know, where the variable is stored in the memory, and just the program knows it!

Step 3: Where to find it?

Now, let's think that we are playing a game, and the health meter shows 83%, and we don't know the location of the variable in the memory and we want to find the variable and we start from sector 0, so the memory looks like this:

Game mamory - GameMemory.jpg

So what? Is there any 83 in the memory?
First, we know that we have the hexadecimal values of the memory bytes. Second, we should guess the variable type to look for.

Ok, let's say that the programmers of the game have used a 32 bit (int) variable, that is the most usual data type being used for storing the value of the health meter. So the value is stored in a 4 bytes long part of the memory. But, how to find it?
The only way to search the memory completely, is to start from the beginning, take 4 bytes, test them to see if the value equals our digit (here 83), and find the location. Like this:

Memory Search - Animation_1.gif

Memory Search - Animation_2.gif

Memory Search - Animation_3.gif

Memory Search - Animation_4.gif

Memory Search - Animation_5.gif

Memory Search - Animation_6.gif

Ok, now you know the main concept of memory scanning, but there are some other things that you should know to be able to write the Memory scanner:

  1. Q: How long is a program's memory? (Where to begin and where to stop?)
    A: As you know, Microsoft's first OS was DOS that was a 8 bit OS, after that, the Windows 3.1 became a 16 bit OS, and after that, the Windows OS became a 32 bit OS. (I'm a real fan of Apple Co. that developed the Apple Macintosh OS, a 64 bit OS, exactly when Microsoft was working on DOS (a 8 bit OS) and today, Microsoft is going to write a 64 bit Windows (and like the first Windows versions, it still looks like the Apple OSs) but, I still recommend Apple MacOS X (Ver. 10)).
    So, in the DOS OS that was a 8 bit OS, programmers named 8 bits of memory, a "Byte". After that, When the Windows 3.1 OS was a 16 bit OS, they named 16 bits of memory(2 Bytes) a "WORD", and 32 bits of memory(4 Bytes) a "DWORD"(Double Word) and 64 bits of memory(8 Bytes) a "QWORD"(Quad Word).
    As I experienced, the length of every program's memory in Windows XP, is from "0x00000000" to the maximum value of a "Int"("DWORD"), and equals to "0x7FFFFFFF".
    I'm not sure, but I guess, it's because of that, the Windows is a 32 bit OS and the main memory unit for it, is a 32 bit memory unit, and so, the length of a program's memory, is the maximum value of a 32 bit memory unit!
    Ok. So, we should start our search from "0x0000000" to "0x7FFFFFFF".
  2. Q: Is the first found memory address, the exact answer of our search?
    A: No! As you can see, there are "0x7FFFFFFF" sectors, and when you search it for a value like 83, you could find so many of them. So you need to hold the memory addresses and wait for the values to be changed. Then search the addresses you have, for the new value, and do this, until you find, just one memory address that matches your value.
  3. Q: How to read a program's memory and search it?
    A: There are some functions in Windows API that make it possible for us to read and write the memory, from another program.
    Thanks goes to "Arik Poznanski" for P/Invokes and methods needed to read and write the Memory, I just used his classes to do this and didn't do the P/Invokes myself.
    You can search Codeproject.com, for "Minesweeper, Behind the scenes", to find his comments about these classes.
  4. Q: How to convert these bytes to a 16, 32 or 64 bit value?
    A: For this, we used .NET goods! There is a class with static methods that does this for us:

    byte[] bytes = new byte[] { 0x53, 0x00, 0x00, 0x00 };
    int value = System.BitConverter.ToInt32(bytes, 0);
    //The value is 83
    

Step 4: Let's do the final job

Ok, now you have all the information you need to write the memory scanner.
You just need to do these in your code:

  1. Select a process to scan its memory.
  2. Scan the whole memory for the specified value and hold the addresses.
  3. Wait for the value to be changed and search the memory address list that you got from the first scan and again wait for the value to be changed and scan again, and do this until you find just the address that matches the value.
  4. At the end, you can freeze the address with a new value, by using a timer to write the memory in every timer's tick.

Comments on my classes

If you download my code, you will find them with comments for every command and every line of code. But there it a little thing I should explain:

ReadProcessMemory(IntPtr MemoryAddress, uint bytesToRead, out int bytesRead) that is the most important function, returns an empty bytes array if reading your request's size is too big! So I had to read the memory in parts as big as 20480 bytes (20KB), and because, when you are searching these memory parts, byte by byte, at the end of the bytes array, there will be some bytes left! (for example, 3 bytes will be left when you are searching for 32 bit values)!

So the solution I used was this:

if (/*scan requirement is less than 20480 bytes*/)
{
    //Read the memory at once
}
else
{
    /*Loop through blocks(of length 20480 bytes),
    until the whole memory is read;

    After the first loop, move the current address to
    [Data type bytes count - 1] steps back in the memory,
    to fix the previously told problem;

    After the loops, check to see if any other memory addresses
    are left outside of the loops and if so, read them;*/
}

You can see it:

Memory Search solution - Fina_Animation_0.gif

Memory Search solution - Fina_Animation_1.gif

Memory Search solution - Fina_Animation_2.gif

Memory Search solution - Fina_Animation_3.gif

Memory Search solution - Fina_Animation_4.gif

Memory Search solution - Fina_Animation_5.gif

Memory Search solution - Fina_Animation_6.gif

Memory Search solution - Fina_Animation_7.gif

Memory Search solution - Fina_Animation_8.gif

Memory Search solution - Fina_Animation_9.gif

Memory Search solution - Fina_Animation_10.gif

That's all

Ok folks, that's all! Hope you like and enjoy it!
And now I'm working on a Enhanced Memory Scanner that could scan all types of data, including the Bytes, Signed Data Types and even Strings, it just takes some time!
I'll be back soon.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Rojan Gh.
CEO Atrin Design Group
Iran (Islamic Republic Of) Iran (Islamic Republic Of)
MVC/SPA designer and programmer.
C# programmer on .net/mono/monomac/monotouch/monodroid frameworks.
jQuery/Knockout/Angular programmer.
And has been working since 2002.
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Comments and Discussions

 
AnswerRe: Characters and Strings? PinmemberdzCepheus8-Oct-10 9:22 
GeneralSOJANER I NEED YOUR HELP :) PingroupGoor23-Jul-09 11:29 
AnswerRe: SOJANER I NEED YOUR HELP :) PinmemberSojaner29-Jul-09 22:45 
GeneralReadProcessMemory fails when pointing at protected memory PinmemberThe_Mega_ZZTer16-Nov-07 18:03 
GeneralSolution! PinmemberThe_Mega_ZZTer17-Nov-07 16:08 
I finally found VirtualQueryEx, which can be used for this exact purpose.
 
Here is my full solution... I will use VB.NET code, but you can get C#.NET equivilants of all my Windows API function declarations at pinvoke.net.
 
STEP 1: We determine which areas of a virtual memory block an application can reside in. Going outside that block can result in VirtualQueryEx throwing errors if we query a kernel area. This is easy enough to fix.
 
Public Declare Sub GetSystemInfo Lib "kernel32.dll" (ByRef lpSystemInfo As SYSTEM_INFO)
 
We use this function to get this information, and the following one wraps it up nicely.
 

Public Shared Function GetAppMemoryRange() As MZZT.MemoryRange
If _appmem Is Nothing Then
Dim si As SYSTEM_INFO
GetSystemInfo(si)
_appmem = New MZZT.MemoryRange(si.lpMinimumApplicationAddress, _
si.lpMaximumApplicationAddress)
End If
 
Return _appmem
End Function
Private Shared _appmem As MZZT.MemoryRange = Nothing

 
You will notice an MZZT.MemoryRange class. It is simple enough that I don't think I need to explain it here, but I designed it to hold a 32-bit memory range (a start, and an end) which you can see I use to store the maximum range it is safe to use VirtualQueryEx on.
 
You can get the MemoryRange class at the end of this post if you really really want it.
 
Next we need some declarations for VirtualQueryEx and helper structures and enumerations:
 
Public Declare Function VirtualQueryEx Lib "kernel32.dll" (ByVal hProcess As IntPtr, _
ByVal lpAddress As UIntPtr, ByRef lpBuffer As MEMORY_BASIC_INFORMATION, ByVal _
dwLength As UInteger) As UInteger

<Runtime.InteropServices.StructLayout(Runtime.InteropServices.LayoutKind.Sequential)> _
Public Structure MEMORY_BASIC_INFORMATION
Public BaseAddress As UIntPtr
Public AllocationBase As UIntPtr
Public AllocationProtect As PAGE
Public RegionSize As UInteger
Public State As MEM
Public Protect As PAGE
Public Type As Integer
End Structure
 
Public Enum PAGE As Integer
EXECUTE = &H10
EXECUTE_READ = &H20
EXECUTE_READWRITE = &H40
EXECUTE_WRITECOPY = &H80
NOACCESS = &H1
[READONLY] = &H2
READWRITE = &H4
WRITECOPY = &H8
 
GUARD = &H100
NOCACHE = &H200
WRITECOMBINE = &H400
 
ANYREAD = &H66
ANYWRITE = &HCC
End Enum
 
Public Enum MEM As Integer
COMMIT = &H1000
FREE = &H10000
RESERVE = &H2000
End Enum

 
Now we will make a few small helper functions:
 

Private Function CanRead(ByVal mbi As WinAPI.MEMORY_BASIC_INFORMATION) As Boolean
If mbi.Protect And WinAPI.PAGE.GUARD Then
Return False
End If
 
If mbi.State <> WinAPI.MEM.COMMIT Then
Return False
End If
 
Return True
End Function
 
Private Function CanWrite(ByVal mbi As WinAPI.MEMORY_BASIC_INFORMATION) As Boolean
If mbi.Protect And WinAPI.PAGE.GUARD Then
Return False
End If
 
If mbi.State <> WinAPI.MEM.COMMIT Then
Return False
End If
 
Return True
End Function
 
Private Function GetMBIRange(ByVal mbi As WinAPI.MEMORY_BASIC_INFORMATION) As _
MemoryRange
 
Return New MemoryRange(mbi.BaseAddress, CDec(mbi.BaseAddress) + _
CDec(mbi.RegionSize) - 1)
End Function

 
More use of my secret class. Wink | ;)
 
CanRead determines from the information obtained through VirtualQueryEx (which is an mbi struct) whether or not we will be able to read it with ReadProcessMemory. CanWrite will do the same for WriteProcesMemory... right now I haven't made CanWrite work since I'm not concerned with writing memory at the moment. It will likely need a flag check for a WRITE attribute. GetMBIRange turns the mbi into a MemoryRange object.
 
Now the main function, which takes a MemoryRange and returns an array of MemoryRanges which are not protected. So we would pass the Range we want to read, and then iterate through the resulting array and read each MemoryRange one at a time.
 
Public Function FindUnprotectedMemory(ByVal range As MemoryRange, ByVal writable As _
Boolean) As MemoryRange()
 
range = range.Intersect(WinAPI.GetAppMemoryRange)

 
My MemoryRange class has an intersect function which works like the one on rectangle.. it returns the area the two MemoryRanges share in common. In this case, it clips of areas in range which do not belong to the application, since we already know we can't read those.
 
If range Is Nothing Then
Return Nothing
End If

 
Intersect returns null if the MemoryRanges have nothing in common.
 
Dim a As New ArrayList
Dim mbi As WinAPI.MEMORY_BASIC_INFORMATION
Dim pos As UInteger = range.RangeStart
Dim applies As MemoryRange
Dim access As Boolean
 
While pos <= range.RangeEnd

 
pos records the current memory address we are inspecting with VirtualQueryEx. Once we pass range we are done and can quit.
 
If Not WinAPI.VirtualQueryEx(_handle, pos, mbi, _
Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal.SizeOf(mbi)) Then
 
Dim ex As New System.ComponentModel.Win32Exception
If ex.NativeErrorCode <> 0 Then
Throw ex
End If
End If

 
Oddly, VirtualQueryEx returns 0 all the time, even though the MSDN docs say it should only do so on error. I put in an extra error check.
 
applies = GetMBIRange(mbi).Intersect(range)
 
It's possible for VirtualQueryEx to return an area which extends before or after our block. This clips it to the block we are interested in.
 
If writable Then
access = CanWrite(mbi)
Else
access = CanRead(mbi)
End If

 
The actual test to see if we can read/write.
 
If access Then
a.Add(applies)
End If

 
Add it to our master list of addresses that are not protected.
 
pos = applies.RangeEnd + 1
End While

 
Move on to the next memory page/block.
 
If a.Count = 0 Then
Return Nothing
End If
 
Return a.ToArray(GetType(MemoryRange))
End Function

 
Return our array, or null if the entire thing is protected.
 

 
PS: Now that ReadProcessMemory should no longer be returning protected memory errors, I altered my function accordingly:
 

Public Function ReadMemory(ByVal range As MemoryRange) As Byte()
Dim read As UInteger = 0
Dim buffer(range.RangeSize - 1) As Byte
If Not WinAPI.ReadProcessMemory(_handle, range.RangeStart, buffer, _
range.RangeSize, read) Then
 
Throw New System.ComponentModel.Win32Exception
End If
 
If read = 0 Then
Return Nothing
End If
 
If read <> range.RangeSize Then
Array.Resize(Of Byte)(buffer, read)
End If
Return buffer
End Function

 
I did not make much changes apart from the exception. I was going to integrate VirtualQueryEx right into ReadMemory, but then I realized my calling function would still need the array of unprotected addresses. So I let the calling function handle the masking out of protected addresses and kept ReadMemory simple.
 
PPS: Here is my MemoryRange class:
 
Namespace MZZT
Public Class MemoryRange
Implements ICloneable
 
Public Sub New(ByVal address As UInteger)
_start = address
_end = address
End Sub
 
Public Sub New(ByVal rangestart As UInteger, ByVal rangeend As UInteger)
_start = rangestart
_end = rangeend
End Sub
 
Public Property RangeStart() As UInteger
Get
Return _start
End Get
Set(ByVal value As UInteger)
_start = value
End Set
End Property
Private _start As UInteger
 
Public Property RangeEnd() As UInteger
Get
Return _end
End Get
Set(ByVal value As UInteger)
_end = value
End Set
End Property
Private _end As UInteger
 
Public ReadOnly Property RangeSize() As UInteger
Get
Return _end - _start + 1
End Get
End Property
 
Public Function Intersect(ByVal r As MemoryRange) As MemoryRange
If _start > r.RangeEnd OrElse r.RangeStart > _end Then
Return Nothing
End If
 
If _start >= r.RangeStart Then
If _end <= r.RangeEnd Then
Return Clone()
Else
Return New MemoryRange(_start, r.RangeEnd)
End If
Else
If r.RangeEnd <= _end Then
Return r.Clone
Else
Return New MemoryRange(r.RangeStart, _end)
End If
End If
End Function
 
Public Function Clone() As Object Implements System.ICloneable.Clone
Return New MemoryRange(_start, _end)
End Function
End Class
End Namespace

 

-- modified at 21:13 Saturday 17th November, 2007
QuestionProblems with finding a value Pinmembermathg15-Oct-07 9:58 
GeneralRe: Brilliant thinking PinmemberSojaner6-Aug-07 11:14 
Generalanother memory scanner Pinmemberskumria30-Jul-07 2:22 
GeneralReally useful PinmemberMrKalinka11-Jul-07 8:53 
Generalcool~ Pinmembernancun30-May-07 18:33 

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