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12.5. Memory Scanning and Paging

With certain restrictions, a user-mode memory scanner can be developed by using the functions described previously. The scanner should be able to distinguish between the committed pages and the free pages and must do a full scan on each running process' committed pages because virus code could be placed in any of them.

Because Windows NT's Memory Manager reclaims unused pages and pages are not read in memory until they are accessed, the speed of the memory scanning will largely depend on the size of physical memory. The more physical memory a particular computer has, the faster the memory scanner will bethe number of page faults will be much higher if the computer has very limited physical memory. Figure 12.6 shows that unused pages, pages for which the access flag was cleared by the Memory Manager for some time, are reclaimed from all applications. For instance, WINLOGON.EXE's Mem usage is only 356KB, as shown in the example.

Figure 12.6. Checking memory usage before memory scanning.


Figure 12.6A shows how the memory usage of all running processes changed when SCANPROC.EXE (a user-mode memory scanner) scanned them. WINLOGON.EXE's Mem usage went up as much as 7,792K, and the number of page faults caused in the process grew to a few thousand (see Figure 12.6B and Figure 12.7B). This is a short-term side effect of memory scanning.

Whenever SCANPROC.EXE accesses a new page that is not yet in the physical memory, it causes a page fault. At that point, the Memory Manager will read the page into the physical memory, causing the memory usage (Mem Usage) to grow also. Of course, the memory usage of a process will become smaller and smaller because most pages will not be accessed again after some time, so they will be reclaimed. Windows NT's Memory Manager has several worker threads to maintain the balance of the memory usage among processes. Fortunately, memory scanning does not cause critical problems for Windows NT's memory management.

Figure 12.7. Checking memory usage during memory scanning.


12.5.1. Enumerating Processes and Scanning File Images

An alternative solution is to enumerate the running processes on the system and scan the actual files from which the content of the executables are mapped. This technique works effectively against most Win32 threats, but it cannot deal with injected code, such as CodeRed.

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