Listing Open Handles and Finding Kernel Object Addresses

It's possible to enumerate all open handles (processes, files, mutexes, keys, sections, etc) on a system (no admin rights required), which means it is possible to get a virtual address of any kernel object (for example EPROCESS for a process object) in the kernel space from user space.

Being able to locate a virtual address of a kernel object (like EPROCESS) is useful in kernel exploitation. For example, if you compromise a machine and discover there is a vulnerable driver, through which you can read/write kernel memory from userland, you could exploit it for privilege escalation by locating a kernel object EPROCESS of a privileged process, for example winlogon.exe, stealing its security token and applying it to your low privileged cmd.exe process to gain a shell with SYSTEM privileges.

A list of all the open handles on the system is retrieved by using a NtQuerySystemInformation API and a couple of undocumented, but well known structures SYSTEM_HANDLE_INFORMATION and SYSTEM_HANDLE_TABLE_ENTRY_INFO.


Below code retrieves all handles opened by the SYSTEM process (PID 4):

  • Below code does not handle errors

  • SystemHandleInformationSize is a hardcoded value, which you should not do in production code. Instead, you should:

    • start with an arbitrary size for SystemHandleInformationSize

    • call NtQuerySystemInformation in a loop, until it no longer returns 0xc0000004 (STATUS_INFO_LENGTH_MISMATCH)

    • if 0xc0000004 is returned, increase SystemHandleInformationSize

#include <iostream>
#include <Windows.h>
#include <winternl.h>

#define SystemHandleInformation 0x10
#define SystemHandleInformationSize 1024 * 1024 * 2

using fNtQuerySystemInformation = NTSTATUS(WINAPI*)(
    ULONG SystemInformationClass,
    PVOID SystemInformation,
    ULONG SystemInformationLength,
    PULONG ReturnLength

// handle information
    USHORT UniqueProcessId;
    USHORT CreatorBackTraceIndex;
    UCHAR ObjectTypeIndex;
    UCHAR HandleAttributes;
    USHORT HandleValue;
    PVOID Object;
    ULONG GrantedAccess;

// handle table information
    ULONG NumberOfHandles;

int main()
    ULONG returnLenght = 0;
    fNtQuerySystemInformation NtQuerySystemInformation = (fNtQuerySystemInformation)GetProcAddress(GetModuleHandle(L"ntdll"), "NtQuerySystemInformation");
    PSYSTEM_HANDLE_INFORMATION handleTableInformation = (PSYSTEM_HANDLE_INFORMATION)HeapAlloc(GetProcessHeap(), HEAP_ZERO_MEMORY, SystemHandleInformationSize);
    NtQuerySystemInformation(SystemHandleInformation, handleTableInformation, SystemHandleInformationSize, &returnLenght);

    for (int i = 0; i < handleTableInformation->NumberOfHandles; i++)
        SYSTEM_HANDLE_TABLE_ENTRY_INFO handleInfo = (SYSTEM_HANDLE_TABLE_ENTRY_INFO)handleTableInformation->Handles[i];

        if (handleInfo.UniqueProcessId == 4)
            printf_s("Handle 0x%x at 0x%p, PID: %x\n", handleInfo.HandleValue, handleInfo.Object, handleInfo.UniqueProcessId);

    return 0;

Remember The above code could be easily modified to find an object's location in kernel given its handle.


Let's see if the code above lists out the handles and the object addresses those handles point to in the kernel memory correctly.

If we compile and run the code, we will get a list of all the handles for the process with PID 4:

We can cross-check and ensure that our listed handles are accurate with Process Hacker by inspecting the Handles tab of the SYSTEM process (PID 4). Let's check the first handle 0x4:

The above shows:

  • in green - handle id (0x4)

  • in blue - process id (4) of the process which has the handle 0x4 opened (SYSTEM process has a handle to itself)

  • in red - object's (pointed to by the handle) location in kernel memory (0xffff87077c882300)

We can easily check the object at 0xffff8f077c882300 in WinDBG:

!object 0xffff8f077c882300

The above command indicates that 0xffff8f077c882300 is a valid object address and it's of type Process:

We can confirm 0xffff8f077c882300 is a process object by using a !process command in WinDBG:

!process 0xffff8f077c882300 0

Below confirms that it's indeed a process object:

  • in red - process object location in kernel memory (0xffff8f077c882300)

  • in blue - process id (4)

  • in lime - process name (system)

Finally, we can overlay the _EPROCESS over ffff8f077c882300 and print the UniqueProcessId and ImageFileNames, that again confirm it's a SYSTEM process with PID 4:

dt _eprocess ffff8f077c882300 uniqueprocessid imagefilename


Last updated