How is it that WriteProcessMemory succeeds in writing to read-only memory?

Raymond Chen


When you call Write­Process­Memory and tell it to write to memory that is read-only, the Write­Process­Memory succeeds. How can that be?

Because Write­Process­Memory tries really hard to please you.

As I noted some time ago, the primary audience for functions like Create­Remote­Thread and Write­Process­Memory is debuggers. And when debuggers try to patch memory, it’s often for things like patching in a breakpoint instruction or doing some edit-and-continue magic. So the Write­Process­Memory tries really hard to get those bytes written. If the page is read-only, Write­Process­Memory temporarily changes the permission to read-write, updates the memory, and then restores the original permission.

“No need to thank me, just trying to help.”

There is a race condition if the target process happens to be manipulating the page protection at the same time that Write­Process­Memory is. But that’s okay, because the intended audience is debuggers, and debuggers will freeze the target process before trying to edit its memory.

There is no security hole here, because the way the Write­Process­Memory function changes the page protection is basically Virtual­Protect­Ex, so it will succeed only if you already could have modified the protections yourself anyway. If you didn’t have permission to change the protections, then Write­Process­Memory‘s attempt to change the protections would fail too.

Raymond Chen
Raymond Chen

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