Tools for instrumenting Windows Defender's mpengine.dll
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Latest commit f86fc7f Aug 22, 2018
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OutputDebugStringA Demo Initial code release Aug 12, 2018
scripts Initial code release Aug 12, 2018
OutputDebugStringAHook.patch Initial code release Aug 12, 2018 Update Aug 21, 2018

Windows Defender Emulator Tools

This repository contains code that I wrote to help with my reverse engineering of Windows Defender Antivirus' binary emulator, complimentary to my presentations on the emulator at Black Hat USA 2018 and DEF CON 26.



mpclient Modifications

My code is built on top of Tavis Ormandy's loadlibrary ( project. In order to work with my code, you'll need to pull down a copy of loadlibrary, and then apply my patches to the project.

$ git clone
$ cd loadlibrary
$ git apply OutputDebugStringAHook.patch
$ make

[Follow Tavis's instructions about setting up mpengine.dll - make sure you have the 6/25/2018 build
Dumping symbols from IDA is nice for debugging, but is not necessary for this code to work]

$ ./mpclient OutputDebugStringADemo.exe 
[+] mpengine.dll base at 0xf5e66008
[+] Setting hooks and resolving offsets
[+] Parameters<1>::Parameters<1>	RVA: 0x46e5d5	Address: 0xf62d45dd
[+] pe_read_string_ex:			RVA: 0x3e59f3	Address: 0xf624b9fb
[+] OutputDebugStringA FP:		RVA: 0x01af88	Address: 0xf637c7a8
[+] OutputDebugStringA FP replaced: 	0x804ea80
[+] Done setting hooks and resolving offsets!
main(): Scanning /mnt/hgfs/sharemp/windows_only/OutputDebugStringADemo.exe...
EngineScanCallback(): Scanning input
[+] OutputDebugStringA(pe_vars_t * v = 0x0xf5c3c008)
[+] Params[1]:	0x402010
[+] OutputDebugStringA: "This is coming from inside the emulator!"

IMPORTANT: The offsets contained in this project are specific to the 6/25/2018 32-bit mpengine.dll build, MD5=e95d3f9e90ba3ccd1a4b8d63cbd88d1b. If you are using a different version of mpengine.dll, you'll need to locate these offsets yourself. It's easiest to wait for Microsoft to publish mpengine.dll PDBs with symbols, but it can be done easily without them.

Note that the included patches only contain my OutputDebugStringA hooking code. This will let you experiment with the engine and reproduce some of the demos I have shown. Implementing more advanced functionality demonstrated in my presentation is left as an exercise to the reader, eg: building a fuzzer, supporting format string-based output, dumping out arbitrary non-string buffers, hooking ExitProcess to understand when emulation is ending, or collecting coverage with a customized Lighthouse Pintool (

Locating Offsets

Here are some heuristics you can use to locate the functions of interest without Microsoft PDB symbols


References the string "INVALID_STRING"


Search for sequence of bytes 0B28014BB, it's the address of the function pointer right before that sequence in the g_syscalls table.


Function called in OutputDebugStringA, as found first using the above technique

Binary For Emulator Exploration

In addition to the mpclient extensions, you'll also find a Microsoft Visual Studio 2017 project that I have found to be consistently emulated when scanned with the 6/25/2018 mpengine.dll running under loadlibrary. Make sure you build an x86 Release version of this project when working with it. As noted in my presentation, Defender may choose not to emulate code for a variety of reasons, so I recommend frequently verifying that your code is still getting emulated as you make modifications.

As I have removed linking against a number of system libraries, many common Windows APIs are not supported, as are many C runtime functions. You can add linking against these Windows libraries if needed, but I recommend being careful with C runtime functions, as I found linking against msvcrt could prevent emulation. Note that C runtime functions may be implicitly invoked by C code constructs, such as int foo[5] = {0}; - so if you start getting linker problems complaining about _memcpy and other functions your code doesn't actually invoke, that may be the problem.

IDA Scripts

Finally, I've included a couple of IDA scripts that I found useful in doing this reverse engineering. These plugins were all written for and tested with IDA Pro 7, earlier versions of IDA may not support them. uses APIs specific to IDA 7, and will not work with earlier versions of IDA.

Parse the mpengine.dlls g_syscalls table of natively emulated APIs and dump hashes and names to a Python map, as used in and

An IDA Processor Extension module to add support for disassembling the apicall instruction during auto-analysis. This Processor Extension module explicitly only works on IDA Pro 7. This plugin only kicks in for files with the extension .mp.dll (eg:

After loading a binary with apicall instructions disassembled by, this script can be run to label apicall stub functions.


No support is offered for this project. Feel free to report issues, but I am not planning on updating this code after publication or troubleshooting user issues.

That said, I keep open DMs on Twitter if you have any questions about the code - @0xAlexei