the first 3 lines set an exception handler (an 'error catcher')
int3 generates an exception
execution resumes at
this trick is (ab)using Structured Exception Handling, a mechanism to define exception handlers, typically by compilers when
catch blocks are used.
In 32bits versions of Windows, they can be set on the fly, without any pre-requirement.
The first element of the exception handlers' chain is pointed by the first member of the Thread Information Block, which is always located at
fs:0. (It means that
fs - a selector - is defined so that
fs:0 points to the actual address, which is also reachable 'directly' - via something like
So here is what happens:
the first two
push define a structure
_EXCEPTION_REGISTRATION_RECORD on the stack.
- the new top handler
- the previous top handler, which was until now at
mov sets the current stack position as the new structure. When an exception happens,
next will be now the first called handler.
int3 triggers an exception instantaneously (there are many other kinds of exception triggers).
as an exception is triggered, Windows dispatches the exception to the first handler, and the next one if it's not handled, until one of them has handled it.
This is done here under OllyDbg 1.10. YMMV.
As we want to go through exceptions ourselves, we have to ask OllyDbg not to handle them:
go to debugging options: Alt-O, tab
And when an exception is triggered, we have to enforce that execution is done via exceptions (see below).
Here are 3 methods of increasing level to follow the exception handling execution safely:
step by step: set a breakpoint manually
As the handler has just been set on the stack, you can manually set a breakpoint then run.
select the new handler address on the stack
Right-click or F10
in the dump window, open the menu (same shortcut)
Hardware, on execution
Debug/Run / shortcut F9 / command-line
Exceptions will be triggered
Execute with exception handling: shortcut Shift-F9 / command-line
shortcut: execute until exception handler via command-line
as the address is on the stack, the easiest way is to type via the command line
ge [esp+4], which means,
Go with Exceptions, until the 2nd address on the stack is encountered. Thus, no need to set and unset a breakpoint.
- in the case of a more complex example, where the address might not be obvious on the stack anymore, then the absolute formula would be
ge ds:[fs:+4], which just gets the actual address from the TIB.
keeping full control: break on KiUserExceptionDispatcher
KiUserExceptionDispatcher is the Windows API handling all exceptions. Setting a breakpoint there guarantees that you keep full control - but then, you're in the middle of a Windows API ;)
In this case, you can ask OllyDbg to skip exceptions, as you will still break execution manually in any cases. You might also want to combine that with a script.
Of course, some advanced code might check that you set a breakpoint on it before triggering an exception.