API Hooking on Windows

A while back I was porting an application to Qt 4.8 on Windows and, due to the fact the program couldn’t deal with varying DPI settings, I had to make sure Qt didn’t call the “SetProcessDPIAware()” function. The simple way to do this would be to simply recompile Qt to remove this offending line, but as we wanted to share the exact same library with other products, I didn’t have that luxury.

So I did something really really naughty: I used a trick to modify the API call to not actually do anything. Welcome to API Hooking! This is actually used quite a lot by profilers or memory tracking software to hook into low-level API’s and track various tasks, but we’re going to use it in this case to simply early out of the given function.

  • First, add an entry point to perform the code injection. For me, I just added a block of code into the main function of the dll.
  • Next, you need to get the address for the function you want to change. I assume the library will already have been loaded, otherwise you’ll need to call “LoadLibrary()” first on the dll that contains the function (in this case, “user32.dll”).
  • Once you have the address, you need to make the page that the pointer exists in writeable, so that you can modify the code. This involves using the “VirtualProtect()” function, remembering to store the old protection level so that you can reset it afterwards. See here for more details.
  • Now the page is writeable, it’s time to get out your assembly writing skills! For this example, all I needed to do was write a “ret” instruction into the first line of the function address, which would return before pushing anything on the stack etc. For more advanced tasks,a common technique is to add a jump call to a custom function to do all the heavy lifting in.
  • Finally, you want to reset the protection level on the given page.

Sounds quite complex, but it basically boils down to something like this:

typedef BOOL (WINAPI *SetProcessDPIAwarePtr)(VOID);

    if (reason == DLL_PROCESS_ATTACH )
        // Make sure we're not already DPI aware
        assert( !IsProcessDPIAware() );

        // First get the DPIAware function pointer
        SetProcessDPIAwarePtr lpDPIAwarePointer = (SetProcessDPIAwarePtr)

        // Next make the page writeable so that we can change the function assembley
        DWORD oldProtect;
        VirtualProtect((LPVOID)lpDPIAwarePointer, 1, PAGE_EXECUTE_READWRITE, &oldProtect);

        // write "ret" as first assembly instruction to avoid actually setting HighDPI
        BYTE newAssembly[] = {0xC3};
        memcpy(lpDPIAwarePointer, newAssembly, sizeof(newAssembly));

        // change protection back to previous setting.
        VirtualProtect((LPVOID)lpDPIAwarePointer, 1, oldProtect, NULL);
    return TRUE;

That’s not too scary, right?! In my use case this seems to have worked perfectly, and saved me from the hassle of recompiling Qt!

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