Created the Monday 18 March 2019. Updated 3 years, 6 months ago.

The Read-Time-Stamp-Counter (RDTSC) instruction can be used by malware to determine how quicky the processor executes the program’s instructions. It returns the count of the number of ticks since the last system reboot as a 64-bit value placed into EDX:EAX.

It will execute RDTSC twice and then calculate the difference between low order values and check it with CMP condition. If the difference lays below 0FFFh no debugger is found if it is above or equal, then application is debugged.

Technique Identifier


Technique Tag


Code Snippets

RDSTC is a famous x86 instruction to count the number of cycle since reset.
This can be used to detect the VM. Thanks to Forcepoint for blog article.

#define LODWORD(_qw)    ((DWORD)(_qw))
BOOL rdtsc_diff_locky()
	DWORD i = 0;

	// Try this 10 times in case of small fluctuations
	for (i = 0; i < 10; i++)
		tsc1 = __rdtsc();

		// Waste some cycles - should be faster than CloseHandle on bare metal

		tsc2 = __rdtsc();

		// Waste some cycles - slightly longer than GetProcessHeap() on bare metal

		tsc3 = __rdtsc();

		// Did it take at least 10 times more CPU cycles to perform CloseHandle than it took to perform GetProcessHeap()?
		if ((LODWORD(tsc3) - LODWORD(tsc2)) / (LODWORD(tsc2) - LODWORD(tsc1)) >= 10)
			return FALSE;

	// We consistently saw a small ratio of difference between GetProcessHeap and CloseHandle execution times
	// so we're probably in a VM!
	return TRUE;

Detection Rules

rule Detect_RDTSC: AntiDebug AntiSandbox{
        description = "Detect RDTSC as anti-debug and anti-sandbox"
        author = "Unprotect"
        comment = "Experimental rule"
        $1 = { 0F 31 }
       uint16(0) == 0x5A4D and filesize < 1000KB and $1

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