When a user-mode application calls the Nt or Zw version of a native system services routine, the system call mechanism traps the calling thread to kernel mode. To indicate that the parameter values originated in user mode, the trap handler for the system call sets the PreviousMode field in the thread object of the caller to UserMode. The native system services routine checks the PreviousMode field of the calling thread to determine whether the parameters are from a user-mode source.
If a kernel-mode driver calls a native system services routine and passes parameter values to the routine that are from a kernel-mode source, the driver must make sure that the PreviousMode field in the current thread object is set to KernelMode.
A kernel-mode driver can run in the context of an arbitrary thread, and the PreviousMode field of this thread might be set to UserMode. In this situation, a kernel-mode driver can call the Zw version of a native system services routine to inform the routine that the parameter values are from a trusted, kernel-mode source. The Zw call goes to a thin wrapper function that overrides the PreviousMode value in the current thread object. The wrapper function sets PreviousMode to KernelMode and calls the Nt version of the routine. On return from the Nt version of the routine, the wrapper function restores the original PreviousMode value of the thread object and returns.
A kernel-mode driver can directly call the Nt version of a native system services routine. When a kernel-mode driver processes an I/O request that can originate either in user mode or in kernel mode, the driver can call the Nt version of the routine so that the PreviousMode value of the current thread remains unaltered during the call. The NtXxx routine checks the calling thread's PreviousMode value to determine whether the parameter values are from a user-mode application or a kernel-mode component, and treats them accordingly.
An error can occur if a kernel-mode driver calls an NtXxx routine and the PreviousMode value in the current thread object does not accurately indicate whether the parameter values are from a user-mode or a kernel-mode source.
For example, assume that a kernel-mode driver is running in the context of an arbitrary thread, and that the PreviousMode value for this thread is set to UserMode. If the driver passes a kernel-mode file handle to the NtClose routine, this routine checks the PreviousMode value and decides that the handle must be a user-mode handle. When NtClose does not find the handle in the user-mode handle table, it returns the STATUS_INVALID_HANDLE error code. Meanwhile, the driver leaks the kernel-mode handle, which was never closed.
For another example, if the parameters for an NtXxx routine include an input or output buffer, and if PreviousMode = UserMode, the routine calls the ProbeForRead or ProbeForWrite routine to validate the buffer. If the buffer was allocated in system memory instead of in user-mode memory, the ProbeForXxx routine raises an exception, and the NtXxx routine returns the STATUS_ACCESS_VIOLATION error code.
If it is necessary, a driver can call the ExGetPreviousMode routine to get the PreviousMode value from the current thread object. Or, the driver can read the RequestorMode field from the IRP structure that describes the requested I/O operation. The RequestorMode field contains a copy of the PreviousMode value from the thread that requested the operation.