Process Security and Access Rights

The Microsoft Windows security model enables you to control access to process objects. For more information about security, see Access-Control Model.

When a user logs in, the system collects a set of data that uniquely identifies the user during the authentication process, and stores it in an access token. This access token describes the security context of all processes associated with the user. The security context of a process is the set of credentials given to the process or the user account that created the process.

You can use a token to specify the current security context for a process using the CreateProcessWithTokenW function. You can specify a security descriptor for a process when you call the CreateProcess, CreateProcessAsUser, or CreateProcessWithLogonW function. If you specify NULL, the process gets a default security descriptor. The ACLs in the default security descriptor for a process come from the primary or impersonation token of the creator.

To retrieve a process's security descriptor, call the GetSecurityInfo function. To change a process's security descriptor, call the SetSecurityInfo function.

The valid access rights for process objects include the standard access rights and some process-specific access rights. The following table lists the standard access rights used by all objects.

Value Meaning
DELETE (0x00010000L) Required to delete the object.
READ_CONTROL (0x00020000L) Required to read information in the security descriptor for the object, not including the information in the SACL. To read or write the SACL, you must request the ACCESS_SYSTEM_SECURITY access right. For more information, see SACL Access Right.
SYNCHRONIZE (0x00100000L) The right to use the object for synchronization. This enables a thread to wait until the object is in the signaled state.
WRITE_DAC (0x00040000L) Required to modify the DACL in the security descriptor for the object.
WRITE_OWNER (0x00080000L) Required to change the owner in the security descriptor for the object.


The following table lists the process-specific access rights.

Value Meaning
PROCESS_ALL_ACCESS (STANDARD_RIGHTS_REQUIRED (0x000F0000L) | SYNCHRONIZE (0x00100000L) | 0xFFFF) All possible access rights for a process object.Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP: The size of the PROCESS_ALL_ACCESS flag increased on Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista. If an application compiled for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista is run on Windows Server 2003 or Windows XP, the PROCESS_ALL_ACCESS flag is too large and the function specifying this flag fails with ERROR_ACCESS_DENIED. To avoid this problem, specify the minimum set of access rights required for the operation. If PROCESS_ALL_ACCESS must be used, set _WIN32_WINNT to the minimum operating system targeted by your application (for example, #define _WIN32_WINNT _WIN32_WINNT_WINXP). For more information, see Using the Windows Headers.
PROCESS_CREATE_PROCESS (0x0080) Required to use this process as the parent process with PROC_THREAD_ATTRIBUTE_PARENT_PROCESS.
PROCESS_CREATE_THREAD (0x0002) Required to create a thread in the process.
PROCESS_DUP_HANDLE (0x0040) Required to duplicate a handle using DuplicateHandle.
PROCESS_QUERY_INFORMATION (0x0400) Required to retrieve certain information about a process, such as its token, exit code, and priority class (see OpenProcessToken).
PROCESS_QUERY_LIMITED_INFORMATION (0x1000) Required to retrieve certain information about a process (see GetExitCodeProcess, GetPriorityClass, IsProcessInJob, QueryFullProcessImageName). A handle that has the PROCESS_QUERY_INFORMATION access right is automatically granted PROCESS_QUERY_LIMITED_INFORMATION.Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP: This access right is not supported.
PROCESS_SET_INFORMATION (0x0200) Required to set certain information about a process, such as its priority class (see SetPriorityClass).
PROCESS_SET_QUOTA (0x0100) Required to set memory limits using SetProcessWorkingSetSize.
PROCESS_SUSPEND_RESUME (0x0800) Required to suspend or resume a process.
PROCESS_TERMINATE (0x0001) Required to terminate a process using TerminateProcess.
PROCESS_VM_OPERATION (0x0008) Required to perform an operation on the address space of a process (see VirtualProtectEx and WriteProcessMemory).
PROCESS_VM_READ (0x0010) Required to read memory in a process using ReadProcessMemory.
PROCESS_VM_WRITE (0x0020) Required to write to memory in a process using WriteProcessMemory.
SYNCHRONIZE (0x00100000L) Required to wait for the process to terminate using the wait functions.


To open a handle to another process and obtain full access rights, you must enable the SeDebugPrivilege privilege. For more information, see Changing Privileges in a Token.

The handle returned by the CreateProcess function has PROCESS_ALL_ACCESS access to the process object. When you call the OpenProcess function, the system checks the requested access rights against the DACL in the process's security descriptor. When you call the GetCurrentProcess function, the system returns a pseudohandle with the maximum access that the DACL allows to the caller.

You can request the ACCESS_SYSTEM_SECURITY access right to a process object if you want to read or write the object's SACL. For more information, see Access-Control Lists (ACLs) and SACL Access Right.


A process that has some of the access rights noted here can use them to gain other access rights. For example, if process A has a handle to process B with PROCESS_DUP_HANDLE access, it can duplicate the pseudo handle for process B. This creates a handle that has maximum access to process B. For more information on pseudo handles, see GetCurrentProcess.


Protected Processes

Windows Vista introduces protected processes to enhance support for Digital Rights Management. The system restricts access to protected processes and the threads of protected processes.

The following standard access rights are not allowed from a process to a protected process:


The following specific access rights are not allowed from a process to a protected process:


The PROCESS_QUERY_LIMITED_INFORMATION right was introduced to provide access to a subset of the information available through PROCESS_QUERY_INFORMATION.