In a failed attempt to speed up CPython using a C++ extension, I found myself looking for a solution to overwrite (monkey patch) a function in the compiled C code. On linux, this is normally possible with LD_PRELOAD, which enables you to prepend a library in the dynamic linker search path. When your program requests an external function like malloc, the dynamic linker starts searching for it and hopefully finds it in your prepended library. The program will then call that function instead of the version from say, glibc. However, this was not a possibility here, as I wanted to do this from within a python module, which are dynamically loaded after program startup. If this were C++, you’d maybe be able to overwrite vtables in certain situations, but CPython is written in C.


So I wrote this hack that overwrites a existing C function with a function of choice. Linux/x86_64 only, but the technique is transferable to other platforms.

void monkey_patch(void * sym, void * jump_target, int offset=0) {
    static int PAGE_SIZE = 0;
    if (PAGE_SIZE == 0) PAGE_SIZE = getpagesize();
    void * page = (void*)((uintptr_t)sym & (uintptr_t)~(PAGE_SIZE-1));
    struct {
        unsigned char jmp_qword_ptr_rip[6];
        uint64_t addr;
    } __attribute__((packed)) asm_jmp_abs = {
        {0xff, 0x25, 0, 0, 0, 0}, (uint64_t)jump_target
    mprotect(page, 2 * PAGE_SIZE, PROT_WRITE);
    void * target = (void*)((uintptr_t)sym + offset);
    memcpy(target, &asm_jmp_abs, sizeof asm_jmp_abs);
    mprotect(page, 2 * PAGE_SIZE, PROT_READ | PROT_EXEC);

void monkey_patch(const char * function, void * jump_target, int offset=0) {
    static void * handle = 0;
    if (handle == 0) handle = dlopen(0, RTLD_LAZY);
    void * sym = dlsym(handle, function);
    monkey_patch(sym, jump_target, offset);

Compile with -ldl. You’d use it like:

#include <iostream>

void puts_wrapper(const char * s) {
    std::cout << "You called puts(\"" << s << "\")" << std::endl;

int main() {
    monkey_patch("puts", (void*)&puts_wrapper);
    puts("Hello, World!");

// output: You called puts("Hello, World!")

How does it work?

It uses dlopen()/dlsym() to locate the address of the function. If it is not a dynamically loaded symbol, passing the function address is also fine. Next, since linux uses W^X (meaning a page can’t be writable and executable at the same time), mprotect() is used to make the function writable at the page boundary. A small piece of machine code (found on stack overflow) that jumps to the target function without clobbering registers, is then written at function entry.

ff 25 00 00 00 00           jmp qword ptr [rip]
xx xx xx xx xx xx xx xx     64 bit jump address

At first, this code didn’t work for me because I was patching PyEval_EvalCode(), which calls the code in my extension. After monkey patching the CPU would continue executing inside PyEval_EvalCode() (+0x23), so I included an offset parameter which allows you to set the overwrite point inside a function.

Feel free to use it as you want to use, but expect things to break :).