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developerWorks: Countering Buffer Overflows

Feb 06, 2004, 07:00 (16 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by David A. Wheeler)

[ Thanks to David A. Wheeler for this link. ]

"In November 1988, many organizations had to cut themselves off from the Internet because of the 'Morris worm,' which was a program written by 23-year-old Robert Tappan Morris to attack VAX and Sun machines. By some estimates, this program took down 10% of the entire Internet. In July 2001, another worm named 'Code Red' eventually exploited over 300,000 computers worldwide running Microsoft's IIS Web Server. In January 2003, the 'Slammer' (also known as 'Sapphire') worm exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft SQL Server 2000 software, disabling parts of the Internet in South Korea and Japan, disrupting Finnish phone service, and slowing many U.S. airline reservation systems, credit card networks, and automatic teller machines. All of these attacks--and many others--exploited a vulnerability called a buffer overflow.

"An informal 1999 survey on Bugtraq (a mailing list discussing security vulnerabilities) found that two-thirds of the participants believed that the #1 cause of vulnerabilities was buffer overflows. From 1997 through March 2002, half of all security alerts from the CERT/CC were based on buffer overflow vulnerabilities.

"If you want your programs to be secure, you need to know about buffer overflows and how to prevent them, the latest automated tools to counter them (and why they aren't enough), and how to counter them in your programs..."

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