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0x300. EXPLOITATION > 0x320. Buffer Overflows

Buffer Overflows

Buffer overflow vulnerabilities have been around since the early days of computers and still exist today. Most Internet worms use buffer overflow vulnerabilities to propagate, and even the most recent zero-day VML vulnerability in Internet Explorer is due to a buffer overflow.

C is a high-level programming language, but it assumes that the programmer is responsible for data integrity. If this responsibility were shifted over to the compiler, the resulting binaries would be significantly slower, due to integrity checks on every variable. Also, this would remove a significant level of control from the programmer and complicate the language.

While C's simplicity increases the programmer's control and the efficiency of the resulting programs, it can also result in programs that are vulnerable to buffer overflows and memory leaks if the programmer isn't careful. This means that once a variable is allocated memory, there are no built-in safeguards to ensure that the contents of a variable fit into the allocated memory space. If a programmer wants to put ten bytes of data into a buffer that had only been allocated eight bytes of space, that type of action is allowed, even though it will most likely cause the program to crash. This is known as a buffer overrun or buffer overflow, since the extra two bytes of data will overflow and spill out of the allocated memory, overwriting whatever happens to come next. If a critical piece of data is overwritten, the program will crash. The overflow_example.c code offers an example.


  

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