Chips to ease Microsoft's big security nightmare

Tuesday, 24 February 2004, 1:24 AM EST

Chip makers are planning a new generation of microprocessors that should plug the gaps that led Microsoft to issue a "critical security alert" last week.

The alert was sparked by the discovery that a raft of Microsoft programs were vulnerable to a problem called "buffer overflow", which hackers can exploit to extract private information from a PC. And the risk of such attacks only worsened when, two days after the alert was issued, critical Windows "source code" was leaked on to the internet letting hackers see how it works.

A buffer is a section of computer memory that can store a set amount of data. Sometimes, usually because of a software bug, the processor sends more data to the buffer than it can hold, causing it to overflow into the next chunk of buffer memory. This makes computers vulnerable to hackers, because by deliberately making a buffer overflow they can force the computer to execute their malicious code.

By Anil Ananthaswamy at New Scientist.

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