What Is A Buffer Overflow Attack?
A buffer overflow attack is a type of attack used by hackers to interfere with Internet connections all over the world. It’s a type of attack that has been used for over thirty years because it can be difficult (but not impossible) to protect yourself from it. In fact, the recent attack on Whatsapp user devices was the result of a buffer overflow attack.
Before you can understand how a buffer overflow attack works, you first need to know what a buffer is and what it does. A buffer is a temporary data storage location that is used to move data from one place to another. A single program can use thousands of buffers to help it operate smoothly, but they’re also used for input and output control, including for hardware items like your keyboard and speakers.
Buffers are usually stored in system RAM, but they can also be configured to be stored on a physical drive. Regardless of which type is used, the temporary buffer space is limited, meaning it can only accept a certain amount of data at any given time. As data is transferred out, more data is brought in and stored to replace it.
How Do Buffer Overflows Happen?
Buffer overflow occurs when the amount of data being stored in the buffer exceeds the amount of memory that’s been allocated for the buffer. This causes data to be overwritten into the other areas of the program that are not designed to store it.
When buffer overflow happens, the program will slow down, produce errors or even crash. Worse yet, it makes it easier for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities.
How are Buffer Overflow Attacks Performed?
The most common way hackers use buffer overflow attacks to gain access to a computer or device is through malware. Once the malware gets on the device, it sits and waits for the right conditions. When buffer overflow happens, it causes a chaotic environment that allows the malware to insert malicious code into the device’s sensitive areas. Once the code is in place, the hacker can access any data they want or they can even gain control over the program or device.
How to Prevent Buffer Overflow to Reduce the Risk of Attacks
Buffer overflows are commonly the result of mistakes made by the software’s developers. In some cases, the developers and programmers might just underestimate the amount of storage their software will require to run smoothly. Or, they may build their program without taking into consideration the amount of data already being stored in a buffer, thus resulting in their program overflowing it. In other cases, data may be sent to the wrong buffer, or the program may have been created using the C/C++ programming languages, which don’t have built-in overflow protection.
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