Researcher lauds Windows 8 memory protections

Michael S. Mimoso, Editorial Director

LAS VEGAS -- Enhanced Windows 8 memory protection features in the upcoming Microsoft OS could help drastically reduce the number of successful memory-based attacks, according to a security researcher who studied operating system improvements.

The protections could help reduce the number of heap-based memory buffer overflow attacks, said Chris Valasek, a senior security scientist at San Francisco-based application development testing firm Coverity Inc. Attacks using the heap memory manager help cybercriminals overwrite important program processes, using overflows to install malware on a victim's system. 

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Valasek said Microsoft has made it much harder for attackers to use the memory manager against itself in an attack. In-line metadata – certain pieces of information that were in predictable locations – were taken out-of-band. Memory allocated with code execution also doesn't always come from a predictable location, Valasek said.

"All the public ways to subvert this memory manager up until Windows 8 were remediated in Windows 8," Valasek said in an interview with "Microsoft took a long deep look at it and solved most of these problems."

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