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DataStructures / System Design

What is the "Buffer overflow" attack?

Buffer overflow occurs when an application writes more data into an area of memory, called a buffer than was intended.

Buffers are created to contain a finite amount of data. When the data is longer than expected, data will overflow into one or more adjacent memory locations (buffers) replacing the original data. This results in:

  • Erratic program behaviour.
  • Data exposure to unauthorized parties.
  • Processor tricked into running arbitrary code.

Mitigation strategies:

  • Check the length of data and limit it to the expected size.
  • Never assume that code will safely handle untrusted data.
  • Use libraries explicitly created to perform string and other memory operations in a secure fasion.

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