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The Broken Hut
Working my way up to a full-size building
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12th-Jun-2007 10:05 pm - Propagation of computer worms

The field of epidemiology studies the health of populations with any eye to detection and prevention of illness.

Disease is fascinating in any light, and as our world shrinks due to global travel we’re likely to see a lot more of it in new guises. Single cases of disease in exotic places are a potent threat to major population centres, because that single person can travel round the world in a single day.

Securing yourself against infection is a proper arms race: infectious agents and defences improving in lock-step, forever exploiting and then being beaten back.

Nothing about the above paragraphs is unique to biology. In the early hours of the 25 January 2003 the fastest-spreading global infection ever seen first began to take hold, on the internet.

The infection, known as the Slammer worm, was the first of a new kind of Warhol worm — one that would spread as fast as it could within its “15 minutes of fame”. This epidemiological analysis of the appearance, spread and weaknesses of the Slammer worm make fascinating reading for the geeky. This is what happened.Collapse )

This is my second in an exciting series of Bugs That Make Your Computer Go Bang. The first one was about sql injection flaws in web applications. This time I’ll be talking about buffer overflows.

Buffer overflows are extremely important. I’d hazard a guess that they’re the most common cause of exploitable flaws in modern software. Certainly all the big names in malware over the last few years — such as SQL Slammer or Sasser — were all made possible because of buffer overflows.

It’s also really easy to write code with a buffer overflaw bug. That, of course, is why it’s so common. Anyone who writes a program could make this mistake.

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