Feeds

Free Microsoft security tool locks down buggy apps

No assembly required

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Microsoft has released a free tool designed to harden software applications against attacks that exploit common security vulnerabilities.

EMET, short for Enhanced Mitigation Evaluation Toolkit, allows developers and administrators to add specific security protections to applications. Unlike mitigations released in the past, EMET doesn't require programs to be recompiled, so it can be used to fortify applications even when the source code isn't available.

EMET also allows specific mitigations to be applied to a particular application process, a granularity that helps when a given process isn't compatible with a given control.

Over the past few years, developers have increasingly focused on adding measures to their applications that make it harder for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities. The approach makes a lot of sense given the inevitability of buffer overflows and other garden-variety vulnerabilities in complex software. Rather than trying to weed out such bugs, mitigation intends to neutralize their harmful effects.

At the moment, EMET is shipping with just four mitigations, including SEHOP, which prevents many structured exception handling exploits; DEP, or data execution prevention, which marks certain parts of process memory as non-executable; NULL page allocation, designed to block NULL dereference exploits in user mode; and heap spray allocation, which pre-allocates certain memory addresses to make it harder for attackers to predict the location of malicious payloads.

Microsoft plans to add new protections to EMET over time. The program adds to the list of free security tools Microsoft has released over the past year, including its threat modeling tool, the !exploitable Crash Analyzer and the Microsoft Minifuzz file fuzzer.

No doubt, EMET shouldn't be viewed as a substitute for baking such security controls into applications at the time of compilation. But the utility makes sense for shops that rely on large amounts of legacy software or commonly used third-party titles that are prone to abuse.

"For applications that haven't turned on some of these security settings, it looks like it gives you the ability to add those security controls after the fact," said Rich Mogull, CEO of security firm Securosis. "I think that's great, because those are some of the better defenses that we have these days."

Microsoft engineers say that, had SEHOP been in use, an exploit targeting MS09-034 earlier this year would have failed. But they are quick to point out that EMET isn't for newbies, because many applications rely on precisely the behavior the utility is designed to block. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.