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Microsoft bundles BlueHat finalist tech into anti-exploit tool

Give 'em enough ROPe

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Microsoft has beefed up one of its anti-exploit tools with technology from a $200K contest finalist.

Technology from a BlueHat Prize finalist Ivan Fratric, designed to mitigate attacks that leverage Return Oriented Programming (ROP), has already been incorporated into Redmond's Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) 3.5 Technology Preview, released on Wednesday.

Fratric, a doctorate computer science researcher at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, developed ROPGuard to thwart attacks based on ROP, a hacker technique that involves combining short pieces of benign code for a malicious purpose. "ROPGuard defines a set of checks that can be used to detect when certain functions are being called in the context of malicious ROP code" thereby protecting against attacks based on exploiting memory corruption vulnerabilities, Microsoft explains.

The EMET toolkit offers features to fine-tune enterprise configuration as well as event logging technology that permits real-time notification of exploitation attempts, among other functions.

The BlueHat Prize competition, which is aimed at nurturing innovation in exploit mitigations – by handing out more than $250,000 in cash and prizes as bait – was launched by Microsoft a year ago at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.

All three finalists in the blue Hat competition have developed ROP exploits blockers of one type or another, with the best rated due to land the $200,000 first prize.

Online interviews with the trio can be found here.

Microsoft is due to announce the inaugural BlueHat Prize grand prize winner at its "researcher appreciation party" in Las Vegas later today, when the three finalists will find out which of them has bagged the top $200k prize. The runner-up gets $50k and third place gets an MSDN subscription valued at $10k).

In related news, Microsoft Security Response Centre released its annual report (PDF) on Wednesday. The progress report looks at how Redmond investigates third-party vulnerabilities and coordinates the release of security updates through Microsoft Vulnerability Research (MSVR), among other things.

The MSVR program reported 96 vulnerabilities to 39 different vendors over the last year. The 33-page progress report focuses on stats about bulletins and bug fixes since 2006. ®

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