Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

3/31/2011
12:29 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Most Windows Applications Use Microsoft's DEP

SDL Progress Report from Microsoft shows one-third of popular consumer apps using ASLR

Most popular consumer applications today use Microsoft's Data Execution Prevention (DEP) attack mitigation feature in Windows, while about one-third use its Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) security function.

The data was released today as part of Microsoft's progress report on its Security Development Lifecycle (SDL). The software giant surveyed the DEP and ASLR settings in 41 popular third-party applications to measure the adoption of these attack mitigation technologies. ASLR was not deployed in 70 percent of browser plug-ins: That means even if a browser were running ASLR, if a plug-in does not, then ASLR isn't fully functional.

Microsoft's SDL, a process of building security and privacy into its software, has been mandatory in-house at the software giant since 2004. Microsoft in 2007 began publicly releasing SDL tools and documentation in order to promote secure coding. DEP and ASLR are two of the higher profile security functions Microsoft has added to Windows.

Jeff Jones, director of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft, says the disparity between DEP and ASLR adoption among apps likely has to do with DEP being available longer (since XP Service Pack 2) as well as being "simpler to understand." DEP prevents an exploit from directly injecting and executing code from sections of memory used for data.

"It has been around longer, and it's pretty simple to enable," Jones says. ASLR didn't come on the scene until Windows Vista, where it first rolled out. ASLR is basically a security feature in Vista and Windows 7 that protects the system from an exploit attempting to call a system function. It places code in random areas of memory that makes it more difficult for an attacker to run malware on a machine.

While ASLR is fully enabled in 34 percent of these apps, it's partially enabled in 46 percent of the commercial apps. Some 20 percent don't use ASLR at all.

Microsoft's Jones says that's a respectable percentage of adoption. "I was pleasantly surprised. Eighty percent has either fully or partially [deployed] it -- that's a good number," he says.

Gary McGraw, CTO at Cigital, also considers the new Microsoft data on DEP and ASLR deployment good news. "That rate of adoption is pretty darn good ... because [the technology] is relatively new," says Gary McGraw, CTO at Cigital.

But deploying ASLR and DEP alone doesn't make for a secure app, he says. "If you just count on only these two security functions, you won't get a secure app. You have to do everything else, too, [including] static analysis, pen testing, and the rest of the [steps] in the SDL."

When apps only partially enable ASLR, that means not all libraries are compiled with ASLR, which could allow an attacker to bypass DEP, notes Thomas Kristensen, CTO at Secunia.

And apps that only support either DEP or ASLR, or just partially support one, don't reap the same security benefits, security experts say.

"DEP alone is less effective than ASLR as there are much easier ways to defeat DEP than ASLR. Combining DEP and ASLR results in the most effective exploit mitigation," says Chaouki Bekrar, CEO and head of research at VUPEN.

Some app developers avoid DEP because it can crash buggy apps, notes Secunia's Kristensen. "That obviously doesn't look good, and then it is natural to choose less security and more 'stability,'" he says.

Even so, DEP and ASLR aren't impenetrable. Security researchers have found and demonstrated ways to bypass DEP. "There are ways to bypass each individually, but combining the two makes the protection more efficient and significantly harder to exploit," Kristensen says.

The Microsoft SDL Progress Report can be downloaded here.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
News
FluBot Malware's Rapid Spread May Soon Hit US Phones
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/28/2021
Slideshows
7 Modern-Day Cybersecurity Realities
Steve Zurier, Contributing Writer,  4/30/2021
Commentary
How to Secure Employees' Home Wi-Fi Networks
Bert Kashyap, CEO and Co-Founder at SecureW2,  4/28/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-31755
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-07
An issue was discovered on Tenda AC11 devices with firmware through 02.03.01.104_CN. A stack buffer overflow vulnerability in /goform/setmac allows attackers to execute arbitrary code on the system via a crafted post request.
CVE-2021-31756
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-07
An issue was discovered on Tenda AC11 devices with firmware through 02.03.01.104_CN. A stack buffer overflow vulnerability in /gofrom/setwanType allows attackers to execute arbitrary code on the system via a crafted post request. This occurs when input vector controlled by malicious attack get copie...
CVE-2021-31757
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-07
An issue was discovered on Tenda AC11 devices with firmware through 02.03.01.104_CN. A stack buffer overflow vulnerability in /goform/setVLAN allows attackers to execute arbitrary code on the system via a crafted post request.
CVE-2021-31758
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-07
An issue was discovered on Tenda AC11 devices with firmware through 02.03.01.104_CN. A stack buffer overflow vulnerability in /goform/setportList allows attackers to execute arbitrary code on the system via a crafted post request.
CVE-2021-31458
PUBLISHED: 2021-05-07
This vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected installations of Foxit Reader 10.1.1.37576. User interaction is required to exploit this vulnerability in that the target must visit a malicious page or open a malicious file. The specific flaw exists within the handlin...