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Experts publish 'how to' book for software exploits

It includes 'zero day' techniques for exploiting vulnerable computer systems

By Paul Roberts
March 15, 2004 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - A new book by leading security researchers on writing code to exploit security flaws in software, including Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system, has raised some eyebrows in the technical community for its publishing of "zero day," or previously unknown, techniques for exploiting vulnerable systems.
The Shellcoder's Handbook: Discovering and Exploiting Security Holes is an advanced guide to writing software exploits. The book is intended as a resource for network administrators who are interested in closing security holes. However, the book also contains working examples of code for exploiting vulnerable systems and previously unpublished techniques for launching attacks such as heap overflows and kernel attacks, according to two of the book's authors.
Shellcode is a term that describes small pieces of computer code that launch operating system "shells," or command interfaces such as the common "C:\" command-line interface on Microsoft DOS. Shellcode is often a component of attacks in which malicious hackers use software exploits to get control of vulnerable systems.
The new book is published by John Wiley & Sons Inc. and is scheduled to be released on March 22. It contains chapters on a variety of attack types, including stack overflows, heap overflows and format-string bugs. Authors discuss everything from how to write Windows shellcode to exploiting security holes in Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Tru64 operating system, according to a description of the book published on the Wiley Web page.
Also contained in the new guide are fully functional examples of software exploits, according to co-author Dave Aitel, founder of Immunity Inc., a security consulting company in New York. "The book is trying to teach you how to write exploits, so of course there are exploits," he said.
Aitel said he contributed chapters on heap overflows and Windows exploits, as well as a technique for finding flaws in network communications protocols called "fuzzing."
The information is essential to administrators who want to secure the computer systems they manage, he said. "It's hard to get context on a [software] vulnerability if you don't know how to exploit it," Aitel said. "People who know how to write exploits make better strategic decisions."

Co-author Chris Anley agreed and said The Shellcoder's Handbook isn't a cookbook for hackers. "This isn't a collection of exploits. It's a book that tells you how to find the bugs and understand what the impact of the bugs is," said Anley, a director at Next Generation Security Software Ltd. (NGSSoftware) in Surrey, England. "We wanted to make a book that describes from basic through advanced level what exploits can do," he said.
The book is structured like a

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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