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Microsoft Launches EMET 5.0

Microsoft announced on Thursday the general availability of the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) 5.0.

According to the company, version 5.0 of the free security tool comes with two new mitigations, Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) and Export Address Table Filtering Plus (EAF+), both of which were introduced in EMET 5.0 Technical Preview.

The ASR mitigation is designed to block specific plugins or modules within an application. For instance, companies can use this feature to block Web browsers from loading Java plugins on external websites, while allowing them to work on internal sites. EMET can also be utilized to prevent Microsoft Word from loading Adobe Flash Player, a component which, just like Java, is often exploited in cyberattacks.

The EAF+ mitigation is designed to disrupt advanced attacks with two new safeguards: performing additional integrity checks on stack registers and stack limits when export tables are read from certain lower-level modules, and preventing memory read operations by adding what Microsoft calls "page guard" protection.  The EAF+ started off as an extension to EAF. However, Microsoft says it has made numerous improvements so it has decided to make it a separate mitigation.

In addition to the mitigations, EMET 5.0 brings some other improvements, including the availability of the Deep Hooks, Stack Pivot, Load Library and MemProt Return Oriented Processing (ROP) mitigations on 64-bit platforms. Improvements have also been made to the way EMET terminates untrusted SSL connections with the addition of new "blocking rule" options.

Some of the tasks done by EMET Agent in previous versions of the tool have been picked up by a new feature called EMET Service.

"The EMET Service, among other things, takes care of evaluating the Certificate Trust rules, appropriately dispatching EMET Agents in every user’s instance, and automatically applying Group Policy settings pushed through the network. Also, a service offers more resiliency and better ability to being monitored," the EMET Team explained in a blog post.

Re there have been several research papers on how to bypass or disarm EMET protections, which is why the latest release has been hardened against such techniques, Microsoft said.

Chris Betz, senior director of the Microsoft Security Response Center, revealed that EMET 5.0 also brings some new configuration options to deliver additional flexibility, and new default settings to provide stronger protection immediately after the solution is installed.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.