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Microsoft Security Toolkit Gets Tougher On Exploits With Technology from BlueHat Prize Contestant

Black Hat 2012

LAS VEGAS – BLACK HAT CONFERENCEMicrosoft today released the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) 3.5 Technology Preview, which adds new Return Oriented Programming (ROP) defenses inspired by BlueHat Prize contest finalist Ivan Fratric.

EMET, which became officially supported in May 2011, is specifically designed to block targeted attacks against unfixed vulnerabilities, making it more difficult for attackers to gain access to systems.

Microsoft EMET 3.5Launched at last year’s Black Hat conference, BlueHat Prize is competition aimed at fostering innovation in exploit mitigations through awarding more than $250,000 in cash and prizes. The contest closed April 1, 2012, and the three finalists were named in June. The winner will be announced on Thursday, July 26.

"In less than three months, we successfully integrated one of the BlueHat Prize finalists' technologies with EMET 3.5 Technology Preview to help make software significantly more resistant to exploitation," said Mike Reavey, senior director of the Microsoft Security Response Center at Microsoft. "As the risk of criminal attacks on private and government computer systems continues to increase, we've been able to accomplish our goal with the BlueHat Prize contest, incentivizing researchers to invest in defensive research and develop technologies that could be put into play to help make the computing ecosystem safer."

Fratric, who earned a Ph.D. in computer science and is a researcher at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, submitted a solution called ROPGuard, which hinders attacks that leverage ROP, an advanced technique that attackers use to combine short pieces of benign code, already present in a system, 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 and can help protect against attacks exploiting memory safety vulnerabilities.

"Developing a prototype is one thing, but having it integrated with an actual product such as EMET 3.5 Tech Preview is something else entirely," said Fratric when he learned that his BlueHat Prize entry was incorporated into the toolkit. "I'm really excited about my technology finding its way to users and hope that it will help make them more secure against current threats."

“EMET 3.5 Technology Preview builds on the recently released EMET 3.0 toolkit that included features for enterprise configuration, deployment and event logging that help allow for real-time notification of exploitation attempts,” Microsoft said. “This is part of a continued development effort and a response to direct feedback from EMET customers seeking more options for the enterprise environment.”

Additional details on the effort have been published today in the paper "Building a Safer, More Trusted Internet Through Information Sharing."

The EMET Technology Preview 3.5 is available here via the Microsoft download center.

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For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.