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What does 'unchecked buffers' and 'buffer overflows' mean?

I keep reading security bulletins about exploits involving "unchecked buffers" and "buffer overflows" What exactly do these terms mean?

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Buffer overflow occurs when an intruder floods an application's buffer by sending data that is larger than the (unchecked) buffer limit, allowing execution of malicious code. Both terms (unchecked buffers and buffer overflows) describe poor programming code by programmers who overlook security (the cause) by not verifying buffer data size and its consequence (the effect). With that said, servers (Web servers, database servers, etc.) are vulnerable to buffer overflow. Now is the time to patch servers, firewalls, routers, and so forth.

This was first published in May 2003

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