Microsoft Corp.’s Trustworthy Computing Group today released the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) 3.5 Technology Preview, which includes new Return Oriented Programming (ROP) defenses inspired by BlueHat Prize contest finalist Ivan Fratric. The EMET 3.5 Technology Preview is a freely available security tool that makes it more difficult for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities and gain system access. The BlueHat Prize competition, a program aimed at nurturing innovation in exploit mitigations through awarding more than $250,000 in cash and prizes, was launched by Microsoft one year ago at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. The contest closed April 1, 2012, and the three finalists were named on June 21, 2012. The company will announce whether Fratric or another BlueHat Prize finalist will receive the grand prize of $200,000 at the company’s Researcher Appreciation Party on Thursday, July 26, at approximately 10 p.m. PDT.
“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 located in Zagreb, Croatia, submitted a unique solution called ROPGuard, which hinders attacks that leverage ROP. ROP is 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. 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 this effort have been published today in the paper “Building a Safer, More Trusted Internet Through Information Sharing.”
EMET Technology Preview 3.5 will be available on the Microsoft download center July 25, 2012, at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=98e67522-0dbc-4664-8f62-b5e4fae5c609. The official BlueHat Prize competition rules and guidelines are available at http://www.BlueHatPrize.com. One BlueHat Prize finalist will take home $200,000 for the grand prize, while the first runner-up will win $50,000 and the second runner-up will receive a Microsoft Developer Network Universal subscription valued at $10,000.
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