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Chip makers are designing a new generation of microprocessors to stop buffer overflow assaults, exploits that hackers often use to attack and extract data from PCs or servers. AMD's Athlon-64 chips for notebook and desktop computers and its Opteron processors for servers include features that provide buffer-overflow protection. Intel offers buffer-overflow protection in its Itanium chips for servers. A buffer overflow occurs when a program or process tries to store more data in a buffer than it was designed to hold. Operating systems that support the buffer-overflow prevention approach mark certain data in memory with a bit that identifies them as executable or nonexecutable. The AMD chips let users turn off the new security feature for legacy programs not written to work with the technology so that the applications can continue to function.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2004