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Lessons learned from the Animated Cursor Security Bug

A core tenet of the SDL is to take and incorporate lessons learned when we issue a security update, and there is a great deal to learn from the recent animated cursor bug, MS07-017, so I want to spend a few minutes to go over some of the things we have learned from this bug.

First of all, this code is pretty old; is in Windows 2000, and predates the SDL. The SDL has parts (i.e., design review, threat modeling, testing, and security push) that focus on the product as a whole, and parts (i.e., code review and use of tools) that are focused on code. In the Windows Vista process, we banned certain APIs, like strcpy and strncpy, and changed well over 140,000 calls to use safer calls. memcpy wasn’t on that list. We also built in a lot of defense-in-depth measures because we know that the SDL can’t catch everything. Let’s start by looking at some of the defense-in-depth measures we have in place that didn’t stop the threat:


The bug is a stack-based buffer overrun in code that looks like this:

HICON LoadAniIcon() {


memcpy(&myANIheader, untrustedData->headerdata, untrustedData->headerlength);

Because there are no candidate buffers on the function’s stack, there is no –GS cookie added to the stack, even though the code is compiled with -GS. This is not the first time we’ve seen code with no cookie, and this has made us rethink the heuristics used by the compiler when it determines whether to place a cookie on the stack or not. But, changing the compiler is a long-term task. In the short-term, we have a new compiler pragma that forces the compiler to be much more aggressive, and we will start using this pragma on new code.

View:MSDN BlogFull post

Microsoft, Windows Vista, Animated Cursor, Security, Bug, vulnerability

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