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What is a buffer overflow?

A buffer is an area of memory used to hold data for processing. It has a predetermined size. If the data being placed into the buffer is too large, is not checked and is allowed to overflow the buffer, it can have unexpected effects. At best, the excess data is simply lost.

"Buffer overflows" represent the most common security holes in programs and operating systems. They occur when too much data is loaded into a particular storage area intended for a smaller amount of data, which can cause errors or crashes. In the worst case, an attacker can use this to obtain control over another PC. The most important protection measures are regular software updates.

This article was updated: 07/9/2013