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Enlarge (credit: Flickr user: Ivan T)

When a company like Microsoft needs to fix a security flaw in one of its products, the process is normally straightforward: determine where the bug lies, change the program's source code to fix the bug, and then recompile the program. But it looks like the company had to step outside this typical process for one of the flaws it patched this Tuesday. Instead of fixing the source code, it appears that the company's developers made a series of careful changes directly to the buggy program's executable file.

Bug CVE-2017-11882 is a buffer overflow in the ancient Equation Editor that comes with Office. The Equation Editor allocates a fixed-size piece of memory to hold a font name and then copies the font name from the equation file into this piece of memory. It doesn't, however, check to ensure that the font name will fit into this piece of memory. When provided with a font name that's too long, the Equation Editor overflows the buffer, corrupting its own memory, and an attacker can use this to execute arbitrary malicious code.

Curious how a buffer overflow works? Previously on Ars we did a deep-dive explanation. (video link)

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