Memory Corruption

You have learned the many ways to sanitize input in your app. It is time now to turn your attention to mitigating another major application security risk: memory corruption.

Course description

Managing memory usage has long been a requirement for application development. Unfortunately, most developers don’t do it very well. This can lead to leaks, overflows, and crashes in your app. Hackers can exploit these vulnerabilities with denial-of-service and remote code execution attacks. In this course, you will learn how mobile app memory is structured and used. You will learn about the most common overflow types, the errors that cause them, and how to avoid them. You will explore what pointers are, the various types of pointers, and how Swift provides special pointer types to help your code integrate more safely with Objective-C. You will also deliberately create a buffer overflow to observe the effect it has on your code.


iOS memory overview

Video — 00:14:09

In this segment, we examine the structure of computer memory and how memory addresses are used by your app. We also examine iOS Automatic Reference Counting, how Swift manages memory and the problem of retain cycles and how to break them.

Swift pointers

Video — 00:08:58

In this segment, we learn what pointers are, the various pointer types in Swift and how Swift uses unsafe pointers to help you write memory-safe code.

Understanding overflows

Video — 00:13:29

In this segment, we learn about app memory structure. We examine the different types of overflows including buffer, heap, stack and integer. We see examples in Swift and how to use the range contains() method and other mechanisms to mitigate the risk.

Activity: Creating a buffer overflow

Video — 00:08:30

In this example, we call a vulnerable C function to cause a buffer overflow and crash an app.

Meet the author

Chrys Thorsen is a technology and education consultant with 25 years of experience. Her work has taken her around the U.S. and overseas, including as a contractor for the CDC using technology to help fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.

During her career, she has acquired 40 IT certifications, authored over 25 textbooks on a wide range of IT subjects, including secure iOS and Android coding, and created an equal number of IT-related video courses. When not working, Chrys enjoys reading scientific articles and experimenting with Internet-of-Things devices. She currently lives in Virginia with her sister, her cat and her dog which, as she describes it, “have the worst sibling rivalry imaginable.”

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