A buffer-overflow vulnerability in the latest version of America Online Inc.’s popular Instant Messenger (AIM) chat software could let remote attackers break into a victim’s system and execute arbitrary code.

The vulnerability involves a feature of AIM Version 4.7 that lets users invite other AOL members to play online games with them, according to Matt Conover, a founding member of w00w00 Security Development, an online security research group that discovered the flaw. The vulnerability results from an overflow in the code that parses a game request. A hacker could exploit it to take control of a victim’s system and do things such as downloading and executing a malicious file from the Internet.

Scientists use optics to speed data transfer on chips

Researchers at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University have developed a technique that allows them to use light to send data between microchips, the university announced. The technology will increase the speed at which data travels in computer and networking systems, according to one of the inventors.

The new technique relies on the same technology used in fibre optic communication, but adds a new material for building chips to the equation. The new technique, called “silicon on sapphire,” uses thin slices of silicon placed on top of a layer of synthetic sapphire to achieve its effects, according to Alyssa Apsel, a doctoral student and co-inventor of the technology. The addition of the sapphire layer on the chip, through which the data is sent, is the breakthrough, Apsel said.