Feeds

How safe is VMware's hypervisor?

The debate rages on

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

CanSecWest VMware researcher Oded Horovitz got an earful when he told a group of security buffs his company's virtualization software was theoretically impenetrable. Speaking at the CanSecWest conference in Vancouver, his hour-long presentation, titled Virtually Secure, included a slide titled "VM Escape" that carried the following bullet point:

"Though impossible by design, the hypervisor can still have implementation vulnerabilities."

It was more than some attendees could bear.

"And the Titanic was unsinkable," Mike Poor, a senior security analyst for IntelGuardians shot back. Other attendees complained that security increasingly looked like an afterthought as VMware continued to add new bells and whistles to its Workstation and ESX Server products - many from third party companies.

"I take strong issue with your saying 'trust the hypervisor' when you're expanding it to run other people's APIs," one attendee, who asked not to be identified, told Horovitz immediately following his talk.

The topic is of supreme importance to the future of security. Researchers already depend on VMware Player and Workstation as a means of protecting their machines when analyzing Trojans and other types of malware. And increasingly, large companies are considering virtualization as a means of insulating their servers against rootkits and other types of malware that can burrow into the deepest recesses of their machines and remain there undetected for months or years.

VMware is increasingly holding out ESX as a safer alternative for enterprise computing. It provides a hypervisor that runs directly on top of the hardware and in turn allows one or more "guest" operating systems to run above. VMware says the hypervisor provides an additional layer of protection that is much more resistant to malware than various operation systems. What's more, the hypervisor can sit below the OSes and perform various tasks such as malware detection and patch monitoring.

If the dissenters sound skeptical that hypervisor is impervious, they have their reasons. Poor said his firm received $1.2m from the Department of Homeland Security to look for ways attackers can penetrate hypervisors and ways security researchers can detect and prevent such escapes. Because the two years worth of research is under lock and key, Poor could only say: "We were successful in all three."

And it was only last month that researchers from Core Security Technologies found a bug in VMware's desktop virtualization applications that in some cases allowed attackers to take complete control of the underlying PC. While the vulnerability didn't affect the hypervisor in ESX, it did demonstrate that the protective layer in related VMware products wasn't always as secure as some researchers assumed.

"I'm thrilled they're taking security seriously," Poor said in an interview. "I'm thrilled they have people like Oded on board, and I'm thrilled that the community has brought security to the forefront of VMware's developers. I'm opposed to blindly trusting anything." ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Azure TITSUP caused by INFINITE LOOP
Fat fingered geo-block kept Aussies in the dark
You think the CLOUD's insecure? It's BETTER than UK.GOV's DATA CENTRES
We don't even know where some of them ARE – Maude
729 teraflops, 71,000-core Super cost just US$5,500 to build
Cloud doubters, this isn't going to be your best day
Want to STUFF Facebook with blatant ADVERTISING? Fine! But you must PAY
Pony up or push off, Zuck tells social marketeers
Oi, Europe! Tell US feds to GTFO of our servers, say Microsoft and pals
By writing a really angry letter about how it's harming our cloud business, ta
SAVE ME, NASA system builder, from my DEAD WORKSTATION
Anal-retentive hardware nerd in paws-on workstation crisis
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Protecting against web application threats using SSL
SSL encryption can protect server‐to‐server communications, client devices, cloud resources, and other endpoints in order to help prevent the risk of data loss and losing customer trust.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.