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VMware promises better security, considers scheduled patches

Security enhancements, more and better warnings on the agenda

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VMware is thinking about emitting security patches on a fixed schedule, instead of its current just-in-time regime.

The virtualisation giant revealed its thinking in a post for VMware user group members, 1,700 of whom it surveyed for their thoughts on the company's security practices.

The results found “an almost even split between those in favor of a schedule vs. those wanting patches released immediately as they are available,” leading VMware to respond with a plan to “conduct some follow-up calls to gather more data to see whether it makes sense for us to stay with our current process or whether we should further evaluate moving to a regular schedule.”

The post also says many respondents “requested more detailed information in Security Advisories to help with risk assessments”. VMware agreed, saying “we need to provide more detail in our VMware Security Advisories (VMSAs). Your insightful feedback will help the VMware Security Response Center (VSRC) focus on the most important areas in which to improve our VMSAs in 2013.”

The survey also found that two thirds of respondents “Have established maintenance policies, schedules and are generally up to date with security patches (no more than 4 patches behind).”

VMware's response is that “While we are encouraged that two thirds of respondents are keeping up with security updates, we would like to increase that amount,” which sounds eminently sensible.

The company is therefore “considering some initiatives to increase awareness of security updates, as well as the potential for product improvements to reduce the burden of keeping up to date on security.”

The company also sees the need to do better for the two thirds of respondents who “protect their vSphere management networks, primarily using VLANs” as it would “like this protection to be higher; therefore, we will investigate ways to make this best practice guidance more visible in product documentation.”

The survey comes on the heels of a recent security scare that saw VMware patch a flaw that allowed malicious users to adjust settings in a virtual machine, a privilege usually only offered to hypervisor admins.

A representative of anti-virus vendor AVG recently opined to Vulture South that this incident is likely a precursor to a wave of attacks directed at hypervisors. The spokesperson had no evidence for that assumption, but if the consumer-grade security industry's FUD-flingers are starting to talk down virtualisation it seems a fine time for VMware and other virty vendors to get their houses in order. ®

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