Security Challenges to Consider
While virtualization can bring a lot of benefits to users, there are a number of security issues which should be consider. One of the most prominent of these is called "break out" attacks, a situation in which criminals will escape from a virtual machine designed for guests in order to launch attacks against the hypervisor, allowing them to gain control over the host.
This is a looming threat, and a viable attack could occur at any time. When it comes to virtualization implementation, there is a great deal of uncertainty that many enterprises encounter. As with any type of technology, there have been arguments for and against virtualization when it comes to security.
While there are many security concerns that should be addressed, it has not yet become clear whether they are larger than contemporary security concerns. Some people would argue that it allows things to have a higher level of security, particularly via the hardware since you are moving things about, and this makes it harder for people to figure out the location of the virtual environment.
You also have the option of setting up traps which will allow you to see anyone who attempts to gain external access. At the same time, there are some people who say that virtualization is less secure since you must give greater access to the storage.
This is true for the network servers as well. The issue of virtualization security has become more pronounced in recent years. Many people are still not certain whether or not virtual environments have higher levels of security than physical environments.
As of this writing, no one is quite sure, and this includes the likes of Microsoft, which is one of the top virtualization security vendors. Organizations such as the NSA will process the applications it has on the identical physical server, and it does this so that the virtual machines will become isolated in a manner that will allow the virtual machine to be penetrated.
Because an organization as powerful as the NSA makes use of this security measure, some believe that it is more than good enough for them. Despite this, the technology is still in its infancy, and it will take time for vulnerabilities and defense mechanisms to be fully developed.
What this clearly means is that security breaches are a potential reality for those who make use of virtualization. The reason for this is because this technology makes use of layers, and layers can always be exploited. The hypervisor itself is a very prime target, much more so than one physical server. There is little doubt that hackers somewhere in the world are looking to penetrate the hypervisor.
At the same time, as with any new technology, it is important to be prepared to make the necessary trade offs. The biggest trade off that you will make when dealing with virtualization is its utility. There is the risk benefit analysis, and each organization must go through it. The good news is that the benefits of using virtualization outweigh the risks by a very large margin. For example, if you have a total collection of 2,000 servers, and you are making use of a layer 2 network that is connected between two data centers, it is very likely that you want all of the virtual machines to be transported from a single data center to another.
What you will give up in terms of security, you will make up with flexibility. When you consider the standard setup, either one of the virtual machines could be stored inside of any one physical machine, and if this physical machine is approaching its maximum capacity, it is possible to move the virtual machine away from it.
At the same time, mobility comes with a number of different problems. While flexibility and mobility are generally good things, enterprises could get in trouble with regulators. Laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act need the enterprises to have policies set in place which designate the applications that may run, and the other applications they function with.
There is also the PCI, or Payment Card Industry regulation, which makes it mandatory for enterprises to keep track of every connection which is made to the PCI server at the level of the network. The problem is, this is a tough regulation to follow when you are working in a virtual environment.
The virtual machine is not only highly mobile, but it also does not have the identity that is typical with a server that is physical. This means that it is critical for enterprises to make sure that the placement policies for the organization are handled in a manner which allows them to be audited.
In addition to making sure they follow the policies, organizations are now forced to show this in audits. The length of time that a virtual machine is in existence can range from a few minutes to a few years, and these factors are largely dependent on the amount of time in which it is used, and this can make security issues even harder to deal with. Enterprises that make the decision to go with server virtualization will need to have a way in which they can distinctly locate every virtual machine, ensuring that the placement within the enterprise is controlled by policies. This also means that the virtual machines will need to be secured.