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February 6, 2023

What Is Virtualization?

The creation of a virtual – rather than an actual – version of something, such as an operating system (OS), a server, a storage device, or network resources, is known as virtualization.

To create a virtual system, virtualization employs software that simulates hardware functionality. This practice enables IT organizations to run multiple operating systems, multiple virtual systems, and a variety of applications on a single server. Greater efficiencies and economies of scale are among the advantages of virtualization.

The use of software to allow a piece of hardware to run multiple operating system images at the same time is known as OS virtualization. Developed on mainframes decades ago, the technology allows administrators to avoid wasting expensive processing power.

Virtualization Security Risks

1. VM Sprawl

The uncontrolled spread of virtual machines created for specific workloads and then abandoned after serving their purpose is referred to as virtual machine sprawl. Because VMs with sensitive information are not actively managed and updated, their unchecked proliferation can lead to their compromise.

2. Malware & Ransomware Attacks

Virtual machines can also be infected with viruses, malware, and ransomware. These attacks can be launched by infected VM images or by users who have not received adequate security training. Without adequate isolation and security controls, an infected VM can spread malware throughout the entire virtual infrastructure.

3. Network Configuration

Even with a VM management solution like VMware vSphere, managing multiple virtual machines is time-consuming. Making poor configuration decisions, such as allowing file sharing between VMs or leaving unused firewall ports open, may be all it takes for a hacker to gain access to your virtual infrastructure. This misconfiguration can also affect physical servers, which can pose a security risk if they are not updated with the latest security patches and firmware.

4. Access Controls

An attacker who gains access to your virtual infrastructure, whether through physical access to host servers or through a compromised user account on your management platform, can cause significant damage to your systems.

5. Security of Offline Virtual Machines

Offline or offsite backups are critical components of disaster recovery planning. However, any VMs you back up offline retain their security updates and configurations from the last time they were online. Due to the lack of updates, such a VM will pose a security risk to the rest of your virtual environment when it is time to restart.

6. Workloads with Different Trust Levels

Without proper security controls, it is simple to build a test server in a low trust zone on the same physical hardware as a live production server with sensitive data that requires a high trust zone.

7. Hypervisor Security Controls

The hypervisor is the platform that allows virtual machines to run. As a result, without proper security measures to mitigate the risk of attacks, it can become a single point of failure for your entire virtual infrastructure.

8. Cloud Service Provider APIs

Intrusion attempts via APIs from your cloud service providers are a potential risk for organizations that run a hybrid implementation involving public and private cloud infrastructure. These APIs are intended to facilitate communication between your virtual environment and the cloud-hosted environment, and if they are not adequately secured, a data breach may occur.



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