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April 2010, Vol. 21

Virtualization security: How vulnerable is your hypervisor?

IT security is facing a bit of a paradox. On one hand, the sheer number of security-related regulations that network administrators must comply with is unprecedented. On the other hand, the industry is only just beginning to understand the security implications associated with virtualization. So what should virtual data centers do to address virtualization security? Before delving into virtualization security, let’s start out by taking a look at the hypervisor, which is used by virtualization platforms such as VMware ESX and Microsoft’s Hyper-V. There are a lot of myths surrounding the ability to exploit the hypervisor. One virtualization security myth is that it is possible for an attacker to compromise the hypervisor and then take control of the virtual machines (VMs) that are running on top of it. A similar myth is that an attacker may be able to use a weakness in a VM to break out of it -- known as an escape attack -- and seize control over the rest of the VMs running on the server. Although it is plausible that such attacks...

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