Protecting Your Hypervisor: When the Enemy Breaks Through the Line, Command and Control Is the New Soft Underbelly

Protecting Your Hypervisor: When the Enemy Breaks Through the Line, Command and Control Is the New Soft Underbelly

Keep your hypervisor secure to limit risk in your cloud network.
Image source: Flickr CC user LuxTonnerre

The foundation of modern day cloud security completely depends on the security of your hypervisor. It’s the hypervisor that controls and coordinates the functioning of virtual machines running on a server. With the shift to virtualization, the hypervisor becomes your most vulnerable point. In order to increase efficiency, organizations are condensing multiple virtual machines into a single server, but this introduces potential risk to the cloud network. If an intruder gets access to the hypervisor, then they can infiltrate every machine under its control. Let’s take a look at the security measures for protecting the hypervisor and how HyTrust tools can make it happen.

Systems Are Vulnerable

System configuration plays an important role in maintaining the security of networks. By securely configuring computer systems and network equipment, you can reduce many potential risks. Weak configurations or settings serve as easy entry points for cybercriminals. Some commercial equipment has default security settings; however, there are still some devices that prefer ease of use over security. According to Tripwire, “Modern computer systems have over 1,000 well-known ports with which to get work done. They also have another 40,000 or so ‘registered’ ports, and yet another 20,000 or so ‘private’ ports. These in turn support a vast number of services and processes.” The ports need to be scanned regularly and should be properly secured to prevent attacks.

Many vulnerabilities arise due to weakness in the code or coding errors, as Tripwire also points out: “Network device configurations can have an average of 2000 lines of code for each device. Each device configuration can contain hundreds of parameters for about 20 different IP protocols and technologies that need to work together. A Fortune 1000 enterprise can have over 50 million lines of configuration code in its extended network.” This means an increased focus should be on writing robust and secure code. Regular code reviews can also help in determining and fixing weaknesses in the system configuration.

Vulnerabilities Exist in Hypervisors, Too

The virtualized infrastructure is vulnerable to many security threats and breaches. However, when it comes to the hypervisor, the potential risk increases as it hosts various virtual systems and appliances. Security experts have discussed several flaws in the hypervisor platform that could allow compromise due to weak passwords or poor management practices, and several other exploits. The hypervisor is vulnerable to insider threats like virtualization and cloud administrators, as well as external threats like malicious attackers who take advantage of loopholes in the virtual platform and gain control over the network.

In recent years, the number of announced threats and vulnerabilities to the hypervisor have increased significantly. A recently uncovered vulnerability called VENOM has been making headlines lately, and it’s not hard to see why: “VENOM allows an attacker to escape a guest virtual machine (VM) and access the host system along with other VMs running on this system. The VENOM bug could potentially allow an attacker to steal sensitive data on any of the virtual machines on this system and gain elevated access to the host’s local network and its systems.”

VMware users don’t have this vulnerability, but the problem underscores the hidden flaws that lie in every system. That means you need to take added steps beyond securing the hypervisor. One of the key steps in securing the hypervisor is to monitor your virtual environment for malicious activities. You need to be monitoring constantly and using automation to ensure security configurations do not lapse. Always check the configuration and settings of the hypervisor to minimize threats. Lastly, network administrators need to set up access control policies in order to protect their network from unauthorized traffic, and send alerts if any unusual activity is found. It’s also a smart practice to provide limited access to the hypervisor platform, with access being granted only on a need-to-know basis.

There is no proof of any attack on the hypervisor so far. However, since the hypervisor is such a critical component of the virtualized network, it is an attractive target for cybercriminals. Therefore, it becomes important for organizations to take strong security measures in order to protect it from cyber attacks.

How HyTrust Addresses Hypervisor Risks and Vulnerabilities:

Advanced monitoring and logging helps to identify threats so you can execute a quick response. HyTrust’s tools offer strong encryption, efficient key management, and stronger access control policies. HyTrust offers security to critical components in a virtualized network by implementing Two-Factor Authentication. It acts as an additional security blanket along with each user’s login credentials. HyTrust’s CloudControl and DataControl provide high-level data security and comply with data security requirements. They enable hypervisor configuration hardening by using pre-built assessment frameworks or custom, user-defined templates. They also allow proactive monitoring of hosts, eliminate configuration drift, and ensure ongoing compliance according to a defined standard, without the need for manual effort or scripts. Contact us to find out more about how we can keep your organization secure.

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