Protect your virtualisation infrastructure against cyber attacks
by Steve Dalgarno
There is no denying that virtualisation brings serious benefits to the enterprise environment by increasing IT systems agility, flexibility, and scalability, and creating significant cost savings. Unfortunately, while most organisations have addressed business efficiency through virtualisation, the topic of security in a virtualised environment is not gaining the same proper attention.
Virtualised applications and networks are not immune to cyber attacks, malware, and other such threats. A 2015 survey by Kaspersky Labs showed that recovery from cyber attacks on a virtualised infrastructure is twice more costly than attacks on a physical environment. The size and structure of the enterprise didn't make a difference.
Furthermore, the survey revealed that only 27% companies deployed a security solution specifically catered for virtual environments, despite half the respondents being aware of security risks. Kaspersky's research also revealed that overlooking security matters may result in IT expenses exceeding the benefits offered by virtualisation.
How can virtualised environments become less vulnerable to increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks? Consider the following points:
Additional security protocols
The more dynamic the virtualisation process, the more complex the security. As virtualisation adds technology layers, additional security controls must be established. Consider, for example, that sharing information in the enterprise environment is made easier with the convenience of virtual systems, but it can also provide a way for cyber threats to infiltrate the network.
Virtualisation is a proven software technology that makes it possible to run multiple operating systems and applications on the same server at the same time. Computer hardware was traditionally designed to run a single application on a single operating system, which leaves most computers vastly underutilised. Virtualisation is a proven software technology that makes it possible for you to run multiple operating systems and application on the same server at the same time with each virtual machine sharing the resources of one physical computer. Because each virtual machine is isolated from other virtualised machines, if one crashes, it doesn't affect the others.
Automated security tools
Securing a multi-layered virtual network is a gruelling undertaking. Virtualisation providers should be able to reinforce security through automated processes and applications within the virtual environment. A centralised management tool should be capable of reviewing security levels in the cloud at any time.
Protect your VM network against cyber attacks by deploying virtual firewalls that can secure and manage the communication among virtual machines, and shield any unauthorised correspondence or unwanted access. Virtual firewalls are known to be faster and cheaper in comparison to physical firewalls, which benefits enterprise network infrastructures.
Hypervisors or virtual machine monitors (VMM) create and run virtual machines (VMs). The physical computer where the VMM runs is called the host system. Each of the VMs in the system is a guest machine. There are specific hypervisors threats you should consider in your virtual infrastructure, from configuration errors to rogue VMs feeding on host resources. Your virtualisation technology provider should take these into account.
Malware developers have created new threats that can spread across the entire virtual network beyond the breakdown of individual VMs, which causes damage to any other replacement virtual machine affected by the virus.
However, enterprises should not forget that network virtualisation is among the safest alternatives for increased network security and allows for easier configuration and distribution of virtual firewalls. VM malware risks can be quickly mitigated by destroying infected virtual networks and creating new, clean networks.
It remains that virtual environments are to be trusted more than their physical counterparts, although enforced security against cyber attacks should be deployed.
Your virtualisation technology provider should be able to understand any vulnerabilities in the virtual system and provide comprehensive security solutions: anti-malware, connectivity and network access controls, API access, anomaly detection and intrusion prevention.