60% of virtual servers less secure than physical machines, Gartner says

New analyst group research looks at security issues around virtualization

Sixty percent of virtual servers are less secure than the physical servers they replace, the analyst firm Gartner said in new research Monday.

This state of affairs will remain true until 2012, but security should improve substantially after that point, Gartner said.

Gartner predicted that by 2015, only 30% of virtualized servers will be less secure than the physical machines they replaced.

Virtualization itself is not inherently insecure, but "many virtualization deployment projects are being undertaken without involving the information security team in the initial architecture and planning stages," Gartner said.

Virtualization adoption is growing quickly. Just 18% of enterprise data center workloads that could be virtualized have been converted to virtual servers, but by the end of 2012 more than half of eligible workloads will have been virtualized, Gartner said.

"As more workloads are virtualized, as workloads of different trust levels are combined and as virtualized workloads become more mobile, the security issues associated with virtualization become more critical to address," Gartner said.

Gartner identified six common security risks associated with virtualization deployments. First on the list is that 40% of virtualization projects are undertaken without information security professionals in the initial planning stages, according to survey data from Gartner conferences. "Typically, the operations teams will argue that nothing has really changed -- they already have skills and processes to secure workloads, operating systems and the hardware underneath," Gartner said. "While true, this argument ignores the new layer of software in the form of a hypervisor and virtual machine monitor (VMM) that is introduced when workloads are virtualized."

Secondly, Gartner notes that a threat to the virtualization layer can harm all hosted workloads. The hypervisor, as a new platform, contains new vulnerabilities including ones that have not yet been discovered. "Gartner recommends that organizations treat this layer as the most critical x86 platform in the enterprise data center and keep it as thin as possible, while hardening the configuration to unauthorized changes. Virtualization vendors should be required to support measurement of the hypervisor/VMM layer on boot-up to ensure it has not been compromised. Above all, organizations should not rely on host-based security controls to detect a compromise or protect anything running below it."

Additional risks include the following: Network-based security devices are blind to communications between virtual machines within a single host; workloads of different trust levels are consolidated onto single hosts without sufficient separation; virtualization technologies do not provide adequate control of administrative access to the hypervisor and virtual machine layer; and when physical servers are combined into a single machine, there is risk that system administrators and users could gain access to data they’re not allowed to see.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags network securityGartnervirtualisation

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jon Brodkin

Network World
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?