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 newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Gartnervirtualisationnetwork security

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

Jon Brodkin

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?