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Trend Micro shoots down Crisis Trojan threat to VMware

Last week, when Symantec researchers said they had discovered the Windows version of the Crisis Trojan could spread to VMware virtual machines, it was big news. But Trend Micro doesn’t see Crisis as a major threat for enterprises using VMware. In fact, executives at the company think Crisis’s potential to spread to virtual machines was overblown.

“There was a fair amount of hype,” Harish Agastya, director of product marketing for data center security at Trend Micro, told me in a meeting this week at VMworld in San Francisco.

The Crisis malware only impacts Windows-based Type2 hypervisor deployments, not Type 1 hypervisor deployments, which are what most enterprises use, he said. “It’s specific to Type 2,” he said.

Warren Wu, director of product group management in the data center business unit, wrote a blog post that provided more details on the different deployments and attack scenarios. Here’s his description:

Type 1 Hypervisor deployment – Prime examples are VMware ESX, Citrix Xensource etc. It would help to think of these products as replacing the Host OS (Windows/Linux) and executing right on the actual machine hardware. This software is like an operating system and directly controls the hardware. In turn, the hypervisor allows multiple virtual machines to execute simultaneously.  Almost all data center deployments use this kind of virtualization. This is NOT the deployment this malware attacks. I’m not aware of malware capable of infecting Type 1 Hypervisors in the wild.

Type 2 Hypervisor deployment – Example VMware Workstation, VMware Player etc. In this case the hypervisor installs on TOP of a standard operating system (Windows/Linux) and in turn hosts multiple virtual machines on top. It is this second scenario that the malware infects. First, the host operating system is compromised. This could be a well-known Windows/Mac OS attack (with the only added wrinkle being the OS is detected and the appropriate executable is installed). It then looks for VMDK files and probably instantiates the VM (using VmPlayer) and then uses the same infection as that used for the Host OS. This type of an infection can be stopped with up-to-date, endpoint antimalware solutions.

What makes Crisis unique, Wu wrote, is that it specifically seeks out virtual machines and tries to infect them. It also infects the VM through the underlying infrastructure by modifying the VMDK file instead of infecting the VM through more conventional avenues such as file shares, he said.

Trend Micro has made a name for itself in virtualization security, so what the company is saying about Crisis carries a lot of weight. Trend Micro was the first security vendor to partner with VMware and produce an agentless antivirus product. At VMWorld, the company launched the latest version of its Deep Security server security platform, which provides anti-malware and firewall protection, intrusion prevention and integrity monitoring to protect virtual servers and desktops.

The new version features caching and de-duplication functions to reduce file scanning and improve performance and hypervisor integrity monitoring. Deep Security 9 also includes integration with VMware’s vCloud Director and Amazon Web Services. That integration combined with a unified management console will enable customers to manage security of their physical, virtual and cloud servers from a single console, Agastya said.

Trend also launched Trend Ready for Cloud Service Providers, a program that provides certification that Trend Micro’s cloud security products – Deep Security and Secure Cloud– are compatible within a service provider’s environment, said Scott Montgomery, global strategic director of cloud provider business development at Trend. AWS, Dell, HP Cloud Services and Savvis are among the cloud service providers that have received the Trend Ready designation.

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