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Virtualization security best practices in wake of ESX hypervisor code leak

As security pros wait for more details about the VMware ESX hypervisor source code leak, should they be panicking?

Well no, not yet, anyway. Without knowing exactly what source code was leaked, it’s hard to know the extent of the threat, security experts have said. However, the answer may come soon — there are rumors that hackers will release more source code on Saturday.

Until then, virtualization security experts are offering some advice for enterprises running ESX. As with most things in security, much of the advice has to do with simply following best practices. However, virtualization security best practices may not always be at the top of an organization’s to-do list; the code leak should provide some prodding.

First off, organizations should block all Internet access to the hypervisor platform — especially to the Service Console — which is something they should already be doing, according to Dave Shackleford, principal consultant at Voodoo Security and senior vice president of research and CTO at IANS. They should also make sure all VMs are patched and restrict any copy/paste or other functionality between the VM and ESX host, he said in an email. (On the patching front, organizations using ESX should pay attention to last week’s security bulletin from VMware about an update for the ESX Service Console Operating System (COS) kernel to fix several security issues).

“Finally, they could set up ACLs or IDS monitoring rules to look for any weird traffic to those systems from both internal and external networks, and do the same on any virtual security tools if they’ve got them,” Shackleford said.

Edward Haletky, owner of AstroArch Consulting and analyst at the Virtualization Practice, wrote in a blog post that organizations should follow virtualization security best practices to pre-plan for the release of the ESX hypervisor code.

“Segregate your management networks, employ proper role-based access controls, ensure any third-party drivers come from well-known sources, set all isolation settings within your virtual machine containers, at-rest disk encryption, properly apply resource limits and  limit para-virtualized driver usage,” he wrote.

Any attacks arising from the code leak will show up shortly after the code is made available, but won’t increase the risk beyond where it is today, Haletky wrote.

“The use of best practices for securing virtual environments is on the rise, but we are still a long way from our goal. Just getting proper management network segregation is an uphill battle. If there is currently a real risk to your virtual environment, it is the lack of following current best practices, not an impending leak of code,” he said.

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