Introduction

Virtualization has become one of those innovative prototypes that could overwhelmingly revolutionize the way humans contemplate and approach computing. Recently, virtualization has had a high impact such that it is being placed in the same caliber with technologies such as Java and Linux. Virtualization of desktops and servers is being used in companies to leverage information.

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As with all other technologies, there is a reasonable ground to question the effectiveness of virtualization and its impact on an organizations security system. The VMware Virtual Network Security Assessment is a continuous assessment and monitoring of the virtual environment because of the fear of a VM being able to get access at the host level that may permit it to compromise any VM running (Buyya, Broberg, & Goscinski, 2010) in that host.

This technology has provided a framework that allows an organization to intensify its network capability without increasing its capital outlay. This paper delivers a general idea of the potential risks and control measures towards the implementation of a project using VMware Virtual Infrastructure Software.

Project Definition

Project Scope

Budget

The project budget is determined by evaluating the operation costs and maintenance. This is as shown in the table below.

Capital cost:

  • $15,000

Operation cost:

  1. Salary of team members
  • $5,000
  1. Maintenance
  • $1000

Total

  • $21,000

Objective

The main purpose of this program is to assess the VMware virtual network security. Other objectives include:

  • to identify the potential risks to the VMware virtual environment
  • to identify threat agents and threats
  • to determine vulnerabilities in the virtual environment

Assets

There are various assets in this project including the following.

  • the ESX Server service console;
  • the virtualization layer, comprising of the VMkernel and the virtual machine monitor;
  • the virtual machines.

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Virtual Storage

The ESX Server Service Console

The service console is an operating system that offers an interface allowing for the access, configuration, control and management of the ESX hypervisor. A user logged into the ESX server console can maliciously shut down or even destroy the VMs on that particular host (Ottenheimer & Wallace, 2012).

To prevent this, VMware ESX Server management encrypts access codes to stop access to the service console. It is possible for hackers to reconfigure many attributes of the service console if they get access to it and, therefore,it is vital to safeguard the service console.

VMware ESX Server is software installed directly to the servers hardware to add a virtualization layer between thehardware and the operating system. The physical server is divided by the ESX server into numerous movable and secure virtual machines that can operate alongside each other on the same physical server.

The comprehensive system of a virtual machine consists of BIOS, network, server memory and processor (Harwood, 2005); this enables operating systems such as Windows, NetWare, Solaris and Linux to run devoid of any adjustment in the virtual environment. The architecture of the hardware offers the ESX server full control of the virtual machine. The vMachines are built upon high security features that provide higher efficiency of the service levels than static physical environment.

A lookup at the VMware Server architecture.

Virtualization Layer

VMware ESX server provides the platform, x86 and controls the hardware. This platform virtualizes four key hardware components that include; the disk, network, memory and processor. Virtualization layer is strictly developed to support API essential for the management of virtual machines, and because of this it is not used for any other purpose. VMkernel cannot perform arbitrary coding because it has no public boundary.

The VMkernel interchanges on the host in operating the orders of the virtual machine and when the vMachines performance is halted, a background switch occurs and the processor records new values. The virtual machine monitor (VMM) is linked to each virtual machine. VMM uses binary translation to modify the host OS kernel code to run in a less advantaged processor ring.

The Vkernel receives an application form VMM so that it can finish virtualization. The VMkernel has been created by VMware to run virtual machines (Muller & Wilson, 2005). It manages the hardware and programs in terms of the sharing out of hardware resources in VMs.

Virtual machines (VM)

The guest operating systems and applications are run in containers called the virtual machines. All VMware machines are secluded from one another making it perfect for the guest operating system such that even a user with administrative privileges cannot be able to crack the layer of isolation. In order to access this layer, the permission from the ESX server system administrator is required.

This isolation allows security when many virtual machines are being run while sharing the same hardware. Characteristically, VM imitates that it is running in a physical environment. However, it requests hard disk, memory, CPU and network by a kernel that decodes these requests to the core physical hardware. VMs are developed on a virtualization

Platform that runs on the operating system of the server (Agesen, 2006) called the host operating system. Generally, a number of programs and guest operating systems are run on the virtual platform.

Virtual Storage System

Virtual storage is a system that customs virtualization concept as an instrument to permit better functionality within the storage system with the limiting factor being the number of bits (Buyya, Broberg, & Goscinski, 2010). A virtual storage appliance manages the memory that runs on a VM to generate shared storage devoid of additional hardware. It makes use of idle storage by presenting itself as a data store for VMs.

Fiber channel or the iSCSI SAN are some of the examples of virtual disk files that are kept in a high performance joint storage. The ability of the virtual storage to use a significant number of storage sites is neededbecause some programs are long and complex, hence the processor requires them to be in a central location for easy accessibility.

Controls

The controls in this project are divided into two main categories including memory virtualization and CPU virtualization

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Memory Virtualization

The RAM dispensed to a virtual machine by the VMM is characterized by the virtual machines BIOS settings. The memory is designated by the Vmkernel when it characterizes the assets to be utilized by the virtual machine. A guest working performance framework utilizes physical memory assigned to it by the Vmkernel and defined in the VMs setup record.

The performance structure that executes inside a virtual machine expects a zero-based physical location space. The VMM gives every virtual machine the fantasy that it is utilizing space, virtualizing physical memory by including an additional analysis.

The VMM keeps up a pmap Pmap information structure for every virtual machine to decipher physical page numbers (Ppns) to machine page numbers (Mpns). Virtual machine guidelines that control visitor working framework page tables or translation look aside support substance are blocked, avoiding overhauls to the equipment memory administration unit.

Separate shadow page tables, which hold virtual-to-machine page mappings, are kept up for utilization by the processor and are kept reliable with the physical-to-machine mappings in the pmap. This methodology grants normal memory references to execute without extra overhead, the hardware interpretation look aside support reserves immediate virtual-to-machine address translations read from the shadow page table.

As memory management proficiencies are empowered in equipment, Vmware will exploit the new competencies while keeping up the same strict adherence to seclusion. An extra level of indirection in the memory structure is amazingly compelling. The server can recreate the physical page in a way of transforming its PPN-to-MPN mapping so that it is totally trans-guardian to the virtual machine.

It additionally permits the VMM to interpose on the visitor memory. Performance structure or any provision in a virtual machine in order to address memory outside of what has been disseminated by the VMM would have effect for a limitation to be conveyed to the guest performance structure, usually bringing about a quick framework crash or an end in a virtual machine, contingent upon the working performance framework structure, which is occasionally hyperspace, when a pernicious visitor working framework endeavors I/O to an address that is outside typical limits.

At the point when a virtual machine needs memory, every memory page is focused out by the Vmkernel before being given to the virtual machine. Regularly, the virtual machine has elite utilization of the memory page, and no other virtual machine can see it or touch. Transparent page imparting is controlled by the Vmkernel and VMM and cannot be bargained by virtual machines. It can additionally be impaired on every host or every virtual machine.

CPU Virtualization

The VMM control system uses an interpreter which comprises of the following features:

  1. Binary Input is twofold x 86 codes.
  2. Dynamic Interpretation occurs at run time, incorporated with implementation of the produced code.
  3. On interest Code is interpreted just when it is going to execute. This dispenses with a need to separate code and information.
  4. System level the interpreter makes no presumptions about the code. Tenets are situated by the x86 building design, not by a larger amount provision twofold interface.

Sub-setting

The interpreters information is a full x86 guideline set, including all special guidelines; output is a safe subset.

Adaptive Translated code is balanced with respect to virtual machine conduct to enhance efficiency .

Throughout the typical control operation, the interpreter peruses the virtual machines memory at the location showed by the virtual machine program counter, grouping the bytes as prefixes, opcodes, or operands to transform middle illustration objects. The control interpreter collects moderate image objects into the analyzed unit, halting at 12 instructions or an ending direction usually stream control. Cushion flood attacks normally exploit code that works on unconstrained input without doing a length check.

Project Preparation

Team Preparation

In terms of project preparation, a team would be selected and trained to understand the system adequately.

Team Selection

The criteria to be used to select a team would be based on experience and knowledge. The team would comprise of individuals with at least a master degree in computer science/ computer engineering and over seven years of work experience in VMware virtual network sphere.

Introducing Team to the Project

The successful individual selected will then be introduced to the project, and have orientation to familiarize with the project environment. The team will be trained according to the nature of the project to expose them more to VMware virtual assets. This will give them more insight, thus positioning them better to the assessment process.

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Data Gathering

Administrative Data Gathering

Policy review

The security policies that may be implemented to ensure the network is secure are as follows:

  • Anti-virus policy: All computers should have an anti-virus system installed, or if it is installed, it should be frequently updated. The program should also be configured to provide maximum protection.
  • Backup policy: all the important files and data should be backed up in case of the systems failure or attacks.
  • Firewall policy: Firewall must be installed and configured for a full security protection from unauthorized access to GFI resources. It will provide network address translation and dynamic host configuration protocol services.

Procedure review

The procedure should be carried out and borrowed from literature. The team should review the literature to determine how such assessment has been undertaken in other similar projects

Training review

The data on training should be collected from the capacity need assessments of the team. The data collected include the training needs of the members of the team.

Organization review

In terms of organization review, the data to be collected include those on the strengths and weaknesses as well as the opportunities and risks associated with the organization.

Interviews

Interviews will be conducted among the team members to determine their skills as well as their training needs.

Observation

Observation is important for identifying data that can be visually seen. For example, data on the assets of the project can be collected through observation.

Technical Data Gathering

Design review

The team should develop a design to be used in this project. Ideas on how to come up with a better design can be obtained from the review of other similar projects conducted in the past.

Configuration review

Data on all devices that are configured with authentication models, such as passwords to the VMware should be collected. Also, all data that are encrypted and stored via the network should be collected. Other security measures may include configuring these mobile devices to be used only for the purposes intended for the business operations and not any other kind of work.

Architecture review

Data on the infrastructure of VMware virtual network is needed to assess the virtual environment.

Security testing network

The team should test the security to determine the risks associated with the network.

Physical Data Review

Policy review

  • Access policy: The access to the network resources will only be allowed to the authorized users with respect to their security levels and permissions. There should be security levels policy in a way that users access only the required resources according to their level of security.
  • Password or token policy: Access to network resources should be controlled by token authentication such as passwords, pins or biometrics.

Procedure review

The physical data needed include the features and information related to the assets of the network

Observation

The physical data can be obtained through observation especially in relation to the aspect of VMware assets and other tangible components.

Inspection

Through inspection the team will be able to identify physical risks, threats and damages on the VMware virtual network. This data will be relevant to the overall assessment of the network.

Risk Analysis

Asset

  1. General security risks of the virtual machine

This is a potential threat that could amount to integrity and confidentiality of the system. As a countermeasure, it is paramount to ensure that all intrusion detection systems including antivirus, malware and spyware filters are installed and completely up to date.

  1. Attack through the information system from another virtual machine

The probability of this is minimal. This is because VMkernel and the virtual machines monitor facilitate any access that takes place through the virtualization layer. Virtual machines are incapable of passing through this level of isolation.

  1. Attack due to denial of service through resource starvation

A very highprobabilityof attack and possible risk result occurs if the resources allocated to other virtual machines are consumed by one virtual machine causing degradation in performance because this incapacitates the ESX server host. Reservation of resources on each virtual machine safeguards them in case of high resource petition by the virtual machine under attack; all other machines have enough resources to operate.

  1. Attack via VI console

This is a potential risk and often available. VI console permits a user to link to the console of a VM thatin turn allows one to see what is contained in the monitor in the physical server (Carswell, 2013). Also, VI console could certainly allow a malevolent user to bring it down because it allows for power management and removable device connectivity control. Thus, any project design should be built on administrative levels so as to restrict the usage of IV console to a few people.

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Risk Assessment

Possible threat countermeasures:

  1. Infiltrate service console through an untrusted network

This is a possible threat that can provoke the integrity of the system; to prevent this, all internal network connections should be trusted and no internet connections should be permitted.

  1. Client information exchange through service console

This threat is possible if the service console accesses public WANs and insecure networks. To safeguard the integrity of communications, default encryption using secure socket layers is put in place. Also, connection uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) that uses 256bit and RSA uses 1024 bit key cryptography.

  1. Service console via red hat vulnerability

This is a potential threat that might also affect the integrity of the system. The threat is counter measured when the service console is provided by security patches by VMware that uses Linux 3, Red Hat Enterprise. The VMware checks all security threats that could pose a danger to the service console and issues of security patches.

  1. Service console through insecure services

This is a potential threat and it affects the integrity. Controlling the threat is accomplished by closing of insecure ports of services such as FTP and Telnet.

  1. Denial of service attack by filling uproot partition

Denial of service possesses a high threat to the system, and it usually happensif the root partition is full and cannot accept any more writes. It is therefore, necessaryto build distinct partitions.

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Threat Agents and Threats

Threat Agent

  1. SAN-based data

This agent presents a threat to other sources in the network

  1. Windows host running Virtual Centre

Threats

  1. Unauthorized presentation of SAN based data from other sources

Agesen (2006) says that the event of this threat is in most times unlikely and if by chance it takes place, then it would have a high impact on integrity and confidentiality. Once zoning is implemented to configure SAN, the devices outside the zone cannot be visible. On the other hand, LUN is performed at the server level to mask permission management (Buyya, Broberg, & Goscinski, 2010).

  1. Data capture or denial of service attack through virtualized storage.

The threats event is unlikely and could halt the integrity and confidentiality. VMs only have SCSI storage, but not HBAs; this isolation isrequired to both security and performance.

  1. Non-specific attack on Windows host running virtual centre

This is a possible threat that could compromise the integrity. This attack can be controlled by the use of standard requirements for any host; this includes installation of an antivirus system, spyware and any other standard security measures.

  1. Unauthorized modification of key virtual center configuration

The likelihood of this threat is high and could halt the integrity. VMwares infrastructure environment is demarcated in the vCenter database and some of it are only found in the vCenter server e.g. logfiles, cfg, vpxd,etc. Therefore, it is proposed to use (Buyya, Broberg, & Goscinski, 2010) Generate Virtual Center Servers log command that troubleshoots and debugs in the vMare program file menu on the vCenter server host.

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Vulnerability

The team should identify its resources to identifying and safeguarding the assets to ensure their security. This can be done through testing the network using similar applications and software that an attacker can expose some of the vulnerable assets in the virtual environment.

Security Risk

Risk Mitigation

Security enhancement in both virtual and physical environments is similar because in both cases, most security hardeningprocedures apply. These techniques are applied at the guest operating system level, which is the same in the virtual environment. Conversely, some security features that exist in physical servers are not to be found in virtual servers. This is because in some hosts such as ESX service console open up to attack vectors, and the console holds the keys that open up virtual machines (Siebert & Seagrave, 2010).

Risk Reporting and Resolution

Virtual host holds numerous amounts of data and if malicious individuals gain access to a host they can jeopardize the functionality of all the other virtual machines. VMware Security breaches in the virtual environment are fairly safe. However, it is still susceptible to security breaches especially when the remote and configuration settings are tampered with, therefore, it is imperative to be careful with them. VMware is set to disable any security threats and thus enable such features to lessen the security (Dekens, Renouf, Sizemore, Van Lieshout, & Medd, 2011). The host service console is the access to the whole virtual infrastructure and it is most vulnerable to attacks. Therefore, it is obligatory if passing out of multiple keys is halted by barring the control console and using it categorically when required.

Risk Recommendation

Assigning the virtual environment security control. Security is entirely necessary in the virtual sphere because virtual machines are condensed in one file that exists in a joint data store; any other extra store or change in operation in vSphere should be secured because they would act as attack vectors. Appropriate security control is vital for the safety of the host and virtual environment. Virtual Center Server consists of four central components:

  1. Privileges: A privilege facilitates or rejects users admission to execute activities in vSphere.
  2. Roles: A role is a set of rights that can be apportioned to a user.
  3. Users and groups: They are castoff in permissions to allocate roles from local Windows users or groups.
  4. Permissions: Permission is authorization that is given to an entity in vSphere and is comprised of users/groups.

Conclusion

The VMware infrastructure provides the best, safest and strongest virtual platforms in terms of security. VMware technology is of high standard and ensures that running most critical services is safe in the virtual environment. Also, the use of segregation through trust zones such as vTrust policy implementation technology and standard measures adds to a significant level of security.

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