The Virtualization Practice

Virtualization Security

Virtualization Security focuses upon end-to-end security, integrity, auditability, and regulatory compliance for virtualization and clouds. Virtualization Security starts where the cloud and virtual environments begin: the end user computing device. ...
We follow the user through the virtual and cloud stacks until they reach the application the user wishes to use to retrieve the data that is important to them. Virtualization and cloud security is implemented where there is an intersection between user, data, and application while maintain strict control of management interfaces. As such virtualization security looks into all aspects of security devices, tools, controls, and guides that impact or can be used to secure virtual and cloud environments.

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I came away from HP Protect 2013 wondering if current security sold by the traditional security players will actually scale to the hybrid cloud? Are these security tools still system-centric or are they moving to data-, user-, and app-centric? I feel that this move has started but has far to go. I do not think many of the current batch of traditional security services implemented in data centers today can scale properly.

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While at VMworld 2013, I started to ask 5 security questions that have been bothering me for some time now. Some of these questions apparently have no answers currently and others only have operational answers, no technology. Security of a secure hybrid cloud is a mix of procedures, policies, operations, and technology. These questions are about various aspects of virtual and cloud environments that have been nagging at me for some time now as well as problems I have faced managing our own cloud instances. Perhaps you have questions you would like to add to the list, if so please share.

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On the 9/5 Virtualization Security Podcast we discussed Hyper-V Security and were joined by Alex Kibkalo, a former senior architect at Microsoft who works as a Director of Product Management in 5nine Software. 5nine Software has developed the first introspective virtualization security device for Hyper-V and is a very large step forward. Introspective security has been missing from Hyper-V for a number of years, while it was possible to implement, the market has been so small that is was not feasible until now. Which implies Hyper-V is gaining adherents so has a need for better security measures.

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In order to sell the Software Defined Data Center, VMware needs to prove that it delivers a hard dollar ROI to the customers of the Software Defined Data Center. Commoditizing the expensive networking hardware business and commoditizing the expensive storage hardware business are two excellent ways for VMware to deliver that hard dollar ROI, and for VMware to be able to justify its price premium over competitive offerings.

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At VMworld 2013 and on the Virtualization Security Podcast there were many conversations about VMware NSX. These conversations ranged from how will we implement this new technology to security, scale, and other technical questions. In addition, NSX and what was needed to make it a reality may be the answer to a nagging security question. Brad Hedlund, from the VMware NSX team, joined the Virtualization Security Podcast to share with us some of the details around VMware NSX prior to the podcast.

When we look at the secure hybrid cloud, there seems to be a missing piece, a piece that is used to validate identity via the role based access control assigned to applications, data, and systems allowed to access that is dynamic instead of normal static firewall rules that are either port or vm-centric. The software defined data center needs security to move with it and not remain static. Yes we could manipulate the rules on the fly, but those manipulations require that we know who is using a particular VM at a given time and in the case of a server, the VM could be used by more than one user at a time, so we need something more dynamic. Privileged access to data needs to be enforced throughout the stack and not just within an application or by encrypting data. This is a key component of the software defined data center.

When we think of logging within the secure hybrid cloud, we tend to think of analytics, but there is more to logging than just reviewing the data there are also discussions on what to collect and from where as well as why collect the data? For security purposes we may start with collecting access data and work out from there, but most logs from complex systems such as a secure hybrid cloud include many different forms of log data and in some cases, not enough. Perhaps what log data you can retrieve may be a deciding point for hybrid cloud services as logs are used not only for audit purposes, but also for trouble shooting and forensics. What log data do you collect within your secure hybrid cloud?

The Hybrid Cloud has 100s if not 1000s of APIs in use at any time. API security therefore becomes a crucial part of any hybrid cloud environment. There are only so many ways to secure an API, we can limit its access, check the commands, encrypt the data transfer, employ API level role based access controls, ensure we use strong authentication, etc. However, it mostly boils down to depending on the API itself to be secure because while we can do many things on the front end, there is a chance that once the commands and actions reach the other end (cloud or datacenter) that the security could be suspect. So how do we implement API security within the hybrid cloud today?