Analysis: Why you should chew through VM bibles

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Analysis: Why you should chew through VM bibles
Horia Varlan, CC 2.0)

It makes poor bed-time reading, but getting your head around virtualisation is vital.

Adminstrators must chew through verbose and complex virtualisation security manuals or risk introducing holes into virtual machines, according to penetration testers.

The manuals, from companies like VMware, Microsoft and Citrix, detail hardening techniques that improve the security of virtualised environments, including the need to change default configurations.

Around 30 percent of the recommended changes are important for most organisations, but the configurations remain unchecked in many organisations, according to former penetration tester now founder of Australian-based VMInformer, John Reeman.

“Manuals are 100 pages of technical jargon,” Reeman said. “Many just don’t have the time to read them.”

“Most of the attacks that occur today are not because of inherent vulnerabilities in the technology, it is mainly mis-configurations because things are turned on that shouldn’t be, or because there is access that should be limited.”

Some of the mis-configurations lead to serious but “trivial" attacks, he said.

Inappropriate access rights in VMware’s Management Object Browser, used for debugging, is one of the most common configuration vulnerabilities, according to Reeman. He said almost every business he has assessed has left the feature unchecked and exposed their systems as a result.

Pure Hacking chief technical officer Ty Miller said he would target an administrator account to attack VMs.

“We’d try to exploit access controls for VM hopping,” Miller said. “You’ll often find that by attacking an admin machine, you could compromise [a hypervisor] which gives access to whole environment.”

But attackers would rather exploit operating system vulnerabilities, according to Chris Gatford, director of penetration testing firm Hacklabs.

“Everyone fails to adequately secure the OS,” Gatford said.  “From a professional penetration testing view, securing the OS is a higher priority.”

Copyright © SC Magazine, Australia

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