There’s nothing scary about a virtual instance, right? Wrong. As melodramatic as this might seem, a virtual instance can have some pretty harrowing consequences if you aren’t completely up to speed on how it all works. Security risks should be your main concern. But before we go down that dark alley, let’s understand what a virtual instance really is and how it works.
When multiple Virtual Machines are connected malicious content and users
only need to access one machine to spread and access all other virtual instances.
What really is a virtual instance?
A virtual instance, also known as a virtual machine (VM), is an environment that is installed on software that can imitate dedicated physical machines. The user will have the same experience on a virtual instance as they would if they had their own dedicated machine. A hypervisor, which is software, imitates an entire computer perfectly, including the CPU, memory, hard disk, network and other hardware resources. This enables multiple virtual instances to run on a single physical server so they can share resources. The hypervisor can also simulate multiple virtual hardware platforms so that the virtual machines on one physical host, can run both Linux and Windows Server operating systems. It reduces operational costs by reducing the amount of physical hardware needed.
The process of Virtualization and sending communications between machines and log-ins
create more opportunities for security breaches. Log-in and user credentials can be
stolen without detection of an intruder.
Virtual instances make efficient use of limited hardware. This ensures maximum value for money with little to no CPU wastage because resources can be dynamically allocated. Not to mention the savings in operational costs and time spent on maintenance. Backups, disaster recovery, new deployments and basic system administration is much easier on virtual instances. Now, all this is pretty amazing. But, let’s go back to the issue of security here. There is much potential for security breakdowns and this is where we have to be on our guard. Let’s look at the biggest threats:
|Virtual Machine Sprawl||A virtual machine sprawl, or VM sprawl for short, describes an environment where there are simply too many instances to be managed effectively. Too many instances can lead to delays in keeping them all up to date with the latest security patches.|
|Data Loss, Theft, and Hacking||Virtual instances also contain critical and sensitive information, just like a real computer. It is easier to get data and system images from virtual instances because it is all accessible from the same physical machine. It would be much harder to hack into individual physical computers.|
|Lack of Visibility into Virtual Network Traffic||This problem is due to the inherent nature of virtual systems. Traffic between virtual instances originates at different hosts. The hypervisor is usually unable to monitor all communication between virtual instances. Thus, data may not be visible to devices like intrusion-detection systems.|
|Offline and Dormant Virtual Instances||Virtual instances can be both created and suspended with equal ease. When an instance is suspended or made dormant, they miss out on critical software patches and security updates. The problem arises when they are brought online again. Until such time that they are updated with the latest protection software, they remain a point of vulnerability. It literally takes seconds for data to be stolen from an ill-protected instance.|
|Hypervisor Security||The hypervisor controls all the virtual instance operations. If a single virtual instance becomes infected with malware, this could make its way to the hypervisor. If it manages to compromise the hypervisor, all the other virtual instances become victims.|
So what are the solutions to creating and managing a secure Virtual Instance?
Now that we understand the security risks involved, we can take steps to prevent them. The best way is to use trusted software, like Microsoft Server, to manage your system securely and efficiently. Virtual instances are powerful tools to increase productivity at a fraction of the “physical-machine” price. With the right management software and best practices, there’s no need to be afraid to start using them right now.