Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Analytics

9/2/2009
04:52 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Five Ways To Meet Compliance In A Virtualized Environment

RSA, VMware unite security compliance and virtualization in new best practices guidelines

RSA and VMware have released five best practices for locking down virtual environments and meeting compliance requirements.

The steps comprise platform-hardening, configuration and change management, administrative access control, network security and segmentation, and audit logging.

"It's a good idea to talk about the intersection between compliance and security. A lot of compliance regulations are written assuming the systems are physical -- and that only certain administrators have rights to physical systems," says Jon Oltsik, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "What if financial information sits on a virtual system and on a system with other [applications running on it]? If a financial application runs as a VM on a physical system, where do the access controls need to be? How are the regulations going to change to accommodate that?"

And compliance doesn't always equal security -- just take a look at some of the biggest data breaches of late. Virtualization adds another dimension to that problem.

"You can have compliance without security and security without compliance," Oltsik says. "RSA doesn't want compliance to be just a check-off box. Rather, it wants to see good, strong, auditable controls that provide both" in a virtualization environment, he says.

"I think this is a good start," he says.

Here are RSA and VMware's five steps for securing virtualized environments and meeting compliance requirements:

1. Platform-hardening.

Configure the virtualization platform, both the hypervisor and administrative layer, with secure settings, eliminate unused components, and keep up-to-date on patches. Virtualization vendors have their own hardening guidelines, as does the Center for Internet Security and the Defense Information Systems Agency, according to RSA and VMware.

"Virtualization infrastructure also includes virtual networks with virtual switches connecting the virtual machines. All of these components, which, in previous systems, used to be physical devices are now implemented via software," states the RSA and VMware best practices guidelines. "Virtualization also introduces a new administrative layer for managing the virtualization infrastructure. To reduce the risk of unauthorized access, just as with physical systems, the hypervisor layer and the administrative layer must be properly 'hardened.'"

2. Configuration and change management.

Extend your current change and configuration management processes and tools to the virtual environment, as well.

"Pay special attention to the speed of changes enabled by virtualization, VM mobility, and offline VMs coming online," the paper says. "Ensure that patch management practices extend to the virtualization software in addition to the virtual machines."

3. Administrative access control.

Server administrators should have control over virtual servers and network administrators, over virtual networks, and these admins need to be trained in virtualization software in order to avoid misconfiguration of systems.

"Careful separation of duties and management of privileges is an important part of mitigating the risk of administrators gaining unauthorized access either maliciously or inadvertently. Depending on the sophistication of the virtualization software, it is possible to define specific roles and granular privileges and assign those to individual administrators," the report says.

And only allow authorized administrators admin access to the hypervisor. It's best to disable all local administration of the hypervisor and provide it via a central management application.

4. Network security and segmentation.

Deploy virtual switches and virtual firewalls to segment virtual networks, and use your physical network controls in the virtual networks as well as change management systems. Be sure that machines handling protected data are isolated, and deploy virtual IDS/IPSes.

PCI DSS doesn't directly state whether virtual machines processing cardholder data can be placed on the same physical server as virtual machines that do not handle that type of data.

"Organizations should work with their auditors to demonstrate how they plan to securely segment their network, including their specific use of the virtual network segmentation technologies. Depending on the applications and current security posture, organizations and auditors can work together to determine the acceptable mix of virtual and physical network segmentation to isolate in-scope systems," the paper says.

5. Audit logging

Monitor virtual infrastructure logs and correlate those logs across the physical infrastructure, as well, to get a full picture of vulnerabilities and risks. Adapt automated tools and SIEM systems to integrate logs from both environments.

Enterprise Strategy Group's Oltsik says he'd add a couple more best practices to the list. "I'd add to separation of duties to define a lot of the administrative privileges and make sure there isn't any root access," he says. "You want to audit access control."

And start monitoring traffic between VMs. That way, "you can start to understand how the virtual world shakes out versus the physical world," he says. "There's going to be a hybrid of them over time."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
Data Leak Week: Billions of Sensitive Files Exposed Online
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  12/10/2019
Lessons from the NSA: Know Your Assets
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  12/12/2019
4 Tips to Run Fast in the Face of Digital Transformation
Shane Buckley, President & Chief Operating Officer, Gigamon,  12/9/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-19797
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-15
read_colordef in read.c in Xfig fig2dev 3.2.7b has an out-of-bounds write.
CVE-2019-5252
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-14
There is an improper authentication vulnerability in Huawei smartphones (Y9, Honor 8X, Honor 9 Lite, Honor 9i, Y6 Pro). The applock does not perform a sufficient authentication in a rare condition. Successful exploit could allow the attacker to use the application locked by applock in an instant.
CVE-2019-5235
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-14
Some Huawei smart phones have a null pointer dereference vulnerability. An attacker crafts specific packets and sends to the affected product to exploit this vulnerability. Successful exploitation may cause the affected phone to be abnormal.
CVE-2019-5264
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-13
There is an information disclosure vulnerability in certain Huawei smartphones (Mate 10;Mate 10 Pro;Honor V10;Changxiang 7S;P-smart;Changxiang 8 Plus;Y9 2018;Honor 9 Lite;Honor 9i;Mate 9). The software does not properly handle certain information of applications locked by applock in a rare condition...
CVE-2019-5277
PUBLISHED: 2019-12-13
Huawei CloudUSM-EUA V600R006C10;V600R019C00 have an information leak vulnerability. Due to improper configuration, the attacker may cause information leak by successful exploitation.