The Virtualization Room

Jul 17 2008   2:26PM GMT

VMware updates its security hardening guide

Eric Siebert Eric Siebert Profile: Eric Siebert

VMware has just updated their security hardening guide, which provides recommendations for hardening a VI3 environment.

In addition to the updates for virtual machines and the ESX Service Console, they have now added new recommendations for ESXi, VirtualCenter Add-on components (plug-ins) and for Client components.

Here’s a brief overview of the recommendations for VMs and ESX hosts that have been added to the guide. No new recommendations were made for VirtualCenter except for the Plug-in ones.

Virtual machines:

  • Disable copy and paste operations between the guest operating system and remote console
  • Do not use nonpersistent disks
  • Ensure unauthorized devices are not connected
  • Prevent unauthorized removal or connection of devices
  • Avoid Denial of Service (DoS) caused by virtual disk modification operations
  • Specify the guest operating system correctly
  • Verify proper file permissions for virtual machine files

ESX Service Console:

  • Secure the SNMP configuration
  • Protect against the root file system filling up
  • Disable automatic mounting of USB devices

There are some general recommendations when using plug-ins and some specific ones when using Update Manager, Converter and Guided Consolidation. The guide recommends that the Update Manager and Converter plug-ins not be installed on the VirtualCenter server but should instead be installed on a separate server or virtual machine.

Also added is a section on client components. The guide recommends against the use of Linux-based clients when using the RCLI, VI Perl Toolkit scripts, VM console access initiated from a web access browser session and programs written using the VI SDK. The reason for this is that communications with Linux clients are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks because the Linux versions of these components do not perform certificate validation. This risk can be partially mitigated by ensuring that the management interfaces (ESX Service Console and VirtualCenter) are on trusted, isolated networks.

The guide suggests that client components are to verify the VI Client integrity because of the VI Client extensibility framework that was introduced into VirtualCenter 2.5 which provides the ability to extend the VI Client. It also recommends that one monitor the usage of the VI Client instances by inspecting log files on client systems. Both of these tasks can be quite difficult to do because there are no native methods for doing this.

Finally a section was added for securing the host-level management in ESXi. Many of the recommendations for ESXi are the same ones that were made for ESX. Some unique recommendations for ESXi include ensuring secure access to CIM (the hardware management api’s). Also, admins may want to audit or disable the special technical support mode which is designed to be used in case of an emergency but is sometimes used by administrators to access specific functions in ESXi.

You can read the updated guide in its entirety here.

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