Virtualize Securely - VM Introspection and Automated Security in Action

Johnnie Konstantas

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The Public Cloud Gets Hacked Through a VM

Ironclad cloud segmentation and security will be the key to thwarting future attacks on VMs in the public and private clouds

Recently it was discovered that the Zeus botnet was running an unauthorized command and control center on a public cloud computing infrastructure, marking the first time the cloud has been used for this type of illegal activity. It appears that hackers exploited a web server VM, using it as a botnet control point.

Fortunately, the Zeus software has been removed, but the potential unfolding of events could have been significantly bad. Imagine, malware compromises a cloud VM. The malware leverages loose security controls to infect other VMs in the cloud. The malware leverages the compromised cloud VMs as a launch-pad for further attacks. And so on.

While Conficker and MIT research had provided warning signs of possible security threats to virtual environments and the cloud, the EC2 hack made it a reality. Now that virtualization has hit critical mass, expect more malicious activities to occur in the coming months.

The concerns here are clear — if you’re using a public cloud, is there a proper security posture on the VMs that you inhabit? Beyond that, what about your neighbor’s VM? Do they have security vulnerabilities that can be exploited?

Private clouds are equally as threatened by virtually aware malware that can prey on a vulnerable VM. Once inside, if there are no segmented security measures in place for each VM instance, nothing will stop further propagation. But the main difference is that private clouds typically host high-value corporate and financial data that would not be entrusted to public clouds. In other words, financial loss is potentially greater with compromised private clouds.

When it comes to securing the public and private cloud and their virtualized underpinnings, organizations should know the various security options and their associated risks. Existing firewalls, physical networking equipment and routing tricks get you only so far if granular control is required for segmentation compliance and scale. Security solutions architected specifically for virtual environments and the cloud are a good option (disclosure: Altor is in this market)

Bottomline, from a technology and organizational standpoint, ironclad cloud segmentation and security will be the key to thwarting future malware attacks on VMs in the public and private cloud. Be prepared.

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More Stories By Johnnie Konstantas

Johnnie Konstantas heads Gigamon’s security solutions marketing and business development. With 20+ years in telecommunications, as well as data and cybersecurity, she has done a little bit of everything spanning engineering, product management and marketing for large firms and fledglings.

Most recently, she was the VP of Marketing at Dato, a company pioneering large-scale machine learning. She was also VP Marketing at Altor Networks (acquired by Juniper), an early leader in virtualization security and at Varonis Systems. Past roles have included product management and marketing for Check Point, Neoteris, NetScreen and RedSeal Systems.

Johnnie started her career at Motorola, designing and implementing large-scale cellular infrastructure. She holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland.