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Measuring REAL security in a Virtual Machine

The Center for Internet Security, a non-profit organization that specifies best security practices for Windows and other data center software, will be floating an early version of a "hardened" set of security guidelines for VMware's ESX Server. The center calls its guides benchmarks. They are written with a focus on security performance, not speed, as with other benchmark measures.

The guide was drafted with input from security experts, VMware, Configuresoft, and major virtualization users, said Dave Shackleford, VP of the center, in an interview.

Gartner analyst Neil MacDonald predicts that by 2009, 60% of production virtual machines will be less secure than their physical counterparts. That's because the rapid implementation of virtual machines breaks down some of the old security disciplines in the data center; the separation of duties between server administrators and security administrators is less distinct than with physical servers.

VMware's Virtual Center offers the option of VMotion, or moving a running virtual machine from one physical server to another. After the move, who has primary responsibility for that VM's security?

Many companies can't afford to have their virtual machine hypervisors, which are in direct contact with many system resources, more exposed than their physical machines to intruders or threat of malware.

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