Many organizations are starting to see the benefits of evolving their data centers. Research has shown that going virtual has allowed businesses to operate more efficiently. However, going virtual does come with some risks. Organizations must educate themselves on the potential security risks involved with the data center. As organizations increase the number of virtual machines, they may corrupt their network security infrastructure. Trying to interchange some of the mechanisms may cause even more problems.
Also, new Virtual Data Centers are prone to introducing new risks into the environment. All of this has left organizations searching for ways to deal with threats such as hyper-jacking, misconfiguration, and side channel damage. Virtual Data Centers must be able to address all of the potential threats. Luckily, there are several best practices that Virtual Data Centers can use to address these issues.
Why Virtual Data Centers Are In Demand
Many organizations are transitioning to Virtual Data Centers in order to increase their profit margins and economies of scale. Recent technological developments have allowed companies to improve their consolidation ratios. As such, many organizations are now mandating a transition to virtualization. However, organizations must analyze every step of the virtual data center so that they will not be vulnerable.
Government of Canada Policies
The Government of Canada has implemented several policies regarding government security, security management, and privacy practices to address the issue. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat also created the Financial Administration Act, and it’s important that any organizations that have virtual data centers adhere to the policy. Organizations also strive to adhere to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The Government of Canada mandates that any organizational level activities should work with the main security program to manage and improve the strategies associated with IT security related risks. All information system level activities should be designed with the intention of making sure that the business activities operate properly and the security controls function properly. Any issues regarding security controls should be assessed and reported. Organizations have to weigh issues related to initiation, acquisition, development, installation, integration, and maintenance.
What Do Virtualized Data Centers Entail?
Virtualized Data Centers help serve physical resources as well as the service requesting the resource. Virtualized Data Centers handle issues related to networks, servers, and storage. By handling these issues, Virtual Data Centers show off their flexibility. However, all of the issues must be addressed without hurting security. While the process leads to increased cost savings, many organizations recognize that there is a fine line to walk.
Virtual Data Centers merge multiple networks. Some networks are separated, though that is an expensive process. Other networks are only separated by small fractions, which are inexpensive, but may not give organizations the quality that they are looking for. The data network is used to communicate. Most of the activity on this network is confidential. The management network helps the hypervisor and virtualization management communicate with each other. The network handles any logging and monitoring issues. The management network must be isolated in order to protect the virtual infrastructure. The storage network helps transfer messages to different servers. Threat actors may infiltrate the network and compromise it. The Live Migration Network helps manage any issues between migration data network operations.
Network Security Zones
Network Security Zones help ensure that the data network is adhering to security policies and requirements. Most of the resources are protected by complex safeguards. Organizations have to make sure that they do not corrupt the Network Security Zones through implementing these Virtual Data Centers. Security boundaries use firewalls to ensure the safety of Network Security Zones. Intrusion Detection Systems also help locate corrupt behavior.
The Public Access Zone helps establish new sessions with the help of proxy servers. The Restricted Zone hosts some of an organization’s most sensitive information. The Management Zone handles an organization’s administrative systems. Network Security Zones primarily group assets based on their function and sensitivity. Segmenting the networks helps reduce the chances that they will be compromised. Each segment has different security controls, which strengthens the interior of the network.
Virtual Data Centers often use hypervisors that are compatible with the physical hardware. Multi-core processors include innovative threading technology. Virtual Data Centers also have more adapters to assist all of the networks. Physical switches handle some network functions. Protection rings help ensure that codes do not become compromised. They also help secure any vulnerable areas. Machines on the same server can use adapters and switches to network with each other.
Virtual Machine Components
Virtual Machines include the hardware operating system, and different application. The operating system relies on the hypervisor to reach the physical hardware of the system. The Virtual hardware functions so that operating systems can act like they would on a normal physical system. Virtual software allows operating systems to store virtual memory. Virtual machines can handle different applications.
Hypervisors divide resources throughout the virtual machines that it hosts. They prefer logical processes. Hypervisors divide the resources so that one machine does not become too powerful. If one machine becomes too powerful, the others may lose out on important resources. Each machine has unique resources. In a Virtual Data Center, virtual machines are only able to network through accepted communication.
Security appliances may function virtually. This operation creates a virtual security appliance. Virtual security appliances combine operating systems with security applications. Organizations use virtual security appliances to differentiate security functions from one another. Organizations use introspection to block fraudulent software. Some organizations use segregated boundaries to manage natural traffic, while others use a more virtual approach. Organizations can also use a hybrid approach that forces network traffic to go through physical security appliances.
Organizations often use separation of duties to ensure that none of the company leaders have absolute power to execute every transaction. This is also true in regards to Virtual Data Centers, as every leader should have a specific role. Different leaders should fill security infrastructure and operating system management roles. Virtualization management is also important. Attackers are a constant threat to corrupt the data on virtual machines. In order to prevent these dangerous attacks, organizations should assign a leader for each network security zone.
Virtual Data Center Best Practices
- Avoid Merging Network Security Zones
Only use servers in the same Network Security Zone.
- Take Time To Consolidate
Be aware that consolidating too much can impact the entire Virtual Data Center.
- Use Different RZs
Use different RZs for every network security zone’s storage network.
- Keep All Security Functions Separate
Each security function should be kept separate from other security functions and the systems that they are serving. That will ensure that the Virtual Data Center functions properly.
- Use Different MZs
Each network security zone should have its own MZ. In order for the Virtual Data Center to function properly, there should never be any direct connectivity.
- Use Different Networks
In order to secure the Virtual Data Center, it is important to use different data, storage, and management networks.
- Separate The Boundary
Separating the boundary in a Virtual Data Center will prevent a security breach or misconfiguration issues.
- Bare-Metal Hypervisor
This type of hypervisor is more secure than hosted hypervisors. They have fewer layers and a smaller code base.
- Authenticate and Encrypt Networks
This is the safest way to secure all communication.
- Separate Cryptographic Services
Cryptographic services are vulnerable to some attacks. Isolation reduces the risk.
- Protect Every Layer Of The Virtual Data Center
- Envision The Virtual Machines As Physical Systems
Make sure that the virtual machines are properly secured as if they were physical systems. Use configuration management. Organizations should secure the foundational surface by getting rid of any excess services. Go through the operating system and applications and upgrade to the current patches. Introduce a guide to rely on. Periodically do malware scans and vulnerability checks.
- Develop Controls To Separate Network Security Zones
Network Security Zones help separate information systems. However, that should not stop organizations from checking the security of the zones. If multiple applications are using the same zone, there could be security boundary issues. Use controls such as SDN micro-segmentation.
- Use Co-location
By co-locating virtual machines, organizations can protect them from malware. Be careful when managing virtual machines that belong to different organizations.
- Protect The Management Interfaces
Use a two-step authentication and a safe management console. Make sure that all communications are secure. Organizations should also get rid of excess interfaces.
- Image Management
Image management can assist organizations by allowing them to address Virtual Machine issues. Organizations should reduce their storage size and the amount of snapshots that they take.
- Control Virtual Machine Theft
Virtual Machines are vulnerable to theft in certain parts within the Virtual Data Center. Using logical access controls can help stabilize the machines. In order for the controls to work, organizations have to utilize them at multiple layers throughout the Virtual Data Center
- Layer 2 Protection
Layer 2 damage still occurs in badly configured switches. Organizations must develop proper switch configurations and spread them throughout the Virtual Data Center.
These best practices will help ensure that Virtual Data Centers become more secure.