In the rush to embrace virtualization, large enterprises may be finding virtual network security products in the data center to be lacking. But the bigger issue as it pertains to securing virtualized environments may be found in the simplicity of creating or removing virtual servers and organizations' loose access control practices.
"Part of the issue is if you ask someone what their concerns are with virtualization, they really don't know. They just know it's a complicated thing and there's going to be problems with it," explains Michael Davis, CEO at Savid Technologies, in Chicago. "If you look at what are the real risks, I think they might be different than what security companies say they are."
Education is one issue--but so, too, are internal policies and processes. It's a free-for-all that anyone on the IT team can add or remove virtual servers or virtual networks without much oversight or verification.
"Separate out the permissions so only the people that need the rights to do these things can. Doing so will reduce the chances of having a bigger issue going forward," he says. "The real problem with virtualization security is the fact that it amplifies the weaknesses in an organization. If your company isn't good at access control, you're not going to be good at virtual access control."
Dave Lewis, who is the founder of Liquidmatrix Security Digest, and has worked for the likes of the FBI and the U.S. Department of Defense, agrees. He says a great deal of the concern lies in the inherent lack of understanding that security measures need to be applied to virtual environments as they are in physical ones.
"This is not to say that this is true of all enterprises. This is based on experiences I have had from first person to anecdotal discussions with numerous organizations," he says. "There seems to be a lack of understanding and/or appreciation of the need for virtualization security within a wider audience."
Among the larger vendors offering virtual network security for the data center are Cisco Systems, HP Networking, Juniper Networks and VMware. Smaller players include the likes of HyTrust, Vyatta and Catbird. Some vendors are producing products designed to address this need by aligning themselves with certain environments, such as VMware's.
That's precisely the market opportunity that Sourcefire intends to tap with this week's rollout at VMworld of its latest products that address virtualized security: FireAMP Virtual and Virtual Next-Generation Intrusion Prevention Systems (NGIPS) with application control.
The new products are designed to provide the visibility and control to address changing virtual deployments and threats targeting those systems. Sourcefire's approach integrates directly with VMware's protocols and APIs that the vendor provides, thus allowing it to plug into the hypervisor.
Next: The Barriers to Virtualization Security