II. Risk of Virtualisation in Universities
2. Increased Channels for Attack
Hosting multiple virtual machines on a single physical machine increases the attack surface in the virtual environment and the risk of VM-to-VM compromise. Attackers can compromise a single virtual machine first and use the "virtual machine escape" technique to control all virtual machines within the virtualisation host. Moreover, the implementation of virtualisation may be performed by a number of departments and administrative units within universities. The presence of decentralised network within the universities may increase the risk of attacks on virtualised systems. As a result, appropriate intrusion detection and prevention systems should be implemented to detect malicious activity at the virtual-machine level, regardless of the location of the VM within the virtualisation environment.
3. Change Management Control
With virtualisation, there are often software or firmware updates in place below the operating system. Making changes to the virtualisation host are as simple as editing a file. However, it can impact the virtualisation host, as well the entire virtualisation environment underneath. Dedicated IT security staff within universities may not have relevant knowledge in managing multiple virtual machines instances. For example, inappropriately applying patches to a virtualisation host that support numerous virtual machines can cause problems and interruptions to production environment, particularly if a system reboot is required. Moreover, the risk of improper change control process for the virtualised machines is higher especially for the universities that do not currently have an established change management process in place within the universities.
4. IT Asset Tracking and Management
Since the implementation of virtual machines is comparatively simpler than bringing a physical server online, there is a significant amount of oversight through the asset tracking process. A standard process may not be in place to track and manage the information technology asset in the universities. Difficulty in asset tracking may lead to failure in compliance with licensing requirements and poor asset management.
5. Securing Dormant Virtual Machines
When a virtual machine is offline, any application can still access the virtual machine storage over the network. Virtual machines are therefore susceptible to malware infection. However, dormant VMs do not have the ability to run an antimalware scan agent. To implement virtualisation, universities should first secure these dormant virtual machines and maintain cohesive security in the virtualisation environment.
6. Sharing Data between Virtual Machines
Virtual network traffic between virtual machines on the same physical server never leaves the physical box. Traditional security tools may not be able to analyse and monitoring of the virtual network traffic and confidential or legally protected data can be compromised. To minimise the risk of unauthorised access to the confidential data, the confidential data should be segregated from other non-confidential data, e.g. placing them on a separate physical server.