The Security Challenges With Virtual Networks

A virtual network is an effective network option, taking server hardware and software, and instead of creating a physical computer network, using virtualization tools to create virtual machines (VMs) connected through the internet. There are specific variations such as virtual LAN (VLAN) and virtual private networks (VPN), which emulate physical LANs or protect user data respectively.

Companies prefer using these types of networks mainly due to costs and efficiency. This is because virtual networks are centralized, sometimes to one server, which also simplifies operations and maintenance. There is readily available software such as VMWare that makes the virtualization process easier.

The Dangers With Virtual Networks

Adopting new virtual environments can add security risks of their own. Some ways data center security threats are common and they can be found in physical networks, but they can be native to virtual networks as well. These are some examples of how a company’s virtual network can be attacked:

  • Start with the basics, virtually – spoofing - Virtual machines deal with threats that are similar to ones in physical systems. There are standard spoofing attacks on networks – making a machine or user on the network look legitimate. From there, false virtual machines can become a launching point for more attacks. If they are successful they can do things such as redirect the traffic from your IP address to one of their choosing, making it very easy to steal data.
  • Data as a point of entry for attack - Injection attacks operate on virtual environments by slipping in program instructions to perform the attacker’s bidding. SQL injection attacks are very most common because it can go around password protection in order to gain access to a database on a server.
  • Escape and control - A virtual machine escape, or VM escape, is an exploit more centered to virtual networks. A hacker gains access to one of the virtual machines, ‘escapes” the guest machine and gains access to the host operating system controlling the other VMs. From there, the hacker can control all other host machines.

How can you neutralize those threats?

Protection of your virtual network can start with solid IT security services – continuous monitoring, network assessments, PCI compliance, information security risk audits etc. – that will provide important safeguards.  Professionals can work on multiple security options on the virtual network created for your business. Businesses can improve data center security in several ways:

Security Challenges With Your Virtual Network
  • Isolation – Businesses have used VLANs to separate virtual machines from one another. (i.e. storage VMs from management VMs) Entire networks are also isolated from the base physical network as well.
  • Segmentation – Networks can be supported across multiple tiers that separate applications and databases along with other features from each other. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard uses segmentation to protect cardholders from the network.
  • Distribution firewalling - Instead of relying on a central firewall to make one point of security for the whole network, it enforces it on every individual host machine on the network.  These types of firewalls are the optimal choice for businesses that use VPNs.
  • Service insertion and chaining - Chaining adds additional layers of security, meaning that instead of there being a linear point of data transfer, there is now a series of redundancies. Cloud service providers use this to monitor traffic.
  • Taking snapshots - Up-to-date images of a virtual machine’s state at its “best” time is integral for a virtual network. A business that has dealt with data loss can use snapshots from previous versions to repair the damage.

Safeguarding a virtualized environment

Network operators and engineers, as they manage large virtual networks, need robust security solutions for businesses. Virtual machines can be tricked and corrupted, data erased or entire operating systems can fall under the control of hackers. Professionals can assist you, providing you with options such as shutting out suspicious VMs, pinpoint monitoring, and backup. These are just some of the benefits a solid team of network experts can provide so that your virtual network stays safe and connected.

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