New computer network security threat identified

February 22, 2008

Large companies are vulnerable to hackers when they network their computers for cost-saving live virtual machine migration, University of Michigan researchers say.

Virtualization, which allows multiple operating systems, or "virtual machines" and their applications to share one physical server, has been possible for decades, but live virtual machine migration is relatively new.

It allows individual virtual machines to migrate among several servers throughout the day with little service downtime, equalizing the load on the servers as it fluctuates. The security of live virtual machine migration has not been studied extensively, but the set-up is common in large companies today.

Hackers could intercept data and compromise the integrity of a virtual machine's operating system during live migration, said Jon Oberheide, a doctoral candidate in the electrical engineering and computer science department. The most popular software doesn't encrypt the information as it travels from server to server.

How does Oberheide know this? He hacked into his own migrating virtual machines.

"I was setting up a live virtual machine migration network in my office and I started poking around, and I noticed that it was totally insecure," Oberheide said.

As a short-term fix, companies can isolate their migration network from other network traffic or install hardware encryption devices on all their physical servers, Oberheide said.

"The important thing is to raise awareness of the vulnerability," Oberheide said. "Solutions are feasible, but they're not implemented by the most popular vendors. What is really needed is authenticated and encrypted migration so the attacker cannot perform these attacks, so that even if he can see the migration, he can't modify it."

Oberheide details his findings in a talk at the Black Hat D.C. computer security conference this week. He will present the paper, "Empirical Exploitation of Live Virtual Machine Migration." Other authors are research fellow Evan Cooke and professor Farnam Jahanian, both of U-M's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Source: University of Michigan

Explore further: Ocean monuments face possible loss of protection

Related Stories

Ocean monuments face possible loss of protection

November 9, 2017

The Trump administration is considering rolling back federal protections for a number of national monuments. While most are on land and relatively accessible, three are deep below the ocean's surface and many miles from the ...

Virtual Iron's Server Virtualization Is Ironclad

March 27, 2007

Virtual Iron Software's Virtual Iron builds on the Xen hypervisor and other open-source components to form an effective virtualization solution with a price tag low enough to keep market leader VMware on its toes.

Study dispels myth about millionaire migration in the US

May 26, 2016

The view that the rich are highly mobile has gained much political traction in recent years and has become a central argument in debates about whether there should be "millionaire taxes" on top-income earners. But a new study ...

Recommended for you

Old, meet new: Drones, high-tech camera revamp archaeology

November 24, 2017

Scanning an empty field that once housed a Shaker village in New Hampshire, Jesse Casana had come in search of the foundations of stone buildings, long-forgotten roadways and other remnants of this community dating to the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.