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Buyer Beware with Virtualization Technology

As hackers continue to focus their attention on virtualized environments, those looking to adopt virtualization technologies should proceed with caution, according to report from InfoWorld.

According to the InfoWorld report, virtualization market leader VMware warned of at least 16 vulnerabilities last week concerning VMware ACE, VMware Server, VMware ESX, VMware Workstation and VMware Player.

The vulnerabilities could allow hackers to execute arbitrary code, cause a denial-of-service condition, access the system with elevated privileges or obtain sensitive information, InfoWorld added.

Virtualization offers the ability to partition different working environments in the same computer. Theoretically, it could provide a way for users to access networks of different security levels -- such as a private internal network and a public network -- from the same computer. This approach could save the cost of buying hardware, one for each security level being accessed on the desktop.

Many intelligence and defense agencies, for instance, want to offer their workers the ability to switch between the Secret IP Router Network (SIPRNet) to the Unclassified but Sensitive IP Router Network (NIPRNet) from a single box. And on a more general level, many agencies are looking at ways to consolidate internal and external servers, and set up virtual switches in between them.

But virtualization is not without risk. Increasingly in the past year, security issues have beset VMware as well as Xen, the two largest operating system virtualization applications. These programs are no less secure than other enterprise applications -- in fact, security researchers have applauded the code underlying the applications -- but there is an inevitable lag time between when a new application hits the enterprise and when it gets incorporated into the security profile of large organizations.

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