Recently in malware Category

Several of the sessions I attended at BrainShare this year were on AppArmor. The project lead for that product presented several times, and several times he repeated this mantra. A Virtual Machine is not a security barrier. This is true for full-virtualization products such as VMWare, and paravirtualization such as Xen.

Yesterday's SANS diary had an entry about VM detection on the part of malware. As you can well imagine, spyware and adware researchers make great use of products like VMWare to analyze their prey. VMWare has handy snapshoting abilities, which makes reverting your VM to pre-infection state easy. Unfortunately for them, "3 out of 12 malware specimens recently captured in our honeypot refused to run in VMware." The bad-ware authors are also aware of this and program their stuff to not run.

What's more insidious is that there are cases where the malware doesn't use the VMware detection to not run, but to infect the HOST machine instead. While this may not affect something like ESX Server which is a custom OS, other products like Xen in full virtualization mode or VMWare Server running on Windows or Linux would be exposed this way. Figuring out that your malware process is running in a virtual machine is easy and scriptable, and breaking out of the VM is just as scriptable.

Virtual Machines are not a security barrier, nor do they make you significantly safer. They're just different.

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