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OS maker calls for secure virtualization machines

Posted: 09 Dec 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:virtualization? computing? security?

Dan O'Dowd , CEO, Green Hills Software, warns about the danger that the virtualized computing world will be overrun by uncontrolled hacks exploiting non-secure devices and drivers. He urges the industry to rethink virtualization.

"Virtualization doesn't add anything to security. You've got to add security to virtualization," he told a gathering of customers, partners and editors at a Green Hills' Elite Users Technology Summit.

O'Dowd cited reports indicating only 60 percent of Pentagon computers have intrusion-detection systems. Referring to the WikiLeaks leaks scandal, he remarked "It's out of control, and I assume will go wild in the next few years," he said.

Virtualization advocates argue that virtualization systems are more secure than traditional OS because they are less complex than traditional OS, O'Dowd said. They say that viruses and worms will be contained within the virtual machine and can't escape. However, this only works if the virtualization system itself is secure, O'Dowd warned.

A second challenge to virtualization machines is the use of device drivers which are exploited as gateways for malicious code. The vendors supplying hardwaresuch as USB devicesare generally less experienced with writing device drivers and ensuring their security.

"These device drivers are a constant source of security vulnerabilities," he said.

O'Dowd said another supposed fix for such problems, I/O memory management units (MMUs), is flawed. MMUs allow the device to access only certain parts of memory.

"It is an important tool in building a secure system," O'Dowd said. "You can't say just because I have one (I/O MMU) , I'm safe. You have to use it correctly. We program it custom for each device."

- Brian Fuller
EE Times

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