How does virtualization fit

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2007-10-01 Print this article Print

in?"> When considering the protection of specific resources, Whitely and Lambert go beyond encryption and data access controls. They talk extensively about "virtualization" as a security mechanism. But their use of the term virtualization sounds like theyre really just talking about terminal access. Clearly theyre just abusing a hot buzzword. Its true that virtualization can be involved in such setups, but its hardly necessary for it and arguably adds little value. I wrote a book on Windows Terminal Server back in 2000 and dumb Windows clients with no local state were perfectly possible back then. Whitely and Lambert also talk in this context about how updating in a virtualized environment can be done "natively" and is therefore better. But they must really mean "locally," and this too adds no value, since a non-virtualized Terminal Server has the same advantage.
What is the security value in this? Im not completely clear on it, since youre only really protecting the terminal, which is a low-cost item. The user still has a profile with settings and data. You could use virtual machines to prevent the user from making permanent changes to their profile, but Windows provides for mandatory (static, unchangeable) profiles already, and has for ages. Someone explain the value of this to me, because I dont get it.
And besides, whats it got to do with deperimeterization? The answer is that its a smokescreen to cover the fact that there are no real answers for protecting corporate resources on a client system exposed directly to the Internet. The reasonable approach is to treat local and perimeter security as a "belt and suspenders" sort of thing, not a zero sum game. Those who tell you that perimeter protections are a failure because there have been breaches are probably just trying to sell you protection at some other layer. Now I have to set a reminder for myself in Outlook for about two years from now to write a column on the emerging trend towards "reperimeterization." Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers blog Cheap Hack More from Larry Seltzer

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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