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Security Manager's Journal: Virtual machines, real mess

Mathias Thurman | April 22, 2014
It started out as a simple call to the help desk from an engineer at one of our major development centers: Phone calls were being dropped. Soon, similar complaints were coming in from other engineers, as well as from sales associates, who said the inability to maintain phone calls was making it difficult to close deals.

The installed images were derived from a base image maintained at a cloud provider. That base image contained the virus, which explains how 30 machines became infected.


I then moved on to the person who was responsible for provisioning virtual-machine images to find out why steps hadn't been taken to avoid an infection. He explained that a couple of years ago some patches had caused images to become unstable, so patching was stopped. As for antivirus software, he said he didn't have the budget to install it on more than 1,500 Microsoft Windows images. Perhaps that explanation was supposed to mollify me, but I could barely contain my dismay. Fifteen hundred VM images that had little or no protection from viral infection! And those images were regularly used by several departments on machines operating on our corporate network.

I immediately called a meeting with our CIO and the vice presidents for the divisions that deploy virtual machines. I called for an immediate mandate to scan all images, install our corporate antivirus software, update all patches and put a process in place to ensure that images comply with the company's patch management process.

All in a day's work, right?


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