Empirical Exploitation of Live Virtual Machine Migration

As virtualization continues to become increasingly popular in enterprise and organizational networks, operators and administrators are turning to live migration of virtual machines for the purpose of workload balancing and management. However, the security of live virtual machine migration has yet to be analyzed.

This paper looks at this poorly explored area and attempts to empirically demonstrate the importance of securing the migration process. We begin by defining and investigating three classes of threats to virtual machine migration: control plane, data plane, and migration module threats. We then show how a malicious party using these attack strategies can exploit the latest versions of the popular Xen and VMware virtual machine monitors and present a tool to automate the manipulation of a guest operating system’s
memory during a live virtual machine migration. Using this experience, we discuss strategies to address the deficiencies in virtualization software and secure the live migration process.

Download the paper in PDF format here.

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