48% of IT staff fear unauthorized access to virtual servers

Data security in visualized environments is often neglected by IT organizations, with 48% either reporting or suspecting unauthorized access to files on visualized servers, according to Varonis.

The study, conducted at VM World conferences, suggests that there is a limited awareness of security matters when it comes to visualized servers, with 70% of respondents having little or no auditing in place on virtual servers.

According to Gartner, there are more than 50 million installed virtual machines (VMs) on servers. In line with this, application servers were visualized by almost all respondents (87%), mainly due to speedier deployment (76%) and disaster recovery (74%).

On the other hand, those who do not virtualize cite disk storage (37%), performance (30%) and a lack of advantages (20%) as they three main reasons for not doing so.

Across different company sizes, one area that appears to be neglected by organizations is file security. While almost 60% said they were very careful about setting permissions and controlling subsequent updates, a revealing 70%, regardless of company size, had implemented little or no auditing – even at the high end of the enterprise space. In fact, 20% of enterprises with more than 5,000 employees admitted to having no file logging capabilities in place.

The lack of sufficient security is further highlighted by 48% either reporting or suspecting unauthorized access to files on their visualized servers – putting sensitive company information at risk of being misused, lost or stolen. Surprisingly, even for those who do audit all activity, a significant 68% believe there is still unauthorized access.

“We suspect that for IT departments, visualization may be something of a black box. We have found that, after a workload is visualized, the actual details of managing file permissions and monitoring access is considered to be automatically “taken care of’. It is also quite possible that the teams managing visualization projects see file security and governance as outside their discipline. The security team may have no visibility of what is happening”, said David Gibson, VP of Strategy at Varonis.

The results suggest that, while virtualization has been groundbreaking in allowing IT to isolate applications and services with a few clicks, it doesn’t solve permissions management and access auditing – in fact it might make it even more complex.

“Data protection, obviously, requires the same level of vigilance in a virtual environment – and perhaps even more so given the complexities of managing multiple operating systems on a single computing box. For organizations to stay on top of their digital assets it is vital to further IT education in this area, both in terms of training staff in understanding virtual file systems, as well as in effectively using automation to uncover security holes, monitor activity, and control permissions” said Gibson.

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