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hypervisor attack

Contributor(s): Bill Claybrook

A hypervisor attack is an exploit in which an intruder takes advantage of vulnerabilities in the program used to allow multiple operating systems to share a single hardware processor.

Most often, the attacker uses hypervisor services such as create/delete, clone and migrate to execute and extend a threat. Rootkits are another potential means of hypervisor attack, although that method is less common.

A compromised hypervisor can allow the hacker to attack each virtual machine (VM) on a virtual host. One possible result is an increase in the resource usage of a VM that causes a denial of service across the host or even across a collection of servers. If multiple virtual servers are involved, the problem is made that much worse.

Larger software stacks and greater numbers of APIs, along with a lower degree of security assurance in the code, increase the risk. Larger software stacks and APIs for third-party applications present a larger attack surface because the larger the amount of code, the more coding errors it is likely to contain.

SolarWinds Inc., VMware, and HyTrust Inc. are among the vendors of monitoring products that can detect and prevent hypervisor attacks.

This was last updated in March 2015

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