Virtualization doubles the cost of security breach

When a security incident involves virtual machines, the recovery costs double compared to that of a traditional environment

When a security incident involves virtual machines in either a public or private cloud environment, the recovery costs double compared to that of a traditional environment, according to a new report from Kaspersky Lab.

In a survey of 5,500 companies that the company conducted with B2B International, enterprises paid an average of $800,000 to cover from a security breach involving virtualization, compared to $400,000 in traditional environments.

Small and midsized businesses, meanwhile, saw costs rise from an average of $26,000 to $60,000 with virtualization.

There were three main reasons for this cost difference, according to Andrey Pozhogin, senior product marketing manager at Kaspersky Lab.

First, many IT professionals incorrectly assume that virtualized servers are naturally more secure than their traditional counterparts.

"They believe that if a virtual machine catches a virus, they can just delete the virtual machine and create a new one from a template," he said.

According to the survey, 42 percent said that risks in virtual environments were "significantly lower."

In fact, malware is able to hop from one virtual machine to another, embed itself in the hypervisor, and use other techniques to avoid being cleaned out by re-imaging, said Pozhogin.

And virtualization can add risks, as well. For example, there can be a window of vulnerability between the time a virtual machine is spun up and anti-virus software is updated -- a window that can be dramatically magnified if all the virtual machines need to be updated at once.

As a result, virtualized environment can require security solutions specifically designed to deal with virtualization, he said.

But only 27 percent of respondents said that they had deployed a security solution specifically designed for virtual environments.

Second, companies tend to be well prepared with disaster-recovery plans when it comes to their traditional infrastructure, but are not as well prepared when it comes to virtualization.

"What we see is that companies that virtualize tend to limit the virtualization project to the virtualization itself," Pozhogin said. "They tend to postpone disaster recovery, fault tolerance, and security until later."

Virtualization can be expensive, complicated and lengthy, he said, and it's very tempting to just focus on one thing at a time.

Third, virtualization is often used for the most mission-critical, high-value processes, said Pozhogin.

When that infrastructure goes down, so do those processes.

"There are quite a big number of respondents who said that during the cyber incident, they lost access to business-critical data," he said.

According to the survey, 66 percent said that they lost access to business critical information during an incident involving virtualization, compared to 36 percent in a traditional environment.

Since companies are not as prepared to recover from an incident that involves virtualization, these incidents also result in a doubling of costs related to lost business, damage to company reputations, damage to credit ratings, and increased insurance premiums.

To address these problems, he said, companies need to recognize that virtualization can require different security solutions than traditional environments, and should be thinking about security and disaster recovery from the very start of the virtualization process.

"You need to think about this stuff up front," he said. "You will shorten response time, and not lose access to critical data."

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