With new features such as VM Encryption, Encrypted vMotion, Secure Boot Support for Virtual Machines, and Secure Boot Plus Cryptographic Hypervisor Assurance for ESXi, vSphere 6.5 Security brings together security and operational efficiency that are both universal and scalable. In addition, vSphere 6.5 introduces audit-quality logging of vSphere events via Syslog.

Virtual Machine Encryption :

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VM Encryption is a VM-agnostic method of encryption for VMs that is scalable, easy to implement, and easy to manage.

There are numerous advantages:

1. Because encryption occurs at the hypervisor level and not in the VM, VM Encryption works with any guest OS and datastore type.

2. Encryption is managed via policy. The policy can be applied to many VMs, regardless of their guest OS. Verifying that the VM is encrypted can be done by confirming that the policy is applied. The policy framework being used leverages vSphere Storage Policy Based Management (SPBM).

3. Encryption is not managed “within” the VM. This is a key differentiator. There are no encryption “special cases” that require in-guest configuration and monitoring. Encryption keys are not contained in the memory of the VM or accessible to the VM in any way.

4. Key Management is based on the industry-standard Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP). We are qualifying against KMIP version 1.1. vCenter Server is considered a KMIP client, and it works with many KMIP 1.1 key managers. This provides customers with choice and flexibility. It also provides a separation of duty between key usage and key management. In a large enterprise, key management would be done by the security team, and key usage would be done by IT, in this example via vCenter Server.

5. VM Encryption leverages the latest CPU hardware advances in AES-NI encryption. Advanced Encryption Standard Instruction Set is an extension to the x86 instruction set and provides accelerated encryption and decryption functions on a per-core basis in the CPU.

Encrypted vMotion:

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Encrypted vMotion is set on a per-VM basis. It encrypts the data traveling over the network rather than encrypting the network itself. This enables more flexibility and easier implementation. A 256-bit random key and a 64-bit nonce, used only once for this VMware vSphere vMotion® migration, are generated. The nonce is used to generate a unique counter for every packet sent over the network. This prevents replay attacks and enables the encryption of 264 128-bit blocks of data. The key and the nonce are packaged into a vSphere vMotion migration specification. The migration specification is sent to both systems in the cluster via the existing encrypted management connections between the vCenter Server instance and the ESXi hosts. The vSphere vMotion traffic begins with every packet being encrypted with the key and the nonce on host A. Each uniquely encrypted packet is decrypted on the receiving host, host B, completing the vSphere vMotion migration.

Secure Boot Support :

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vSphere 6.5 introduces Secure Boot Support for Virtual Machines and for the ESXi hypervisor. UEFI Secure Boot is a mechanism that ensures that only trusted code is loaded by EFI firmware prior to OS handoff. Trust is determined by keys and certificates managed by the firmware. Implementation of this feature for a virtual machine enables secure boot of EFI-aware OSs in a VM.

Virtual Machine Secure Boot : Virtual machines must be booted from the EFI firmware to enable Secure Boot. EFI firmware supports Windows, Linux, and nested ESXi. For Secure Boot to work, the guest OS must also support Secure Boot. Examples include Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 and newer, VMware Photon™ OS, RHEL/Centos 7.0, Ubuntu 14.04, and ESXi 6.5. It is easy to enable Secure Boot for Virtual Machines by checking the box in the UI.

ESXi Host Secure Boot :

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When Secure Boot is enabled, the UEFI firmware validates the digitally signed kernel of an OS against a digital certificate stored in the UEFI firmware. For ESXi 6.5, this capability is further leveraged by the ESXi kernel, adding cryptographic assurance of ESXi components. ESXi is already composed of digitally signed packages called vSphere installation bundles (VIBs). These packages are never broken open. At boot time, the ESXi file system maps to the content of those packages. By leveraging the same digital certificate in the host UEFI firmware used to validate the signed ESXi kernel, the kernel then validates each VIB using the Secure Boot verifier against the firmware-based certificate, ensuring a cryptographically “clean” boot.