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Mike Foley

About Mike Foley

Mike Foley is a Senior Technical Marketing Manager at VMware. His primary focus is on security of the core platform (vSphere). He is the current keeper of the vSphere Hardening Guide. His primary goal is to help IT/VI Admins build more secure platforms that stand up to scrutiny from security teams. Previously, Mike was on the evangelist team at RSA where he concentrated on virtualization and cloud security and contributed as a member of the product architect team. Mike has a blog at http://yelof.com and contributes to the VMware vSphere and Security blogs as well. Follow him at @vSphereSecurity on Twitter

What happened to that Hardening Guide setting?


As usual, most of my blog posts come from customer or field questions. Here’s a new one crossed my path recently.

A customer, running vSphere 5.1, was finding some anomalies within their VM’s. Their belief was that some of the vSphere Hardening Guide settings were causing it. When this was assigned to me, I noticed that they were referencing the vSphere 4.1 hardening guide!

The customer was applying guidelines from the 4.1 guide against a 5.1 system. They believed that the guideline was still relevant because it was referenced in a KB. (I’m going to try and get that fixed!)

The guideline setting is “guest.commands.enabled”. The 4.1 guide said to set this to False. The 4.1 guide AND the KB both state that setting this to False would disable the operation of VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) and VMware Update Manager (VUM), both of which call the VIX API for guest operations.

Cue the old Henny Youngman “Doc, it hurts when I do this!” so the Doctor says “Don’t do that!”  Thanks, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal! <rimshot>

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Security Updates in vSphere 5.5 Update 1 + Hardening Guide news

5.5 Update 1 Release Notes

vSphere 5.5 Update 1 was released on March 11th, 2014. The primary drivers for this release were lots of bug fixes and support for VSAN. At the risk of duplicating a huge amount of the release notes, please review in detail those things that are important to you. There’s a number of things in Upgrade and Installation and there’s a specific Security section that would be of interest. Also review the Known Issues section as there’s some interesting tidbits in there as well.

5.5 Hardening Guide Update

I will be releasing an update to the vSphere Hardening Guide to go along with 5.5 Update 1 in the next couple of weeks. I’ve been collecting updates since it was released shortly after 5.5. No MAJOR changes, just minor fixes and a couple of clarifications and at least one deletion. More on this soon. I know it’s a hot button for some folks.

If there’s something YOU think needs to be corrected, now is the time to let me know!

Get in touch as a reply to this blog or preferably an email to me. I’m mfoley at VMware.com.



Can an admin peek inside my VM?

A great question crossed my desk today from a customer. “Can a VI Admin who has root access to ESXi “abuse” their privileges and “peek” inside the guests of VM’s hosted on the server?”

The short answer? If your ESXi admin has root or full administrator privileges, they can do anything. Nobody should be surprised by this! HOWEVER, you can mitigate, limit and monitor what is being done.

But first, let’s quickly review what is meant by “peek inside the guest”. In the human world, Continue reading

Security of the VMware Hypervisor – A Whitepaper


I’m happy to announce the availability of a whitepaper that I had been working on much of the past year. Since I joined VMware back in January of 2013, an almost weekly request was for a whitepaper that help IT team explain the security of the VMware vSphere hypervisor, a.k.a. ESXi, to a security professional.

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Have you checked the root password expiration on your 5.5 VCSA today?


Now that 5.5 has been out a while and many of you have been making the move to the VMware vCenter Virtual Appliance (a.k.a. VCSA), here’s a friendly reminder to check the password expiration of the root account on the virtual appliance! If you’ve been following my blogs, you’ll remember in Part 2 of the “Virtual Appliances getting more secure with vSphere 5.5” series, I HIGHLY recommended that you check root password expiration ASAP!

The VCSA root password is set to expire 90 days from deployment time. Go to Part 2 of the series to find out how to set your expiration to a longer date. Note that from the VAMI interface, you can supply an email address to notify 7 days prior to expiration of the password. Don’t miss updating this step! Log into the VAMI web interface via https://<vcsa FQDN or IP>:5480. Go to the Admin tab and update whether the password expires, for how long and what email address to notify. Make sure your SMTP configuration works correctly.

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 11.23.21 AM

[Update] There has been a KB released on 10-Jan-2014 for those that may be locked out of their appliance or want to disable the forced lockout. I urge you to review KB2069041


VMware Communities Podcast – Hardening Guide and secure virtual appliances

Tomorrow, November 6th, I’ll be hosting the VMware Communities Roundtable Podcast! We’ll be talking about the recently released vSphere 5.5 Hardening Guide and the massive amount of work that’s been done to secure VMware virtual appliances!

Joining me will be Simon Mijolovic (we just call him “Simon”), the Staff Program Manager for virtual appliance security and Greg Murray, Product Manager for, among many things, virtual appliances at VMware.

Simon will be going over the changes that were made to make our virtual appliances secure out of the box (91-95% DISA STIG compliant!).

Greg will be there to gather feedback on what YOU want to see out of our virtual appliances. Do NOT miss this opportunity to be heard by the folks that can do something about it!

I’m not sure what John Troyer @jtroyer was thinking when he handed me the keys to his baby for the day but I’m sure it will be fun and interesting! I hope you can join us whether it’s live on Talkshoe or later as a downloaded podcast!

A wrap-up of the podcast will be located on the podcast archives within a few days.

I’m looking forward to talking with many of you tomorrow!


vSphere 5.5 Hardening Guide Released!

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 1.58.09 PM


I’m happy to report that the vSphere 5.5 Hardening Guide has been released for General Availability. My thanks to all that contributed their feedback to make this happen. The guide has been given a full makeover with regard to documentation references. I’m in Renate’s debt for those stellar contributions. Additionally, some guidelines have been removed and some new ones added.

Along with the guide, similar to the 5.1 release, I’m releasing a change log worksheet.

One thing to note, the “Profiles” column has been renamed “Risk Profiles”. This was done to bring to light the function of the column. I am frequently quizzed by IT administrators that have been told to “Implement the Hardening Guide”. As written, the Hardening Guide is a list of guidelines, not mandates.  Please note that some guidelines in the Risk Profile 1 category can break functionality!

As with any security measures, they should not be applied in a blanket fashion. I would encourage IT administrations and security folks to work together and assess each guideline for applicability, risk management and impact to the business and operations. The Risk Profiles help to categorize the guidelines that could be applicable to your environment.

The release of the guide is current available in the Communities.

I’m working with the VMware web team to have the guide and the change log officially moved over to the Hardening Guide page on VMware.com. I will update the discussion in the Communities and post a reply to this blog article when that has been completed.

As always, your input is very valuable to me and VMware as a whole. If you have questions that can’t be asked in a public forum, reach out to me via email, mfoley-at-vmware.com. For more frequent updates to vSphere security news and facts, follow me on Twitter at @vSphereSecurity

Thanks for reading!


vSphere 5.5 Hardening Guide Release Candidate has been published


Hardening Guide 5.5

Hardening Guide 5.5

I’m happy to announce the availability of the vSphere 5.5 Hardening Guide Release Candidate. A SIGNIFICANT amount of documentation updates have been incorporated into the guide to really round it out. There have been some new additions and some deletions to the guide. All changes are documented in the changelog spreadsheet.

You can download the guide and the changelog here. All changes are color-coded in the changelog and within the RC release spreadsheet. The colors will be removed from the final GA document but will remain in the changelog.

I would encourage you to review the document and provide feedback ASAP. The goal is to release this for General Availability in the next week unless significant changes come in. You can reply to the discussion with your updates or contact me directly at mfoley @ vmware.com.

When the guide is released for GA, it will up uploaded to the normal location

Thanks for reading,


vSphere Web Client Roles and Permissions How-To Video

Have you ever wondered how Roles and Permissions work using the vSphere Web Client? Here’s a great video brought to you by VMware Tech Pubs. Peter Shepherd does a great job in introducing you to Roles and Permissions and how to get the most out of them. He will lead you through the steps to create an administrator role for a specific virtual machine in four and a half minutes!

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Virtual Appliances getting more secure with vSphere 5.5 – Part 4

Meeting Objectives with VMware Hardened Virtual Appliances

In this final part, we’ll go over setting up logging (both system and audit logs) and Grub hardening and NFS/NIS management and wrap it all up in the Conclusion.

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