A note about VMware-Server machine security

VMware allow setting a virtual machine as a private machine. By doing so, it actually adds to “/etc/vmware/vm-list-private” an additional comment, stating who is the owner of the machine. For example:

cat /etc/vmware/vm-list-private
# This file is automatically generated.
# Hand-editing this file is not recommended.
config “/vmware/Centos4-01/Centos4-01.vmx|root”
config “/vmware/Centos4-02/Centos4-02.vmx|user”

While it is very effective when used with VMware-Console (the nice GUI) – you cannot see machines which are not owned by your own user (in our example – “user”). it has nothing to do with actual permissions on the machine.

Using vmware-cmd you can control machines which are not yours, and are supposed to be private. For example, using

vmware-cmd /vmware/Centos4-01/Centos4-01.vmx stop

as the user “user”, you might be able to turn it off, overriding the obvious, or so you think, permission scheme set up by VMware through the “private guest” settings done above.

This actually has to do with the permissions and ownership on the actual vmx file. To revoke the ability to control your machines or even list them by using vmware-cmd, by an unauthorized user.

The best practice I can suggest is by setting a directory for each user (for example: /vmware for production causes, /qa for QA machines, /user1 for user1 machines, etc), and granting, recursively, permissions on this directory only to the user or group who should have the ability to control these machines. That way, even “vmware-cmd -l” which lists the available guests on an host, will not be able to view guests not owned by the invoking users.

To sum things up, private guests are all about how the GUI decides if and when to display them. eXecute permissions on the vmx files will set who can actually control a guest machine.

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