Security Experts:

VMware ESX Source Code Leak May Not Increase Risk for Customers

VMware officials are looking to calm customer fears after word spread that source code for its ESX hypervisor product was leaked online.

According to VMware, the posting is of a single file from VMware ESX source code dating back to the 2003 to 2004 timeframe. A hacker going by the name “Hardcore Charlie” has taken credit for posting the source code. But while acknowledging the code is legitimate, VMware said customers may not face additional risk.

VMWare Source Code Leaked"The fact that the source code may have been publicly shared does not necessarily mean that there is any increased risk to VMware customers," Iain Mulholland, director of VMware Security Response Center, blogged April 24. "VMware proactively shares its source code and interfaces with other industry participants to enable the broad virtualization ecosystem today. We take customer security seriously and have engaged internal and external resources, including our VMware Security Response Center, to thoroughly investigate. We will continue to provide updates to the VMware community if and when additional information is available."

A day later, a VMware spokesperson said the company will continue to investigate. The source-code file is part of a trove of documents leaked by Hardcore Charlie that also include what appears to be an internal VMware memo pasted onto letterhead for Beijing-based China National Import & Export Corp. (CEIEC).

“I think bad guys know that source code is valuable - either in terms of embarrassing security firms, or hunting for vulnerabilities that could later be exploited,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

According to a report published on Threatpost, Hardcore Charlie claims to have hacked CEIEC as well as a number of other firms in the Asia-Pacific region, including China North Industries Corp. He also claimed to have stolen more than a terabyte of data from those companies’ servers with the help of other hackers. CEIEC however claimed in early April that it had not been compromised.

A third-party hack however would not be a surprise, said Eric Chiu, founder and president of virtualization security firm HyTrust.

“Many large software companies need to share source code with other technology partners,” he said. “While these development partners have a responsibility to protect partner source code as well as the way they do their own, it just increases the chances of having source code stolen -- whether directly like with RSA or through a third-party getting hacked.”

“Virtualization is now the underpinning of the datacenter and the lowest common denominator -- so a breach at the virtualization-layer could allow access to all of the virtual machines running within that environment,” Chiu added. “Customers need to take a holistic approach to securing the virtual infrastructure and VMs to ensure data security and corporate governance.”