Wednesday, December 11, 2019

vSAN Encryption and Core Dumps

I was on three days vSAN training (VMware vSAN: Deploy and Manage [V6.7]) which is very useful even for someone like me, who is observing vSAN since the beginning (2013) and did a lot of self-study and home lab practicing during the last year or so. The trainer (Jiri Viktorin) is very knowledgable and ready to answer any question. To be honest, I personally prefer class trainings over on-line trainings as personal contact and student discussions are sometimes even more valuable than the official training content. And that was exactly the case in this particular training.

One training attendee asked the trainer if DEK keys (Data Encryption Key) used for vSAN Encryption are included in core dumps and shared with VMware Support (GSS) in case of core dump analysis. This would be a significant security risk especially in environments with strict security requirements.

In the beginning, I've also assumed that DEK's are most probably included in a memory dump because they are in ESXi host RAM, right? However, any assumption should be validated and clarified if possible, therefore I did some quick research in product documentation and also on google but I did not find any relevant info. Fortunately enough, as a VMware employee, I can use internal slack channels and ask our VMware SME's for answers to these deep-dive questions. The well-known authority in terms of vSphere security is Mike Foley and he replied back in a few minutes. Thanks, Mike! Really appreciated.

Mike's answer was even better what I was expecting.
VMware Encryption technology is smart enough to not include DEK keys (Data Encryption Key) into core dumps. Keys live in the key cache. The key cache is not included in a core dump. 
That's great! ESXi core dumps can be shared with VMware GSS without security risk of unveiling Data Encryption Keys. That's an awesome message for customer's security officers and it shows that VMware takes vSphere security seriously.

Hope this information will help other folks in the VMware community.

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