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Is Anti-Virus Protection Needed in VDI?


In my day to day job for AppSense I work with customers in relation to our security product – Application Manager and one of the questions that regularly comes up especially with respect to virtual desktops is whether anti-virus (or other protection software) is required.

There seems to be a frightening delusion within the industry that because VDI images can be ‘blown-away’ at logoff that protection is not needed.  Sure, the build is restored to a pristine state as it was before the malware affected it but are you sure there hasn’t been any damage in the meantime?

Consider the following example –

Remember the ILOVEYOU.VBS virus?  The ‘lovebug’ virus was an especially aggressive virus that utilized VBScript and some messaging components to spread it-self.   The virus did a couple of things, firstly it dropped a piece of malware onto the machine and secondly it sent itself to everyone in the victims address book.  Now in a VDI environment where the image was blown away, sure the malware would have had limited impact however the victim’s contacts had still been sent it and the business has still been flagged as a ‘spreader of viri’…

Now if you remove protection from the build, then the build is once again prone to the ‘lovebug’ virus should it or something similar come along.  If for whatever reason a user comes across a VBScript titled ILOVEYOU.VBS and opens it they will once again start sending this to all of their contacts.  Sure their contacts are probably protected but more than likely won’t be happy receiving malware…

I also want you to think of something else –

Consider the payload of a virus is a password sniffer, document stealer or network mapper that a hacker will use at a later point.  Sure, when the user logs off the machine the malware is gone however the code has until that time to work its magic (or mischief).  Just because the machine is clean for the next user doesn’t mean that the current user can’t be a problem in the meantime.

The upshot is that in my opinion, protection in a VDI environment is as critical as any other system and should never be ignored.  Leaving a machine (even for a single session duration) is crazy…

I am however interested in other peoples view…

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