July 21, 2022

Don't Treat Your Virtual Desktop Security Like Your Physical Desktop Security

 

This blog post complements a previous blog post I wrote a bit ago talking about not using your physical image in your virtual environment. To check out that one please refer here

Are you using anti-virus, anti-malware, data loss prevention (DLP) software or the like on your virtual desktops? Are you treating them the same as you would on a physical desktop? If the answer was yes to both this is the blog for you. If you are not using anti-virus on your virtual desktop that is a whole other conversation and potential can of worms that needs to be addressed. When running any of the various security tools out there we need to consider the need to configure the proper exclusions to ensure everything runs properly and the users are not getting performance degradation because these exclusions are missing. I see this all of the time that folks are not properly implementing the proper security tool exclusions into their virtual desktop images or they configure the exclusions in the various consoles and they can be shown when asked but machines are not landing in the proper container to actually get the exclusions. I recently was working with a customer that was suffering severely slow/long application launch times in applications such as Outlook, Teams, OneDrive, etc... Upon examining they were capturing things like the Outlook OST, Teams Cache and OneDrive cache into virtual disks stored on a network share as VHD/VHDX files. When users would log onto a virtual desktop and these virtual disks mounted they were being actively scanned by anti-virus and when the Outlook, Teams and OneDrive clients were trying to read the data on the virtual disks performance was hampered because of the scan.

The above not only just applies to non-persistent desktops but to fully persistent desktops as well. I know I will get the response of "aren't persistent desktops the same as physical desktops?" The answer is yes and no. While anything that gets written to the disk is fully stateful and there may or may not be any profile management happening on these desktops. There are still the core virtual desktop components installed to deliver folks the remote display capability with the requisite virtual channels to allow for things like audio/video redirection and offloading. Therefore we still need the proper security tool exclusions to ensure everything is as optimized from the security perspective as possible.  In addition to this with modern-day laptops/desktops, there are potentially a lot more resources in terms of CPU and RAM compared to what is allocated on the virtual desktop side. So, an un-optimized anti-virus/anti-malware utility's impact on the physical side may not be as noticeable.

Long story short, spending a little bit of extra effort to make sure security tools are configured properly will save the headaches of dealing with complaints about bad experience. Just as I said in the previous blog of the common adage "you can't build a house on a bad foundation." This holds very true on this conversation as well.

If you have any thoughts, we would like to hear from you below in the comments.

Johnny @mrjohnnyma

April 28, 2021

I Was a Panelist Discussing Challenges of a Hybrid Workforce with Citrix

Introduction:

For those that are not aware, I recently made the move to join Liquidware as a Sales Engineer and subsequently moved away from my long tenure in consulting, while I am greatful for all of the customers and companies that I worked with. Sales Engineering has always been a goal of mine to formally get into and things have been great so far. In my role as a Sales Engineer, I am always asked to present and discuss not only Liquidware's products but present on past experiances I have had implementing virtualization with customers. Recently I was tab to speak on Liquidware's Unplugged webinar about The Challenges of a Hybrid Workforce with Calvin Hsu who is the V.P. of Product Management at Citrix and Jason Smith VP of Product Marketing at Liquidware.

For those of you that are not aware, Liquidware's Unplugged Webinar series is interactive webinars that are built exclusively for the end-user computing (EUC) community. More information can be found on Unplugged here.

Recording:

Here is the recording of the Unplugged Session with Calvin Hsu.


Hopefully this webinar is a first of many that I will be able to participate in going forward. Please use the link above to stay up to date with future Unplugged sessions.

We would like to hear from you so feel free to drop us a note if you have any questions.

Johnny @mrjohnnyma



April 19, 2021

Replacing a Self-Signed Certificate on vCenter 7.x

Purpose:

Demonstration on how to replace the self-signed certificate on VMware vCenter.

Introduction:

Having valid certificates is not only crucial today and going forward, it has been crucial for the last few years as well. Having valid certificates not only ensures that a certain security posture being maintained, it removes any unsightly certificate warnings that make various products unfriendly to use for the administrators/engineers/architects.

I recently made a transition from Nutanix Community Edition (CE) to VMware vSphere in my home lab due to upgrade issues with the most recent release of CE. VMware vSphere 7.x and above resolved an issue where the NIC in an Intel NUC 10 was not detecting during installation and the driver needed to be sideloaded before CE could be installed. This is a continuation of my blog series where I take a focus in on security from a virtualization standpoint. Here is a similar themed blog about how to replace the self-signed certificate in Nutanix Prism Element and Prosim Central.

Today we will talk about how to replace the certificate on vCenter and how significantly easier it has become to do so. Before I start, I am going to preface this that process only applies to VMware vCenter 7.0 and above at the time of this writing. If folks are still running a vCenter 6.5 or 6.7 this will not work there as the process is completely different. Also this not only affects Citrix, it affects VMware Horizon and any other solutions that integrate into vCenter.

How many of us have in the past or even today check the box on this message to acknowledge and trust the self-signed certificate in an on-prem or cloud based full Citrix Studio?


Most of us probably click through it without second thinking why  the warning applies or also just wave it off as “that is not my problem and it is the vSphere team’s problem”. While it may be the vSphere teams problem, security should be a concern from all IT folks as there are always ways that system compromises can easily be fixed if there was a security first mentality. In addition to this, replacing the certificate will remove the warning from vCenter when folks use the vCenter web console. 

In vCenter 7.0 and above it is very easy to replace the certificate so that the warning never even pops up when establishing the Hosting connection string from Studio. 

Configuration Steps:

First we will need to create a certificate, in my case I will be using a domain certificate authority (CA). A certificate from a 3rd party well trusted CA can also be configured in this manner as well. 

I find it easier to generate the CSR on the vCenter and later will have some interesting issues from generating the CSR elsewhere.

Go to vCenter and login as administrator@vsphere.local (this is the only account that has permissions to change the certificate management) On the Top, go to Menu -> Administration

On the left pane -> Click Certificate Management

Under Actions -> Click Generate Certificate Signing Request (CSR)

Fill out the information appropriately -> Click Next

Copy or Download the CSR -> Click Finish

Open a browser and go to https://domainca.fqdn.com/certsrv replacing with your domainca FQDN. In my case it is domain1.domain.lab. -> Click Request a Certificate

Click Advanced Certificate Request

Click Submit a certificate request by using a base-64-encoded CMC or PKCS #10 file, or submit a renewal request by using a base-64-encoded PKCS #7 file

Copy and paste the contents of the CSR file generated earlier into the large field -> Select the appropriate certificate template -> Click Submit

After submitting the certificate may be pending if the CA is configured for approval (as such in my lab). Get the proper approval to issue the certificate

After approval go back to https://domainca.fqdn.com/certsrv -> Click View the Status of a Pending Certificate Request

Click on the Request from earlier -> Click on the Request
Select Base64 encoded -> Download the Certificate

Save with to a location where it can be accessed with an appropriate name –> Click Save


The domain CA’s root and intermediate certificates are required to be exported as .cer as well. In my case, these can be found on the domain controller under Certificate Manager for the Local Machine -> Trusted Root Certificate Authorities Certificates.

Back on vCenter -> Administration -> Certificate Management we need to import the Root and intermediate certificates so that the cert is trusted. -> Click Add

Browse to the root cert -> Click Add

After adding, there are now multiple Trusted Root Certificates

For the Machine Cert section Click Action -> Import and Replace Certificate

Select Replace with external CA certificate where CSR is generated from vCenter Server (private key embedded) as the CSR was generated on the vCenter -> Click Next

On the first field -> Click Browse File and select the certificate that the Domain CA issued. On the second field -> Click Browse File and select the domain CA root certificate that was exported. If there are both root and intermediate certificates they may need to be combined in notepad –> Click Next

vCenter Services will automatically restart which will take a few minutes. It is common to get this message as services are restarted.

When vCenter is back and ready log back in and go to the Certificate Management section. The Machine cert should have an updated expiration date. Track that date and make sure to repeat the process again before the certificate expires to ensure everything continues to run smoothly for any services that integrate with vCenter.

There also are no longer certificate warnings when going to the vSphere web client and when the certificate is viewed, it is the appropriate certificate

The Hosting section in Studio connects to vCenter without a warning now as well.

If you tried to generate the CSR outside of vCenter and went through the process of generating the certificate. You could get this error like I did. There really isn’t a reason why the character was invalid but this is why I recommend generating the CSR on vCenter.

Conclusion:

VMware has made it significantly easier to replace the certificate in vSphere 7.x then it was in 6.x. It makes it almost a no-brainer to do this in my opinion. We didn't need to incure any additional costs as the certificate was generated from a domain CA, but this process would work if you need to get a signed certificate from a third party CA. If we take an overall approoach of focusing in on security in each layer of the infrastructure, we significantly improve the security posture of the entire environment and eliminate as many security flaws in the environment as possible.

We would like to hear from you so feel free to drop us a note if you have any questions.

Johnny @mrjohnnyma