Recovering from a security breach is costly. To mitigate the expenses, companies employ a number of solutions, including real-time antivirus solutions, detailed disaster recovery (DR) plans and the use of virtualization to reduce the chance of physical systems failure. But as noted by CSO Online reporting on a new Kaspersky Lab study, going virtual may actually increase the price of recovery.

Dollars and Sense

The Kaspersky Lab effort came to a startling conclusion: Companies using virtual machines (VMs) paid double the amount to recover after a security breach. For example, the average enterprise using physical servers spends $400,000 to recover after a breach. Using virtualization, enterprises were on the hook for $800,000. Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) were hit even harder: SMB breaches in traditional deployments cost $26,000 on average to fix and $60,000 in virtual environments.

So what’s the problem? Kaspersky points to three factors. First is an incorrect assumption of security. IT admins often assume that virtual environments are naturally more secure. Why? Because they believe that in the case of malware infection or file corruption, it’s possible to simply purge the affected machine and spin up a new, clean version. But cybercriminals have developed ways to hop malware from one machine to another or store it in the hypervisor, allowing it to bypass machine reimaging.

Secondly, companies tend to focus in on virtualization as a stand-alone solution and neglect the need for solid disaster recovery plans surrounding their new environment. As a result, downtime is often needlessly prolonged.

Finally, businesses tend to place high-value tasks in virtual environments. When these environments turn inhospitable, the result is often a total loss of access to critical corporate data. And as noted by Virtualization Review, there’s also the problem of forced upgrading, which sees enterprises buying new machines every three to four years to ensure that they receive solid technical support. This swapping of virtual technology prior to its natural end of life offers the perfect opportunity for attackers to capitalize on extended downtime and infect critical systems.

Virtualization Comes Back Down to Earth

The takeaway? There are two options: The easy route says that virtualization simply isn’t worth the cost and companies should stick with traditional deployments. The more complex path suggests that IT professionals and C-suite executives alike need to think of VMs in the same way as their physical counterparts — just as risk-, disaster- and failure-prone.

Rather than looking to VM benefits and pretending downsides don’t exist, the acknowledgment of any shortfall provides the foundation for better security, in turn reducing total spend after a security breach while still offering the benefits of agile VMs. No environment — physical or virtual — is untouchable. By assuming the worst, however, companies can engender the best response from virtual deployments and bring recovery costs in line with physical counterparts.

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