Hypervisor Security : Lessons Learned

Ian Pratt

Hypervisors have a key role in Platform Security, leveraging a reduced attack surface to provide robust isolation and containment in a way that commodity operating systems have proven too complex to provide. Over the last 17 years, the speaker has been intimately involved with building 4 hypervisors that have been used in a number of applications with extremely demanding security requirements: Xen, XenClient, Bromium vSentry and AX.

Each hypervisor is a product of its time, trying to make best use of the available hardware capabilities to meet product design goals, capabilities and performance, building on our growing knowledge of architectural and implementation strengths and weaknesses. With each new hypervisor, the importance of security as an overriding design goal has grown, and has been the primary driver leading to the different architectural design decisions taken in each case.

This talk examines the design evolution across the 4 hypervisors, talking about the lessons learned and how those decisions have stood the test of time, through security research and adversary action.

🔎 Boot Integrity · OpenXT · Xen

Source Code


  • Rafal Wojtczuk — Analysis of the attack surface of Windows 10 VBS: video · slides & paper (2016)