Hasso-Plattner-InstitutSDG am HPI
Hasso-Plattner-InstitutDSG am HPI

Johannes Harungguan Sianipar

Towards Scalable & Secure Virtual Laboratory for Cybersecurity e-Learning

Distance Education or e-Learning platform should be able to provide a virtual labo­ratory to let the participants have hands-on exercise experiences in practicing their skill remotely. Especially in Cybersecurity e-Learning where the participants need to be able to attack or defend the IT System. To have a hands-on exercise, the virtual laboratory environment must be similar to the real operational environment, where an attack or a victim is represented by a node in a virtual laboratory environment. A node is usually represented by a Virtual Machine (VM). Scalability has become a primary issue in the virtual laboratory for cybersecurity e-Learning because a VM needs a significant and fix allocation of resources. Available resources limit the number of simultaneous users. Scalability can be increased by increasing the efficiency of using available resources and by providing more resources. Increasing scalability means increasing the number of simultaneous users.

In this thesis, we propose two approaches to increasing the efficiency of using the available resources. The first approach in increasing efficiency is by replacing virtual ma­chines (VMs) with containers whenever it is possible. The second approach is sharing the load with the user-on-premise machine, where the user-on-premise machine repre­sents one of the nodes in a virtual laboratory scenario. We also propose two approaches in providing more resources. One way to provide more resources is by using public cloud services. Another way to provide more resources is by gathering resources from the crowd, which is referred to as Crowd-resourcing Virtual Laboratory (CRVL).

In CRVL, the crowd can contribute their unused resources in the form of a VM, a bare metal system, an account in a public cloud, a private cloud and an isolated group of VMs, but in this thesis, we focus on a VM. The contributor must give the credential of the VM admin or root user to the CRVL system. We propose an architecture and methods to integrate or dis-integrate VMs  from the CRVL system automatically. A Team placement algorithm must also be investigated to optimize the usage of resources and at the same time giving the best service to the user. Because the CRVL system does not manage the contributor host machine, the CRVL system must be able to make sure that the VM integration will not harm their system and that the training material will be stored securely in the contributor sides, so that no one is able to take the training material away without permission. We are investigating ways to handle this kind of threats.

We propose three approaches to strengthen the VM from a malicious host admin. To verify the integrity of a VM before integration to the CRVL system, we propose a remote verification method without using any additional hardware such as the Trusted Platform Module chip. As the owner of the host machine, the host admins could have access to the VM 's data via Random Access Memory (RAM) by doing live memory dumping, Spectre and Meltdown attacks. To make it harder for the malicious host admin in getting the sensitive data from RAM, we propose a method that continually moves sensitive data in RAM. We also propose a method to monitor the host machine by installing an agent on it. The agent monitors the hypervisor configurations and the hostadmin activities.