The virtual machines are very useful to carry out tests when we do not want to compromise the host system or even to have another operating system installed. We can install programs, surf the Internet, download files … Basically as if it were another piece of equipment inside a computer. However, a question may arise: what happens if a virus enters a virtual machine? We are going to talk about this in this article.
How a virtual machine works
We can say that what a virtual machine does is simulate being a computer. It is software that we can install on devices with Windows, Linux and other OS. In it we can install any system as if it were an independent physical equipment. We can assign a memory, RAM and different resources.
This process is known as hardware virtualization . A single computer can have several virtual machines and in each one of them install a different system. This will allow, for example, to use Linux within Windows and to be able to use a program or service that is not available on the Microsoft team.
In these virtual machines we will be able to make a general use as if it were a physical device. We will have Internet , we will be able to browse or download files, install programs, etc. The good thing about this is that in case we touched something in the settings or did it in some way, it would not affect the main team. Just close that program and voila.
What if there is malware on a virtual machine
The use of a virtual machine is sometimes precisely to carry out actions that can be a risk . For example, downloading certain files that we doubt if it really is a virus or not, entering web pages that may be dangerous, etc. So this can create doubts about what would happen if in a virtual machine we download a file that is actually a virus.
At first we might think that malware , of whatever type, cannot pass from a virtual machine to the main or host system. In fact, this is something very rare, since in theory we are in a safe environment, as if it were a sandbox, in which everything we do does not come out of there.
However, malware in the virtual machine could affect the main computer at any given moment. This could happen if an error appears in the emulated hardware and that malicious code runs on the main system. Ultimately, the virtual machine uses the network of the main computer, as well as the virtualization of the hardware, such as the hard disk or the RAM memory.
However, this we mention would be a very rare scenario. Actually, the normal thing is that any virus that enters a virtual machine affects only this software and does not “jump” to the main computer.
How a virus could pass from a virtual system
But it is not impossible for a virus to pass from a virtual machine to the main computer. Now, if this happens in almost all cases, it will be due to human error. We are going to show what are the most common causes for which we would face this problem.
A very common way for a virus in a virtual machine to affect the host system, the main computer, is by sharing files . Let’s say, for example, that we enter a page to download a certain program. This software that we downloaded turns out to contain a virus. Now we take that file and pass it on to the main computer.
What this would cause is that we send malware in the same way as if we transferred a file with a pendrive from one computer to another. We could easily and inadvertently be infecting our system.
It may also happen that we have the virtual machine and other devices linked in a network . For example if we create a shared folder on the network or different resources. In case there is a virus that affects any of these resources or we pass on a file, the virus could also pass from one place to another.
Therefore, this is another question that we must take into account. After all, even if we download a virus in a virtual machine, it could be linked to the main computer.
How to prevent a virtual machine from being a hazard
We have seen that, although it is not normal, viruses can pass from a virtual machine to the main computer. Now we are going to see some essential tips to protect the system if we are going to use a virtual machine and thus reduce the risk of something happening.
Use a reliable program
The most important thing is to use a good, reliable program for the virtual machine that we are going to create. This is something that we must always keep in mind when we are going to install any type of software, even if we are going to connect to the network and we may have problems.
There are many options, but we can name for example VMWare or VirtualBox. In both cases we will be able to install operating systems virtually and safely.
Check that the hard disk is well partitioned
If we are using a good program, this should not be a problem. However, it should be remembered that it is important to check that the hard disk is well partitioned . In this way we ensure that the files of the virtual machine and the main machine are going to be separated.
This will help prevent a virus from passing from one system to another. In the event that any type of malware enters the virtual machine, it will remain there and will not be shared with the host.
Create a separate IP address
We saw that a virus can pass from a virtual machine to the computer over a shared network. We can create a separate IP different from that of the computer and this will reduce the risk that a virus can spread.
This is one more step, but it would still be useless if we decide to share files between systems. In that case there could be problems with the malware.
Always follow the same security measures
At this point we basically refer to following the same security measures that we would follow in any physical device. For example, have a good antivirus , have the system always updated, avoid making mistakes …
This will help us reduce the risk of viruses entering. Especially common sense is going to be important. We must avoid, for example, sharing files between the virtual machine and the main computer.
Therefore, although it is possible for a virus in a virtual machine to affect the main computer, the truth is that it is something complicated and would only happen in rare cases. However, we have seen some tips that we can put into practice to be more protected.