In case anyone missed it DISA posted a brand spank’n new ESXi 5 STIG revision on Friday, January 24th.

ESXi 5 STIG Version 1 Revision 4

Now, I want to point out a few things about this revision.  First off I teamed up with a great engineer working for DISA FSO to basically rewrite most of the ESXi 5 Server portion of this STIG.  We put a lot of work into that section and I was proud of the result.  If you’ve had trouble implementing the ESXi 5 Server piece in the past please take a look at the changes in revision 4.  You can see from the release notes alone that dozens of checks were changed, and several deleted all together.

Additionally, a lot of the posts on this blog are now moot if you’re using revision 4.  Why?  Because we essentially used this blog as a point of reference in the rewrite.  I’ll be leaving the posts up here, but note in them that it was pre-revision 4 information.

Finally I wanted to mention our Community Project for ESXi STIG Automation.  If you haven’t signed up for this project yet, please do so.  We will use revision 4 as the focal point for its development.

As I’ve eluded to in some previous articles I’ve started up a community project on ESXi 5 STIG automation.  Why  Well, quite simply to help with credibility.  The best way to apply the ESXi 5 STIG settings is by way of a VIB, and in order for one to create and deploy a VIB in this fashion it will be unsigned but have a higher than Community acceptance level.  That is, as you know, a STIG issue itself.  Bit Chicken and Egg if you know what I mean.  So to help combat that I decided to post this as a community project on  If this is to be useful it must be trusted by the IA community within DoD.

Now, all that aside, let’s talk business.  First thing you need to do is go join the project!  Even if you do not plan to directly participate please join the project anyway.  This way we can show numbers and interest from the DoD community.  Trust me, things like this gain a life of their own and contribute a great deal to decisions made in development within VMware (you’d think).  Additionally, numbers and involvement will help drive IA acceptance of the tool as well.  NOW JOIN!

Project Site: ESXi STIG Toolset (CAC Required)

Now, you’ve joined the project, right?  Ok, next… read.  Take a look at the project charter and get familiar with project controls.  You’ll notice there’s a Discussion tab in the project console.  Use it.  Post questions, code snipits, and general information here.  That way everyone involved will benefit.

Next take notice of the Tracker tab.  This is a bug / feature tracker if you will.  As we progress along we should place features and bugs in this tracker.  Again, it helps everyone if we follow a standard.

File Releases is next.  Here is where we will place pre-built VIB versions for download, along with their code.  If you are familiar with source control we will build a branch and tag it as a release, those artifacts will go here.

Finally is the Source Control tab.  Within this tab you will see a Development repository.  This is where we will keep all the project files.

Now let’s get to building.  I’ll post a followup article on my ideas as to how we move forward.  What I ask of you is involvement.  Share your scripts and ESXi STIG settings within the project discussion group.  This is a community project.  I’ll be working on the build automation and documentation.  I need help with the rest of it.  I’ll cover what that is in the next article.  Until then, join the project!  I’ll be posting updates here and via e-mail through the project group itself.

Note: As of right now, only the project site itself and a minimum repository file structure has been established.  The real content will come.  Keep an eye here for a follow-up post and join the group for e-mail notification.

Anyone that has tried to apply the ESXi STIG knows the pain it can cause, especially across multiple hosts.  Settings don’t stick, special scripts must be created, and local files need to be changed.  Doing this once is a pain, doing it across your data center will drive one to drink.  How can this be made easier?

The answer could be a custom VIB.  Using a VIB can resolve the missing or non-sticky file issue, and populate the settings for you, but is that really a viable solution for the Federal data center?  Short answer, it depends.  Let’s dive into the reasons.

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That’s right, revision 4 of the ESXi 5 STIG is right around the corner. You should see it in mid to late January, barring any issues during sign off at DISA.

So, what are the changes you ask?  Well, there are quite a few, and I shouldn’t derail the DISA FSO process by posting them early. However, I can tell you this. The assigned DISA engineer and I sat down for several hours and pretty much rewrote a large majority of the platform portion of the STIG. A special thanks should go out to that engineer, Joe. He absolutely set out to make a much more user friendly and accurate document, and I believe he did.  Well done and thanks Joe!

Another thing you will notice is a striking resemblance to this blog and it’s guidance in the check/fix(s) of the next revision!  Each and every one of you helped to contribute to that knowledge. So, in a sense, you all had a hand in the rewrite since a large portion of the content was pulled from this site. Thanks to all of you for correcting and adding to what I provided here.  I absolutely consider this not only a community effort, but a success at that.

Kudos and all that aside this will undoubtedly not make everyone out there happy, nor will it cover each and every use case. The intent in this revision was to provide content that was achievable and possible to implement. You could say I was trying to work myself out of a blog. 🙂  The revision will not address everything for everyone, but it does work!  Remember, as always, the STIG is an implementation guide to controls that do not fit into every situation. Work with your IA teams and DAA on a plan that fits within your agencies goals and security procedures.

Happy Holidays to all!


Note: This article covers material present in Version 1 Revision 3 and below.  Topics found below may be mitigated in the most current version of the ESXi 5 STIG.  Ensure you are using the most current version of the DISA STIG documents.

Had a colleague point out to me that I gave a pass on a STIG finding for ESXi 5 Server that is, in fact, not that straight forward.  I wanted to take a moment to break that finding out and give some additional guidance.

SRG-OS-99999-ESXI5-000158 – Unauthorized Kernel Modules Must Not Be Loaded on Host

So the key word here is “unauthorized”.  What do they mean?  Well, they are talking about unsigned kernel modules, but there’s a trick to even that.  Per the STIG no kernel module may be loaded that lacks a digital signature… so lets look at how we can do this check.

Right off I’ll tell you there’s at least two ways, likely more, to knock this out.  By default there are a LOT of kernel modules on a default ESXi Server install, too many to go through by hand per the instructions in the STIG.  How can we make this easier.

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Note: This article covers material present in Version 1 Revision 3 and below.  Topics found below may be mitigated in the most current version of the ESXi 5 STIG.  Ensure you are using the most current version of the DISA STIG documents.

In this article I’m going to cover how you can setup the cron jobs necessary in ESXi 5.x to monitor for setUID, setGID, and device file changes per the ESXi 5 STIG.  I will walk you through adding a few scripts to your system that will provide log files that are date/time stamped.

Note: The following is unsupported by VMware.

The scripts outlined below are for educational purposes only to assist in your compliance efforts.  They are in no way meant to be a singular solution nor a replacement for a commercial OS baseline monitoring tool.

GEN002400-ESXI5-10047, GEN002460-ESXI5-20047, GEN002260-ESXI5-000047 – setUID, setGID, and Extraneous Device File Monitoring

First off, as before, the changes we are about to make will not persist across reboots without our help so please reference Blog Series: ESXi 5 STIG – File and Setting Persistence.  Keep that handy in the next tab over for reference.

So, we need to add some automated scripts to your ESXi host to parse the file system for suid, guid, and device files.  The method in which you review and/or determine changes have been made is up to you, ESXi provides you no mechanism to accomplish this.  All we are doing here is setting up the automated process of dumping the data required per the STIG.

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Just got this today from our Center for Policy Compliance guys.  🙂

CP&C is pleased to announce the availability of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) VMware vSphere 5.0 compliance toolkit that is aligned to version 1 and release 3 (V1R3). The benchmark availability announcement was made on 30-Sep-2013 and we churned it pretty quickly! You can download the package using CCW tool and begin to use it.

If you use our vCM product you should download the new toolkit for this update.  As stated above it aligns with V1R3 of the STIG.

*** Update ***

The ESXi 5 STIG for ESXi Server and vCenter Server is now at version 1 revision 3.  The only difference between revision 2 and 3 is the removal of some IAVM findings incorrectly included in the previous release.  The certificate requirements have still been pulled and the below information valid for revision 3.


Ok, so yesterday DISA released the ESXi 5 Version 1 Revision 2 of the STIG.  Now this is only Revision 2 of the ESXi 5 Server and vCenter Server STIG, not the VM.  That is still at revision 1.

Why did they do it?  Just one thing, the removal of  the rule The system must not use default self-signed certificates for <ESXi / vCenter> Communication.  So, if you want to follow the STIG, you no longer have to replace the default certificates provided, or you could replace them with an internal CA.

Why did they do this?  Well, there’s a reason, but not one I’m going to put here on a public blog.  If you’d like to know why just ask your SE.  I will have either already informed them, or they can reach out to me for the information internally.

Note: This article covers material present in Version 1 Revision 3 and below.  Topics found below may be mitigated in the most current version of the ESXi 5 STIG.  Ensure you are using the most current version of the DISA STIG documents.

So we need to talk about GEN005537-ESXI-000111 – SSH Daemon Must Use Privilege Separation for a moment.  There’s a lot of confusion around this finding so let us sort through it together.

First off let’s draw a line in this discussion, nothing can be done about this on ESXi 5.0.  The setting just will not work.  The reason?  We did not compile chroot into ESXi 5.0.  However, in 5.1 and 5.5 it is absolutely configurable, with a little finesse and TLC.  Let’s take a look.

Note: The following instructions are not supported by VMware, nor were they tested in any way, shape or form by QA, so I cannot guarantee how they will react in your environment.  Please implement this on an isolated or single host first to make sure there are no unintended consequences.  To date I have not seen any reports of the below settings, if applied correctly, causing issue.

In addition to this article you are going to need to review Blog Series: ESXi 5 STIG – File and Setting Persistence.  This is necessary because we need to create the default chroot location for the privilege separation user.
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Note: This article covers material present in Version 1 Revision 3 and below.  Topics found below may be mitigated in the most current version of the ESXi 5 STIG.  Ensure you are using the most current version of the DISA STIG documents.

The total ESXi 5 Server portion of the STIG is 142 setting in total.  So far we’ve covered SSH Client, SSH Daemon, and Password Complexity separately.  This article will cover the rest.  A majority of these are either administrative in nature, or simply cause no issue what so ever.  I will list these by STIG ID at the end of this article, just to round things out.  However, there are a few tricks left up their collective sleeves to cover.  Let’s get started.

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