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Our old computer is getting replaced, and I want to secure the new computer right from the get go. So I figured if I install something like VirtualBox first thing, I could then create one very powerful VM for my family to use.

My old computer was plagued with viruses and trojans and rootkits that i couldn't pull out of the hardware, and I didn't want it to happen again to the fresh PC hardware. My thinking was, that if something went horribly wrong with the VM, I could just restore a backup of the VM. In that way, the PC's hardware is spared.

Is this a viable security measure?

---Addition

So, I know that the resulting VM will be weaker than the actual computer. I am betting on the fact that the host will be healthy/not crippled by malware to make up for the loss. I'm not the only one who will be using the computer, and the rest that would use it are casual users/unsafe on the internet. So, the computer will almost certainly be compromised.

By having all the users use the VM, I am hoping to preserve the strength of host; as in, keep the malware on the guest. If I restore the VM to its clean form, I can wipe out the malware no? I am meaning to keep the host clean.

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    Why don't you just normally backup the entire computer and forget about VirtualBox? – Celeritas Apr 12 '14 at 1:52
  • The malware tends to stick to my hardware. They are persistent. – user2738698 Apr 12 '14 at 4:09
  • I don't understand what you mean by that. Are you sure that's such a thing? If you do a complete restore of backups and the malware is still there that means the malware had been included in a backup or the backup wasn't of the entire disk. – Celeritas Apr 12 '14 at 5:01
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    Yes, bootkits persist inside the master boot sector for example – user2738698 Apr 12 '14 at 6:25
  • If you didn't back up the master boot sector, it's not a complete backup. – immibis Apr 12 '14 at 13:12
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It sounds like you are wanting to run a bare metal hypervisor as a desktop. This is only recently been supported on platforms like vSphere and Xen due to PCI/VGA Passthrough. If you are looking for any real performance, you are going to be slightly disappointed with this setup.

What I generally suggest is to install the operating system, install the applications you know are safe and stable, configure the machine to your liking, and then take an image. Windows 7+ makes this process almost stupid easy, to the point where you can restore a system to its previous state in less than an hour. This is exactly what you would be doing with a VM, except it would not be virtualized.

To answer your question, it is a viable security measure. I don't know how practical it is though. I've done this exact thing before, and usability as a desktop was not optimal.

  • Oh I see, will the hardware be safe with such an imaging? A lot of the viruses that stuck around the first time stayed in the hard drive and registry. – user2738698 Apr 11 '14 at 23:15
  • Persistent malware is a threat, but I don't think it is as common place as one might think. Things like EUFI will help mitigate some of the risks, but it is not fool proof. There are also cases of malware breaking out of the virtual machine, and infecting the hypervisor. Nothing is certain, but I think these are reasonable steps for typical desktop security. – David Houde Apr 12 '14 at 2:14

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