I want to install macOS High Sierra as a guest having macOS in the host but want to know what virtualization software either VirtualBox of VMware provides the best security options between Guest and Host.

For example, I would like to create multiple VM's with their own disk encrypted (filevault) boot/firmware password or any other Guest mechanism in place in a way that when the VM is down, the host could only delete the VM but in no other way could see contents of the disk besides probably brute forcing it from the host console.

The access to the guest VM may be via VNC/remote desktop/ssh but they are on a shared environment (rack with multiple mac minis) in where some extra security is required at least when VM's are down since once UP could be very easy from the HOST attach to the console.

  • I'm not sure what you're asking here.... Both VB and VMware allow you to encrypt your VMs. macOS will allow you to encrypt the filesystem of the disk (in this case virtual) it boots from. VB is pretty good in only allowing the user's VMs to be only started by the user (can't speak to VMware; I don't use it enough). That said, I also don't see the benefit of using a GUI centric OS as a guest on a GUI centric OS in a shared (hosted) environment. What exactly are you looking to do? – Allan Aug 9 '18 at 21:14
  • Basically would like to prevent the admins that manage the Host to start up a VM and extract content's from it, I know they could start it up wondering if there is a password prompt or something to secure more this beside the guest settings – nbari Aug 9 '18 at 21:20
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    this might be good reading: virtualbox.org/manual/ch13.html – Allan Aug 9 '18 at 21:23
  • It’s not totally clear what your actual threat model is, but I’ve edited out the side questions and answered the main question straight on. Feel free to ask a follow on question, linking here and @ me in comments to my answer if you’d like help with the editing / linking. – bmike Aug 9 '18 at 23:19

This would be trivial with either suggested VM software.

Make an encrypted sparse disk image large enough to hold the guest storage and then build your VM once you’ve mounted the secure disk image.

By controlling the encryption passphrase of that store, other admins can only delete the container, not mount and read it.

  • Didn't think about this but seems to be a good solution :-) – nbari Aug 10 '18 at 6:00
  • what is the main difference between using a sparse disk or a read/write disk image both could work? – nbari Aug 10 '18 at 6:33
  • @nbari That would make a good question in it's own right. Let's see if someone has asked it. as far as TM is concerned - zero difference. – bmike Aug 10 '18 at 11:18

I agree with @bmike 's answer, and was going to comment above, but I don't have enough reputation points.

My setup is:

  • APFS file system on host.
  • Encrypted .sparsebundle image for each guest VM.
  • TimeMachine (and/or Arq or other backup mechanism) configured to backup only the unmounted sparse bundle.

You want sparse bundles because they actually consist of small 8MB bands of data, rather than a huge single file for the entire disk image. This means that the backup will take a lot less, as only the modified bands will be backed up, rather than backing up the entire disk image every time the backup is run.

You want APFS because that gives you the ability to quickly create snapshots and just even clones, w/o taking up any additional disk space (until things start changing).

You want to avoid backing up the mounted sparse bundles, otherwise you will loose the whole above discussed advantage of having the VM split in tiny encrypted bands.

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