Browse Definitions:
Definition

air gapping (air gap attack)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Air gapping is a security measure that involves isolating a computer or network and preventing it from establishing an external connection. For example, an air gapped computer is one that is physically segregated and incapable of connecting wirelessly or physically with other computers or network devices.

Air-gapped networks are used to protect many types of critical systems, including those that support the stock market, the military, the government and industrial power industries. The U.S. National Security Agency TEMPEST project provides recommendations for using air gapping as a security measure. To prevent unauthorized data extrusion through electromagnetic or electronic exploits, there is often a specified amount of space between the air gapped system and outside walls and between its wires and the wires for other technical equipment. For a system with extremely sensitive data, a Faraday cage can be used to prevent electromagnetic radiation (EMR) escaping from the air-gapped equipment.

Although these measures seem extreme, van Eck phreaking can be used to intercept data such as key strokes or screen images from demodulated EMR waves, using special equipment from some distance away. Other proof-of-concept (POC) attacks for air gapped systems have shown that electromagnetic emanations from infected sound cards on isolated computers can be exploited and continuous wave irradiation can be used to reflect and gather information from isolated screens, keyboards and other computer components.

Perhaps the most important way to protect a computing device or network from an air gap attack is through end user security awareness training. The infamous Stuxnet worm, which was designed to attack air gapped industrial control systems, is thought to have been introduced by infected thumb drives found by employees or obtained as free giveaways.

Editor's note: The software-defined perimeter (SDP) framework is sometimes referred to as a method of virtual air gapping. SDP requires authentication of all external endpoints attempting to access internal infrastructure and ensures that only authenticated systems can see internal IP addresses.

This was last updated in September 2017

Continue Reading About air gapping (air gap attack)

Join the conversation

3 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

What is your biggest challenge when educating end users about social engineering?
Cancel
Learn something new from your post. Keep posting :)
Cancel

Margaret,

I'm pleased to see an article on air-gapping. This has been a major staple of my research for years. This is the only true way to securing information in the technology era.

I've always appreciated your articles.

Thank you.

Alan Smith

Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

  • internal audit (IA)

    An internal audit (IA) is an organizational initiative to monitor and analyze its own business operations in order to determine ...

  • pure risk (absolute risk)

    Pure risk, also called absolute risk, is a category of threat that is beyond human control and has only one possible outcome if ...

  • risk assessment

    Risk assessment is the identification of hazards that could negatively impact an organization's ability to conduct business.

SearchSecurity

  • intrusion detection system (IDS)

    An intrusion detection system (IDS) is a system that monitors network traffic for suspicious activity and issues alerts when such...

  • security information and event management (SIEM)

    Security information and event management (SIEM) is an approach to security management that seeks to provide a holistic view of ...

  • polymorphic virus

    A polymorphic virus is a harmful, destructive or intrusive type of malware that can change or 'morph,' making it difficult to ...

SearchHealthIT

  • accountable care organization (ACO)

    An accountable care organization (ACO) is an association of hospitals, healthcare providers and insurers in which all parties ...

  • patient engagement

    Patient engagement is an ideal healthcare situation in which people are well-informed about -- and motivated to be involved -- in...

  • personal health record (PHR)

    A personal health record (PHR) is a collection of health-related information that is documented and maintained by the individual ...

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR)

    Business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) are closely related practices that describe an organization's preparation for ...

  • business continuity plan (BCP)

    A business continuity plan (BCP) is a document that consists of the critical information an organization needs to continue ...

  • call tree

    A call tree -- sometimes referred to as a phone tree -- is a telecommunications chain for notifying specific individuals of an ...

SearchStorage

SearchSolidStateStorage

  • hybrid hard disk drive (HDD)

    A hybrid hard disk drive is an electromechanical spinning hard disk that contains some amount of NAND Flash memory.

Close