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. When data backups are air gapped, it can aid in recovery efforts. For example, if a company uses air gapping as part of their 3-2-1 backup strategy, and their network is hit by a ransomware attack, they will have an offline copy of the latest backup to use for recovery and not have to pay the ransom.

To prevent unauthorized data extrusion through electromagnetic or electronic exploits, there is usually 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.

The U.S. National Security Agency TEMPEST project provides recommendations for using air gapping as a security measure. 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

4 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

What is your biggest challenge when educating end users about social engineering?
Cancel
explaining in brief detail about air gapping attack.
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

SearchCompliance

  • risk assessment

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

  • PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)

    The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a widely accepted set of policies and procedures intended to ...

  • risk management

    Risk management is the process of identifying, assessing and controlling threats to an organization's capital and earnings.

SearchSecurity

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • call tree

    A call tree is a layered hierarchical communication model that is used to notify specific individuals of an event and coordinate ...

  • Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS)

    Disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) is the replication and hosting of physical or virtual servers by a third party to provide ...

  • cloud disaster recovery (cloud DR)

    Cloud disaster recovery (cloud DR) is a combination of strategies and services intended to back up data, applications and other ...

SearchStorage

  • RAM (Random Access Memory)

    RAM (Random Access Memory) is the hardware in a computing device where the operating system (OS), application programs and data ...

  • business impact analysis (BIA)

    Business impact analysis (BIA) is a systematic process to determine and evaluate the potential effects of an interruption to ...

  • M.2 SSD

    An M.2 SSD is a solid-state drive that is used in internally mounted storage expansion cards of a small form factor.

Close