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Air gap

Air gap

(also air wall, air gapping, disconnected network)

Air gap definition

An air gap is a security measure that involves isolating a computer or computer system and preventing it from connecting wirelessly and/or physically to other computers, devices, or unsecured networks, such as the internet or a local area network. Air gapping is used to prevent cyberattacks and is usually implemented for computer networks that contain critical information requiring the highest level of security. In an air-gapped system, data transfer is only possible if the data is copied to a removable storage device and physically carried to another device or system.

Air gapping benefits

  • Intrusion protection. An air gap protects the computer network from intrusions that may result in theft or damage to its digital assets.
  • Malware protection. Air gapping limits the spread of spyware, ransomware, keyloggers and other malicious software traveling the internet because the system and its data are offline.

Air gapping issues

  • Manual updates. Because the air-gapped systems are not connected to the internet, the software does not update automatically. The updates must be implemented manually by system administrators.
  • Insider attacks and data leakage. Since data is transferred by using portable media devices, such as a USB, there is a risk of internal attacks and data leakage through the use of infected devices.
  • Electromagnetic leakage. Air-gapped systems are vulnerable to electromagnetic attacks since cybercriminals are able to hack the data passing through the system by remotely analyzing electromagnetic waves produced by the hardware of the air-gapped computers.
  • Targeted virus attacks. If a virus is present in the manually implemented software updates, it spreads throughout the whole air-gapped computer system.
  • Diminished productivity. The lack of Internet connection might hinder or slow down some processes that require access to systems through the Internet.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security