Air Gap Backup: Without It, Your Data Protection Strategy Is At Risk
What Is an Air Gap Backup?
Air gap backup refers to a backup system that is physically isolated from the main computer or network, creating a “gap” between the two systems. This separation ensures that the backup data is not accessible to hackers or malware that may have infected the primary system.
The air gap backup system is typically implemented by storing the backup data on a separate physical device, such as an external hard drive or a tape drive and disconnecting that device from the network or computer after the backup is completed. This physical separation ensures that the backup data is not vulnerable to cyber-attacks, such as ransomware, which can infect and encrypt data on connected systems.
Air gap backup is often used by organizations with high-security requirements, such as government agencies, financial institutions, and healthcare providers. It provides an additional layer of protection against data loss or theft and is considered a best practice for data backup and disaster recovery planning.
Air Gap and Networking
Air gap backup and networking are generally not compatible, as air gap backup involves physically isolating the backup system from the network or computer it is backing up. The purpose of this isolation is to prevent any communication between the two systems and ensure that the backup data is not vulnerable to cyber-attacks that may target the primary network or computer.
However, in some cases, air gap backup systems may be connected to a network for the purpose of transferring data between the backup system and the primary system. In these cases, strict security measures must be implemented to ensure that the backup system remains isolated from the network and is not vulnerable to cyber threats.
One way to achieve this is by using a dedicated network that is physically separate from the primary network, such as a local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN). This dedicated network can be used exclusively for transferring data between the backup system and the primary system and can be secured using encryption and other security protocols to prevent unauthorized access.
Another approach is to use specialized hardware or software that creates a virtual air gap between the backup system and the primary system, even if they are physically connected to the same network. This can be achieved using network segmentation, firewalls, and other security measures that limit the communication between the two systems to only what is necessary for data transfer.
Air Gap Network Diagram
| Primary Network | | Backup System |
| | | |
| +————-+ | | +—————+ |
| | | | | | | |
| | Firewall +———–+ Backup Device | |
| | | | | | | |
| +————-+ | | +—————+ |
| | | |
In this diagram, the primary network and backup system are connected by a dedicated network interface or through a direct connection. A firewall is used to enforce strict access controls, allowing only the necessary traffic between the primary network and the backup device.
The backup device, such as an external hard drive or tape drive, is physically separated from the primary network when not in use, creating an air gap. The backup device is only connected to the primary network when data needs to be backed up or restored.
This configuration ensures that the backup device is isolated from the primary network, protecting it from cyber-attacks such as malware and ransomware. The use of a firewall adds an additional layer of protection by controlling the flow of traffic between the primary network and the backup device.
Air-Gapped Systems and Computers
An air-gapped system or computer is one that is physically isolated from other networks and systems, including the internet. This isolation is achieved by disconnecting the system or computer from any external connections, such as ethernet cables or Wi-Fi, and by disabling any wireless or Bluetooth connectivity.
The purpose of an air-gapped system or computer is to provide an extra layer of security and prevent unauthorized access or data exfiltration. This makes air-gapped systems particularly useful in situations where sensitive or confidential data is being handled, such as in military operations, financial institutions, and research labs.
However, air-gapped systems can be difficult to maintain and manage, as they require physical access to transfer data to and from the system. This can make it challenging to keep the system up to date with software patches and updates, and to back up data on a regular basis.
In addition, while air gapping can provide a high degree of security, it is not foolproof. Cyber attackers have developed creative methods for breaching air-gapped systems, such as using malware on removable storage devices or exploiting vulnerabilities in the firmware of the system.
As such, it is important to use other security measures in conjunction with air gapping, such as strong access controls, encryption, and continuous monitoring of system activity, to ensure the security of sensitive or confidential data.
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Air Gap Security against Ransomware
Air gap security can be an effective measure against ransomware attacks. Ransomware is a type of malware that infects a computer or network, encrypts data, and demands payment for the decryption key. Air gapping can protect against ransomware attacks by physically isolating backup data from the network or computer being backed up.
Here are some ways air gap security can be used to protect against ransomware attacks:
- Backup data on an isolated system: Use a backup system that is physically separated from the network or computer being backed up. This ensures that backup data is not accessible to ransomware or other malware that may have infected the primary system.
- Disable automatic backup: Ransomware can sometimes infect backup files if they are automatically synced with the primary system. Disable automatic backup and manually transfer data to the backup system to ensure that backup files are not overwritten or infected by ransomware.
- Store backup data on removable media: Use removable storage devices, such as external hard drives or USB flash drives, to store backup data. After backing up data, disconnect the storage device from the network or computer being backed up and store it in a secure location.
- Test backup and recovery procedures: Regularly test backup and recovery procedures to ensure that backup data can be restored in the event of a ransomware attack. This includes verifying the integrity of backup data, testing recovery procedures, and ensuring that all necessary software and tools are available for recovery.
While air gap security can be an effective measure against ransomware attacks, it is important to use other security measures in conjunction with air gapping, such as access controls, encryption, and regular security audits, to ensure the security of sensitive or confidential data.
Air Gapping in the Cloud
Air gapping in the cloud refers to the practice of physically isolating cloud-based data or systems from the public internet or other networks. This can be achieved by using dedicated infrastructure or by configuring security controls to restrict access to cloud-based systems.
Here are some ways air gapping can be implemented in the cloud:
- Dedicated cloud infrastructure: Use dedicated cloud infrastructure that is isolated from the public internet and other networks. This can be achieved by using a private cloud or by configuring a public cloud provider to use a dedicated network that is physically separated from the internet.
- Access controls: Use access controls to restrict access to cloud-based systems. This includes using firewalls to block traffic from external networks, configuring network security groups to control traffic between cloud-based systems, and using role-based access controls to limit access to cloud-based data and systems.
- Encryption: Use encryption to protect cloud-based data. This includes encrypting data at rest and in transit and using secure communication protocols to ensure that data is transmitted securely between cloud-based systems.
- Regular audits and testing: Conduct regular audits and testing to ensure that the air gapping controls are effective and to identify any vulnerabilities or weaknesses in the system.
While air gapping in the cloud can provide an additional layer of security, it can also pose some challenges, such as increased complexity and cost. It is important to carefully evaluate the benefits and risks of air gapping in the cloud and to implement other security measures, such as access controls and encryption, to ensure the security of cloud-based data and systems.
Air Gap and Storage
Air gap storage is a method of storing data or information on a physically isolated storage device or media. The purpose of air gap storage is to prevent unauthorized access, tampering, or destruction of the data or information.
Here are some examples of air gap storage:
- Offline storage: Store data or information on an offline storage device, such as an external hard drive, USB flash drive, or optical disc. After backing up the data or information, disconnect the storage device from the network or computer being backed up and store it in a secure location.
- Tape storage: Use tape storage to store data or information on magnetic tape. After backing up the data or information, disconnect the tape storage device from the network or computer being backed up and store it in a secure location.
- Write-once, read-many (WORM) media: Use WORM media, such as write-once CD or DVD, to store data or information that cannot be altered or overwritten once written. After backing up the data or information, store the WORM media in a secure location.
Air gap storage can provide an additional layer of security against data breaches or cyber-attacks, as the data or information is physically isolated from the network or computer being backed up. However, it is important to ensure that the data or information is securely stored and that access to the storage device or media is restricted to authorized personnel only. Additionally, it is important to regularly test backup and recovery procedures to ensure that data can be restored in the event of a disaster or cyber-attack.
What should I look for in a hyper-converged solution?
If you are considering a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solution, here are some key factors to consider:
- Scalability: Look for an HCI solution that can easily scale to meet your organization’s needs. The solution should be able to add computing, storage, and networking resources as needed without disrupting existing operations.
- Performance: HCI solutions should provide high-performance storage and compute resources to support critical applications and workloads. Look for solutions that provide low-latency storage access and high-speed networking.
- Management and automation: HCI solutions should be easy to manage and automate, with a unified management interface that allows you to manage all resources from a single pane of glass. Look for solutions that provide automation and orchestration capabilities to streamline operations and improve efficiency.
- Data protection and availability: Look for HCI solutions that provide data protection and high availability features, such as backup and recovery, disaster recovery, and redundancy.
- Security: Look for HCI solutions that provide robust security features, such as encryption, access controls, and monitoring tools to ensure the security of your data and applications.
- Cost-effectiveness: HCI solutions should be cost-effective, with a predictable pricing model that allows you to pay for only the resources you need. Look for solutions that provide flexible pricing options and support for open-source software to reduce costs.
By considering these factors when evaluating HCI solutions, you can choose a solution that meets your organization’s needs and provides a solid foundation for your IT infrastructure.