Cyber Warfare - What Is Air Gapping In Cyber Security?


The word "air gapping" refers to a security procedure implemented to safeguard a computer system against unauthorized access.

A computer system must be separated from any local area network or public wireless network in order to be air gapped.

Because of the sensitive information stored therein, the military, intelligence agencies, financial institutions, and even certain advocacy organizations air gap some systems.

Air gapping is primarily a security mechanism, but it may also refer to a data transmission technique from one classified system to another.

It's often utilized to transport material from the low side (unclassified machines) to the high side (classified equipment) (classified machines).

On the low side, data is cut to a CD-ROM and put on the high side.

Even isolating the system from the rest of the network may not be enough to keep it safe.

Recent exploits have shown the importance of air gapping in critical systems.

A hacker claimed lately that he gained access to a flight control system through the plane's media network.

The Stuxnet virus, which infected Iranian centrifuges, was delivered through a USB device linked to the machine.

Even if the system's exterior connections keep it safe from electromagnetic or other electrical attacks, they can't keep the system safe from internal errors or threats.

The US government created guidelines to aid air gap computer systems under the National Security Administration's (NSA) TEMPEST program (Telecommunications Electronics Material Protected from Emanating Spurious Transmissions).

To avoid intrusion, the guidelines propose keeping the system at a minimum safe distance and enclosing it in a Faraday cage.


See also: 

Cyber Security; Hardware; Internet

Further Reading:

Clarke, Richard A., and Robert K. Knake. Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do about It. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.

Libicki, Martin. Cyberspace in Peace and War. Annapolis, MD: U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2016.