How Air-Gapped Backups Protect Against Ransomware

Cybersecurity enthusiasts may or may not have heard about air-gapped backups. If you haven’t, now is the time to familiarize yourself with this technique. Air gapping protects networks from ransomware and is used with other cybersecurity techniques to protect against threat actors. Here’s what this strategy contains and how it raises the value of your digital defenses.

What Are Air-Gapped Backups?

Data recovery is one of the top recommendations against ransomware. Companies or individuals with multiple secure data backups do not need to pay the ransom, and hackers know they render their attacks moot. Now, they are attacking backup environments with as much ferocity, also known as a sleeper ransomware attack. Main data stores and backup systems must have equally robust and constant protection, which air gapping provides.

Air-gapped backups are typically offline, secluded versions of a backup. They are on storage devices that people cannot access with a network connection. Ransomware attackers can’t extricate or encrypt data from unconnected devices without more creative means.

For example, cloud infrastructure may not be air-gapped because threat actors may find their way into your storage through your network or by compromising credentials. A flash drive or external hard drive disconnected from machinery is air-gapped because it is inaccessible unless plugged into a network-connected device. Products like these are known as physical air gaps.

There are two alternatives. Logical air gapping uses technological aids to create the barrier, such as software. The tools should have protective measures like encryption and customizable access controls. Air gap clouds are cloud storage for air-gapped backups — perfect for hybrid and remote workplaces. They employ similar defensive structures as logical air gaps.

How Do You Set up an Air-Gapped Backup?

Air gapping’s complexity depends on how much data you have and how frequently you need to back it up. However, the process generally follows these main steps:

  1. Determine the type and size of air-gapped backup devices where you want to store data, such as hard drives or other removable disks.
  1. Perform data analyses of the information you want to transfer. Reviews are essential because the method is ineffective if you send already compromised information.
  1. Transfer data to immutable, air-gapped backup devices.
  1. Always safely disconnect devices and store them in a protected location. Leaving them unintentionally plugged in or unlocked safes leaves openings for theft and ransomware.
  1. Create a schedule to ensure up-to-date backups.
  1. Instill specific data management controls for limited permissions and compliance adherence.

How Do They Help Protect Against Ransomware?

Cybercriminals are one threat, but technological failures and natural disasters are a few other unexpected dangers to your data. Numerous influences compromise your digital space’s integrity, and air gaps are versatile.

1. It Minimizes Entry Points

Ransomware attackers have countless ways to enter your network and devices. They could use social engineering to manipulate a friend or employee. Hackers may start with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack and end with employing ransomware.

Having the air-gapped barrier between threat actors and data doesn’t take away every entry point, but it severely cuts their list of possibilities because of its isolated nature. Identify the areas in your attack surface and see how air gapping helps with most of them.

2. It’s Easy to Implement

Air gapping works well alongside other cybersecurity methods because it is easy to install. It does require high upfront costs and gradual time investments, but you can overcome them. Finding your preferred storage solution may take time but is less complex than other cybersecurity solutions.

3. It Prevents Data Loss

Nobody wants to lose data, especially if you run a company with business-critical or personally identifiable information for clients. You never lose anything as long as you update air-gapped backups, even if a ransomware attack compromises everything on your central systems.

4. It Averts Future Attacks

Comprehensive cybersecurity builds your reputation. Security enthusiasts and analysts want to make it known their digital walls are hard to crack. If one ransomware hacker is unsuccessful in getting payment from their ransom because you have air-gapped backups, why would others be incentivized to try? It decreases the likelihood of similar attacks happening.

This is not foolproof, as criminals get more inventive with new ways to compromise data. Air gapping should be an effective deterrent until novel ransomware attack variants become trendy.

Are Air-Gapped Backups the Best Solution?

Cybersecurity professionals and hobbyists long to find the ultimate protective solution that hackers will never break through. Even though this reality may never exist, air gapping is a high-quality tactic. It becomes more valuable alongside other cybersecurity measures. Here are additional steps to take that only make your air gapping sturdier:

  • Multifactor authentication
  • System and software updates
  • Firewalls
  • Anti-malware and antivirus software
  • Least privilege permissions
  • Cybersecurity hygiene, like creating strong passwords
  • Seeking professional advice and assistance, like penetration testers or compliance auditors

Leveraging Air-Gapped Backups for Security

Air-gapped backups are an ideal addition to an existing cybersecurity roster, primarily against ransomware. Air-gapping is an accessible strategy because it doesn’t require intense technical expertise. It keeps information safe and eliminates countless vulnerabilities hackers would otherwise exploit in connected environments.

Taking advantage of responsible air-gapping with other defensive techniques will only make you safer against ransomware threats.