The last thing you want to do in the event of a successful ransomware attack on your network is to pay the ransom. However, without the proper precautions in place, some companies have been forced to hand over money to cyber criminals merely to regain access to their critical data. And just because you pay doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get your data back. That’s why the best way to defend against ransomware is by implementing proactive security measures that provide an additional layer of data protection. One of the most effective of these ransomware strategies is air gapping.

In this post, we’ll explore the fundamentals of how air gapping works and explain how it can protect your network in the event of a ransomware attack.

The Problem With Network Backups

Data backup and recovery platforms have become one of the most common defenses against ransomware. If cyber criminals infiltrate your network and encrypt all of your data, all your team has to do is simply restore everything on your network from the most recent system backup, right? Not necessarily.

If you’re depending on automated network backups alone to protect your network from a ransomware attack, your network is still vulnerable to ransomware. That’s because cyber criminals can potentially infiltrate your data backup and recovery systems to encrypt them along with your network data. If that happens, all is lost, and your only option is to cut your losses or pay the ransom and hope for the best. Fortunately, air gapping provides an additional layer of protection to defend your network backup data from the threat of ransomware. Here’s how.

How Air Gapping Works

When the malware behind ransomware infiltrates your network, it can then move laterally across systems, thereby compromising and encrypting other processes, including data backups. The best way to defend against this threat is by creating an air gap. By establishing an air gap, you’re essentially disconnecting network backup data from your core network.

Traditionally, this involved manually removing backup devices from the network after a backup occurred. That may involve physically removing a backup hard drive—or even multiple drives—for storage in a safe place completely disconnected from network access. Except for physical theft, cyber criminals then have no way to compromise that data. As a result, physical air gapping is a common strategy for high-value information such as that used by military and government organizations, stock exchange systems, and life-critical infrastructure.

In the age of automated network backups and increasing amounts of data, however, manual air gapping is no longer up to the task for most business applications. That’s because manual air gapping is too slow, tedious, and expensive to justify the protection. At the same time, physical storage devices are prone to theft, damage, and file corruption. Fortunately, the days of manual air gapping are behind us.

Virtual Air Gapping

In response to the challenges of conventional air gapping, many cloud providers now make it possible to emulate air gapping in a virtual environment. With virtual air gapping, you’re able to keep your backup data protected from lateral threats while streamlining the data backup and recovery process. With automated cloud backups, backup systems can take snapshots of the storage environment along with network data. These snapshots are then stored as read-only files, meaning they cannot be changed, overwritten, or encrypted by cyber criminals.

Even if hackers are able to gain access to these read-only system backups, they won’t be able to do anything with them, so you’ll always have a reliable network backup source in the event of a ransomware attack. And because these snapshots occur at regular intervals and can be stored indefinitely, you don’t have to worry about file corruption or other system errors.

Start Air Gapping With Pure IT

Has a ransomware attack struck your business in the past? Or do you want to stay a step ahead of cyber criminals? The cyber security experts at Pure IT can help. We specialize in developing and deploying next-level network security strategies that never get in the way of your day-to-day operations. Contact our team today to start exploring the options for defending your network.

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