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Understanding Logical Air Gaps in Cybersecurity

You've likely heard of air gaps as an effective cybersecurity measure, but fully understanding the nuances around implementing logical air gaps in cloud environments is key. This breakdown will explore what logical air gaps are, why they're crucial, the types of logical air gaps that exist in cloud setups, and the factors involved in their implementation and maintenance. For IT professionals and decision-makers evaluating data protection solutions in the cloud, read on.

What Is a Logical Air Gap?

A logical air gap is a cybersecurity technique that isolates a network by restricting communication between systems within a cloud environment. Unlike a physical air gap that disconnects networks entirely, a logical air gap in the cloud uses security controls such as separate AWS accounts, Azure subscriptions, or Google Cloud projects, along with firewalls, access control lists, and VLANs to segregate systems while still allowing controlled connections.

Why Logical Air Gaps Matter

Logical air gaps are crucial for protecting sensitive data and critical infrastructure in cloud environments. By segregating networks within cloud platforms, they mitigate risks from cyber threats like malware, data breaches, and unauthorized access. Logical air gaps also help organizations comply with data security regulations and privacy laws, ensuring data is safeguarded across various cloud services.

Types of Logical Air Gaps 

Separate Cloud Accounts

Using separate cloud accounts for backup and production data is a fundamental method of creating a logical air gap in the cloud. For instance, using different AWS accounts, Azure subscriptions, or Google Cloud projects prevents unauthorized access if one account is compromised.

Different Availability Zones

Storing data in different availability zones ensures resilience against regional outages or attacks. For example, backing up data from an AWS region in Ohio to a region on the West Coast can prevent data loss if a specific region faces an issue.

Immutable Storage

Implementing immutable storage solutions, such as AWS S3 Object Lock, Azure Immutable Blob Storage, or Google Cloud Storage Bucket Lock, protects data from being altered or deleted, enhancing security and compliance.

Cross-Cloud Backups

Storing backups in a different cloud provider entirely (e.g., backing up AWS data to Google Cloud) reduces risks further and ensures data availability across different cloud infrastructures.

Implementing and Maintaining Logical Air Gaps 

Implementing logical air gaps in the cloud requires extensive planning and robust access control management. Organizations must evaluate their cloud infrastructure, data flows, and security requirements to determine optimal segmentation strategies. Key steps include:

Planning and Assessment

Evaluate your cloud architecture and identify critical data and systems that require isolation. Determine how logical air gaps can be integrated with your existing cloud infrastructure and assess potential costs, resource requirements, and business impact.

Selecting Isolation Techniques

Choose appropriate isolation methods such as separate cloud accounts, different availability zones, or cross-cloud backups. Consider ease of implementation, security strength, and cost-effectiveness. For highly sensitive data, combining multiple techniques can enhance security.

Establishing Access Controls

Implement strict access controls using tools like AWS IAM, Azure Active Directory (Entra ID), or Google Cloud IAM. Ensure only authorized users can access isolated data by using multi-factor authentication, role-based access, and time-limited credentials. Regularly monitor access and promptly remove permissions when no longer needed.

Applying Updates

Regularly update your cloud services and configurations to protect against vulnerabilities. Use cloud-native tools for patch management and monitoring. Carefully test updates in a non-critical environment before applying them to your air-gapped systems.

Conducting Audits

Schedule regular security audits and penetration tests to ensure the integrity of your logical air gaps. Monitor access logs and cloud activity for unauthorized access attempts. Review procedures and policies annually and update them to address new threats.

Security Considerations for Logical Air Gaps 

When implementing a logical air gap solution in the cloud, several factors must be considered to ensure maximum security and data protection.

Access Controls

Implement strict access controls using cloud-native tools such as AWS IAM, Azure Active Directory (Entra ID), or Google Cloud IAM. Use strong authentication methods like multi-factor authentication to prevent unauthorized access.

Data Protection

Encrypt data stored in the isolated environment and regularly back it up to a different cloud account or availability zone. Ensure backups are immutable using features like AWS S3 Object Lock, Azure Immutable Blob Storage, or Google Cloud Storage Bucket Lock.

Patch and Update Management

Regularly apply patches and updates to cloud services and configurations to protect against vulnerabilities. Use cloud-native tools for patch management and monitoring. Test updates in a non-critical environment before applying them to your air-gapped systems.

When to Use a Logical Air Gaps 

Sensitive Data Protection

Logical air gaps are ideal for shielding sensitive data such as customer records, financial information, trade secrets, and intellectual property in the cloud. By isolating the data within separate cloud accounts or regions, logical air gaps mitigate risks of exfiltration and cyber threats like malware. Organizations can securely store and access sensitive data using isolated cloud environments.

Cloud-Based Operational Technology

In cloud-based operational environments like industrial control systems and critical infrastructure management, logical air gaps safeguard operational technology and critical infrastructure. Isolating OT networks within the cloud prevents potential disruption of essential systems and services from cyberattacks.

Regulatory Compliance

Certain regulations, such as PCI DSS, require logical air gaps for cardholder data environments. Segregating payment systems and networks within the cloud is mandatory to comply with such regulations. Logical air gaps also facilitate compliance audits by clearly delineating regulated data and systems.

System Recovery

Logical air gaps provide a secure backup of data, applications, and systems in the cloud that can be used in case of disasters or cyber incidents. The isolated copies of systems and data enable organizations to recover operations even if primary networks and systems are compromised or non-functional.

Alternatives to Logical Air Gaps 

While logical air gaps are a crucial security control in cloud environments, there are several cloud-specific alternatives worth considering depending on your needs.

Segregated Cloud Networks

Establish virtual separation between cloud environments using firewalls, access controls, and software-defined perimeters. This method provides flexibility while ensuring strict connectivity and data flow controls. Diligent oversight and regular monitoring are essential to maintain security.

Cross-Cloud Backups

Utilize cross-cloud backups to store data in a different cloud provider, enhancing redundancy and reducing risk. For example, backup AWS data to Google Cloud or Azure to ensure data availability and security.

Unidirectional Gateways

Implement unidirectional gateways or data diodes within cloud environments to ensure one-way data flows. These tools can be used to transfer data securely between cloud environments, providing an additional layer of security.

While logical air gaps provide significant security benefits, carefully evaluating these alternatives based on your unique cloud infrastructure and data protection requirements is crucial. Each method offers varying levels of isolation and control, aligning with the sensitivity of your data and systems.

FAQs About Logical Air Gaps 

Logical air gaps are network isolation techniques that can be implemented through cloud configurations rather than physical separation. They are a crucial data protection method that effectively mitigates cyber threats and safeguards sensitive information in cloud environments.

Why are logical air gaps important in the cloud?

Logical air gaps are vital for securing sensitive data and critical systems in the cloud. They protect against cyberattacks by blocking unauthorized network connections that could introduce malware or allow data exfiltration. 

Logical air gaps also support regulatory compliance requirements for highly sensitive data like personal health information, financial records, or intellectual property.

How are logical air gaps implemented in the cloud?

Implementing logical air gaps in the cloud requires careful planning and security practices. Cloud administrators use tools like separate cloud accounts, different availability zones, and immutable storage solutions to isolate systems. 

Access is controlled with multi-factor authentication, role-based access controls, and strict firewall policies. Regular audits and security updates help maintain the integrity of logical air gaps.

What types of logical air gaps are there in the cloud? 

The main types include separate cloud accounts, different availability zones, immutable storage solutions, and cross-cloud backups. These methods ensure that isolated network segments are protected with firewalls and restricted communication between segments.


As you have learned, logical air gaps are a vital component of a strong cybersecurity strategy in cloud environments. By isolating systems and networks, logical air gaps mitigate risks and thwart attacks. While complex to implement and maintain, their benefits outweigh the effort. Logical air gaps will continue to protect data, infrastructure, and operations well into the future. 

With proper planning and controls, organizations can leverage them effectively. Though not infallible, logical air gaps remain essential to safeguarding systems. Understanding their principles and applications will serve security-conscious organizations and professionals.