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What Is the Meaning of Egress?

A common egress meaning is the process of data leaving a network and transferring to an external location. Data egress is a form of network activity but poses a threat to organizations if it exposes sensitive data to unauthorized or unintended recipients.

Egress happens whenever data leaves an organization’s network, be it via email messages, as uploads to the cloud or websites, as a file transferred onto removable media like Universal Serial Bus (USB) drives and external hard drives, or through File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) transfers.

Data Egress vs. Data Ingress

Another way to define egress is the process of data being shared externally via a network’s outbound traffic. When thinking about ingress vs. egress, data ingress refers to traffic that comes from outside an organization’s network and is transferred into it. It is unsolicited traffic that gets sent from the internet to a private network. The traffic does not come in response to a request made from inside an organization’s network. 

Egress traffic is a commonly used term that describes the amount of traffic that gets transferred from an organization’s host network to external networks. Organizations can monitor egress traffic for anomalous or malicious activity through egress filtering. This enables businesses to block the transfer of sensitive data outside corporate networks, while limiting and blocking high-volume data transfers.

Threats Related to Data Egress

Data egress presents many threats to organizations, especially if data is shared externally with unauthorized recipients. Sensitive or proprietary data and high-value personal data are highly lucrative and targeted by cyber criminals, nation-state hackers, and even organizations’ competitors. 

Bad actors can use data exfiltration techniques that enable them to intercept, steal, or snoop on networks and data in transit, which can result in data loss or leakage. These techniques include the spread of malware, such as backdoor Trojans, or using social engineering to disguise attacks as regular network traffic. 

These threats typically involve commonly used tools that organizations access every day, such as email, USB drives, or cloud uploads. More advanced and stealthy methods of intercepting data egress include the encryption of modified data before it is exfiltrated and using techniques to mask the attacker’s location and traffic.

A major risk that data egress poses to organizations is insider threat, which can be either malicious or accidental. A malicious insider threat involves an organization’s own employee stealing corporate data with the intent to harm the company by giving or selling that data to a hacker, third party, or competitor. Accidental insider threats occur if employees inadvertently send data to an unauthorized recipient or disable a security control.

Best Practices for Data Egress Management

Data egress management is reliant on discovering where an organization’s sensitive data is stored and where it leaves the network. This is a process referred to as network monitoring and data discovery and is crucial to securing the data egress points in an organization’s system. 

Best practices to achieve this include:

  1. Create a data egress enforcement policy: Organizations must create and follow a data egress enforcement policy that outlines what constitutes acceptable use of data. This policy must be extremely thorough and outline how the company protects its resources, provide a list of internet-accessible services that are approved for use, and detail guidelines for how employees should access and handle sensitive data.
  2. Monitor networks: The first step to ensuring secure data egress is to monitor what is happening on an organization’s network. This not only enables an organization to know which users and devices are active on its network but also detect any suspicious activity. Network monitoring also allows organizations to measure crucial metrics like availability, response time, and uptime. 
  3. Deploy an effective firewall: Firewalls are network gatekeepers that enable an organization to securely manage data egress and ingress. Many data breaches were allowed to occur because organizations’ egress rules allowed intruders to access and intercept data without the company even knowing an attacker had been active in their networks. 
  4. Implement firewall rules: Deploying an effective network firewall is a good first step, but it also needs to be configured with appropriate rules that enable it to detect, monitor, and block unauthorized data egress. Effective firewall rules will allow an organization to block data egress to unauthorized locations and malicious individuals. 
  5. Deploy firewall logging: Egress and ingress data traffic must be logged to manage and protect against malicious activity. Firewall logging enables organizations to analyze their network traffic through security information and event management (SIEM) solutions. Using these tools, they can compile, correlate, and manage data from across their networks and systems, and if set up effectively, these same solutions will help prevent unauthorized data exposure.
  6. Protect sensitive data: Organizations must identify their sensitive data and assign it with classification tags that dictate the level of protection it requires. This process, known as data classification and data discovery, enables an organization to identify, classify, and apply appropriate protective measures to their most sensitive data. Businesses need to locate, identify, and organize their sensitive data before they can decide what level of protection they need and who they allow to access specific data and resources.
  7. Deploy data loss prevention: Using this data classification knowledge, organizations can then deploy data loss prevention (DLP) tools to safeguard their sensitive data. DLP applies policy-based protection, such as blocking unauthorized actions or data encryption, to protect sensitive data. Combining DLP with data classification and data discovery ensures organizations have a full picture of the sensitive data they have, where it is stored, and how it is protected from unauthorized exposure and loss.
  8. Control access to data: Simply protecting data is a good start to preventing data egress, but it is also key to controlling who has access to data, networks, and resources. To do this, organizations should implement and follow an authorization policy, which ensures every device that connects to a network is approved before it can join.
  9. Incident response: In case a data breach or data leak does occur, organizations need to have a preplanned response in place. A well-developed incident response plan that provides repeatable future actions and outlines which individuals are responsible for necessary actions is one of the best ways to protect a company from attack. It enables organizations to minimize the damage a cyberattack causes and mitigate the threat as quickly as possible. A solid incident response plan also includes investigating what happened, which is crucial to learning from the attack and preparing for future events.

How Fortinet Can Help

Fortinet helps organizations protect their networks, users, and resources with its next-generation firewalls (NGFWs). These advanced firewalls filter network traffic from external threats to data egress, as well as internal threats such as malicious insiders. The Fortinet NGFWs provide key firewall features, such as packet filtering, network monitoring, Internet Protocol security (IPsec), and secure sockets layer virtual private network (SSL VPN) support. They also offer deeper content inspection features that enable organizations to identify and block malicious activity, malware, and other cyberattack vectors. 

Fortinet NGFWs support future updates, which allows them to evolve in time with the modern security landscape. This ensures organizations and their data are always protected from the latest cyberattacks threatening their data egress.