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Top Secure File Sharing Options for Your Company

Adam Hughes
Businesses need secure file sharing of all types and sizes with their customers and partners through what can be very complex multi-enterprise ecosystems.

In the modern enterprise, it is a necessity to have a secure file sharing platform in place that can be relied upon. And while as always, security is of the upmost importance, enterprises must also find a file sharing platform that is easy-to-use and adoptable. When companies don’t provide an adequate option, that’s when end users go find their own consumer-grade solutions to use.

So, the question becomes – what is an enterprise to do in order to have the best of both file sharing worlds?

Risks Involved in File Sharing

While end users must feel comfortable using their file-sharing solution, more importantly, they also must feel secure. The hard truth that enterprises must fully understand is that there are some very real – and very dangerous risks involved in file sharing without the appropriate measures for data security and privacy.

Everyone from IT pros to end users must understand the inherent difference between what we’ll call enterprise file sharing solutions and consumer-grade file sharing products. Many people have their own file-sharing tools that they use outside of work, and while that is perfectly fine for things like personal photos, they often are not secure enough for rigid corporate standards including multi-enterprise or industry regulations. Public cloud solutions actually leave corporate data at risk to outside threats and put data out of an IT department’s control – a scary scenario.

Consumer file sharing solutions just do not have the IT admin tools necessary to ensure adequate data safety. This makes it incredibly difficult for IT to track and monitor the files, and know what’s happening once they go beyond the corporate firewall. A truly secure enterprise file sharing solution gives IT a proper amount of control as well as the monitoring tools to ensure the safety of the data. In addition to data loss and a lack of monitoring, other potential risks in file sharing include data corruption and compliance violations.

However, there are ways to combat the risks associated with file transfer solutions. Ad hoc file transfer is the act of a manual transfer of electronic files from person-to-person via email, collaborative applications such as Slack, or many other ways. Due to the large sizes of many files, lack of data security, and true visibility, ad hoc file-transfers not only must evolve, but enterprises need to have the ability to support ad hoc file-transfers to move larger files.

Another way that enterprises can feel secure with a file transfer solution is secure data rooms. A data room is a space to house data, particularly of a secured or privileged nature. Essentially, it is an advanced cloud storage or on-premise storage service – depending on the needs of the business. But going a step further, the security level in a data room is far superior to that of a simple cloud storage solution. It also provides a shared team workspace, several different choices to protect data, including digital watermarks and time and IP restriction.

 

Outdated Methods for File Sharing

Today’s file sharing options have gotten more agile, flexible, and mostly secure than previous methods. In fact, some of the file sharing solutions of yesterday now seem downright outdated and would never suffice to meet the stringent security requirement of the modern enterprise.

1. Traditional Mail/Paper Documents

Who has the time to sit around and wait for something to be delivered via snail mail? Timeliness is the name of the game today, and everyone in an enterprise from top-level execs to IT admins need their information delivered as quickly as possible. Additionally, manually filing important data can create problems because there is just so much information, so it is not only easy to lose track of these files, but it becomes dependent on individuals to remember the name of files and their storage locations.

Traditionally filed documents can very easily spiral into disorganized chaos within an enterprise. It is very easy for something to get mislabeled, or placed in the wrong folder, and then how is an enterprise supposed to access that information when it truly needs it? Manually filing documents also does not allow for cross-file data integration and data sharing, a must in today’s enterprise. And if files are not integrated with a database, an enterprise risks duplication of data.

2. Fax

Surprisingly, there are many companies that still do rely on fax machines to transfer or receive important documents, particularly in the healthcare, education, and government sectors. The belief is that fax machines are more secure than email, but unless there is an encryption and decryption set on both ends of the phone line, that more than likely is not the case. Old-school fax machines also waste paper, take longer to send or receive a document, and are generally inefficient compared with the electronic file transfer solutions that are now widely available. As an alternative, computer-based e-fax solutions allow businesses and organizations to send and receive faxes electronically and integrate digital faxes with back end systems including EHR or ERP, for instance.

3. USB drives

Cloud services have evolved, but there are still many companies and individuals that rely on USB drives in today’s modern enterprise. While it is certainly understandable why it is hard to let go of that small little device in your pocket, there are several drawbacks to using a USB drive. The first drawback is because these are so small, they are very easy to misplace – or even lose completely. For someone who keeps very sensitive information on a USB drive, if that drive isn’t backed up properly, and the device is lost, so is the sensitive or proprietary information on it.

Another drawback to using a USB drive is that most people do not place any level of encryption on their devices, increasing the risk of piracy and/or theft. Lastly, because the USB is a physical device, for most users, it is inconvenient to store the USB device in a separate location than the primary computer it is used on. So, the USB device is not likely to even be backed up, so in the event of a disaster or theft, both copies of the data would be destroyed and unlikely to be recovered.

4. Cloud file sharing services

No, the cloud is not outdated. Not by any means, in fact. However, there are questions around data security that enterprises must be aware of if they choose a cloud-based file sharing solution. First, cloud breaches do happen. More and more the unthinkable occurrence of a breach or malicious attack must be considered thinkable. Therefore enterprises need to have a plan in place not if but for when the unthinkable happens. Next, consider whether a public cloud solution provides ample enough security to meet emerging and evolving enterprise requirements. Finally, due to the ubiquity of file sharing use cases and the expectation for ease-of-use, many business users will find a way to share files regardless of security considerations. This often results in shadow IT.

Here are some of the more popular personal file sharing options and greatest culprits of shadow IT:

- Amazon Drive

- Dropbox

- Google Drive

- Apple iCloud Drive

- Microsoft OneDrive

- ShareFile

While cloud file sharing is easy, consider the following potential data mishaps:

1) An employee circumvents email restrictions on file size by sending a file sharing link, accidentally exposing PHI of a patient

2) A popular file sharing app granted itself system admin rights and the ability to control Apple computers without first seeking to gain user permission

Sound farfetched? Well, both of these things actually happened. Kaiser Premanente was forced to notify 600 members of a breach after patient names, medical record numbers, and medical procedures were exposed through a Dropbox link shared via email.  And in 2016, it was reported that Dropbox was automatically overriding OS X user preferences and gaining system accessibility, a security issue that was eventually tackled by Apple, not Dropbox.

While the cloud will continue to grow in popularity and its security improve, it is integral that companies understand all of the risks involved with using a cloud-based solution, including questions around data ownership, and just how secure the data truly is.

How to Prevent Files from Being Transferred to Unauthorized Individuals

The thought of your data falling into the wrong hands is downright terrifying, isn’t it? The best way to keep it from happening is to stop sitting around waiting for something to go wrong and be proactive. Ensure that your enterprise has the proper protocols in place to prevent such unforeseen disasters and theft from happening. The enterprises who do this are the ones who are going to rest easy knowing their data is secure.

Some ways to prevent data from slipping into the wrong hands:

1. Enable Permissions

In order to protect data, enterprises must set appropriate permissions on data files and folders. Policies alone will not protect data, and even if employees are told what they can and cannot access, by implementing these permissions, it takes the decision out of employees’ hands and ensures the data is secure. An example is data on Windows networks that should be stored on NTFS-formatted drives so that an IT admin can apply NTFS permissions to that particular data. This will apply to those accessing the information on the local physical machine as well as over the company’s network itself.

2. Keep Technology Up to Date

Another way to maintain the security of data is to continuously upgrade systems and software to manage and protect sensitive files in the company’s network. An enterprise needs to understand what data needs to be protected by creating a data classification policy. Usually companies will label their data by three different levels of security, each with a varying level of security assigned to it:

- Public

- Confidential or private

- Restricted

3. Practice Encryption

Companies must also implement and manage encryption to protect data. Strong encryption is paramount, but so is proper key management. The most sensitive data will be encrypted both in transit across a network as well as at rest. IT must retain a high level of control over not only the data itself, but the users that are accessing that very data. Secure access controls make it simple for IT admin to oversee the data both inside and outside the company. Permission levels can also be adjusted, and based on individuals or groups to provide the proper amount of access.

4. Implement LDAP       

Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) user authentication validates a username and password combined with a directory server. When someone tries to access sensitive information via email or another application, it connects to the server’s LDAP software and provides that username and password. From there, the LDAP software determines the access level and provides the data that it needs, depending on its access level.

5. Enable Monitoring

There are also reporting tools that can detect and send administrators alerts to prevent any potential security breach. These features monitor the frequency of an access type, can track and trace IP addresses that access data, detect when data is being accessed at an irregular time, and many more. These reporting capabilities are critical to ensuring data safety.

Top Secure File Sharing for Business Options

Businesses need secure file sharing of all types and sizes with their customers and partners through what can be very complex multi-enterprise ecosystems. In order to feel secure, organizations and teams must have access to a secure file sharing solution that allows any type of file to be exchanged, regardless of size. The solution also must allow data to live in either a public or private cloud or on-premises, and allow granular folder permissions for advanced access control.

It’s no secret that enterprises must support some form of file-transfer for their employees. The problem becomes how to not only ensure its security, but find a solution that end users find simple to use and access. Now more than ever, a secure file transfer solution must extend the use case possibilities for every end user. From a managed file transfer (MFT) perspective, these solutions must support peer-to-peer, person-to-system, system-to-person, and so on. Instead of the need to find someone with strong integration skills, these solutions can do the heavy lifting for employees. File-based integration has never been easier, and just as important, it has never been as secure.

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