February 8, 2017

    Secure Data Management: Managed File Transfer Solutions

    2016 was a record-breaking year for cyber attacks, with billions of data points stolen or compromised, costing scores of businesses significantly. Unfortunately, the threat of hacker activity only grows larger and more complex as time goes on. Now more than ever, your business must be putting the protection of its critical data on the short list of major, urgent priorities. That means adopting secure processes and employing the appropriate managed file transfer solutions.

    “In this digitally changing climate, everything has become a target and anything can be a weapon,” a recent Cyber Security Intelligence article indicates. “On the front line, we’re seeing cyber-security threats becoming more intelligent, autonomous and difficult to detect, creating an urgent need for accountability, at multiple levels, in order to avoid detrimental effects for the global digital economy.”

    Hackers are only going to become more innovative and more intelligent, so if your business is operating without a secure managed file transfer solution to protect and track its critical data, you’re leaving it wide open to vulnerabilities -- ones that are bound to result in detrimental losses and reputational scars. Just take a look at the alarming statistics identified in The Dangers of File Sharing: 20 File Sharing Threats That Could Land Your Company in Hot Water.

    You can’t afford to function with this level of risk to your organization. It is vital to ensure that you are implementing a managed file transfer solution that integrates the following five security components.

    In-Transit Encryption

    This type of encryption is designed to safeguard your business files as they are being transmitted over the Internet through your managed file transfer solution. Let’s say that someone within your organization was attempting to use an unsecured public Wi-Fi connection to access your business’s file transfer server. Without in-transit encryption, any hacker with the slightest bit of knowledge and technology could gain visibility into this transmission and see all of the data therein.

    In-transit encryption scrambles the data when it is in the process of moving from one point to another. It encodes the data as it’s being sent from a computer in your office to a server or making its way from that server back to your physical location. Even if an intruder were able to intercept those packets during transmission, the information would be rendered unreadable without the associated encryption keys.


    At-Rest Encryption

    At-rest encryption follows the same pattern of “data scrambling.” The difference is that your critical files are protected while stored. Why is this important? Again, hackers are becoming more and more skilled, so the possibility of a malicious intruder accessing your files isn’t out of the question. If they make it onto the server, they could figure out a way to steal just about anything stored on it, which is likely to be a much greater volume of information than if they were simply intercepting transmissions. They could, in essence, have free reign over all of your critical data before you even figured out they were there.

    With at-rest encryption, you have the ability to safeguard your stored data and thwart the efforts of a hacker who might successfully break into your server. Even if they could get their hands on the files, they wouldn't be able to see the valuable data.

    Password Protection

    Proper password protection may seem like an obvious aspect of data security, but many businesses fail to understand exactly what this entails. Every employee or user with access to your data poses a risk to the security of that information, which makes a strong and effective password policy of the utmost importance. Weak or ineffective passwords are golden opportunities for hackers. In fact, even if you have superb encryption capabilities, they’re all for naught if an intruder unlocks someone’s password.

    Strong passwords must always include, among other things:

    • Numbers
    • Upper and lowercase letters
    • Special characters

    They should also be:

    • Impossible to guess
    • Changed on a regular basis
    • Encrypted whenever they need to be transmitted

    Your managed file transfer solution should promote solid password protection and feature effective user authentication. All log-ins should, without question and by default, require password or key authentication for maximum security.


    SSH-key authentication helps to overcome the security risks posed by using password alone. It makes user access to critical business data both more secure and easier to manage, regardless of how people are connecting to the server.

    When evaluating your options for managed file transfer solutions, be sure to weed out any that don’t have a robust management interface for configuring user authentication via passwords and/or SSH keys.

    Administrators should have the capability to disable file sharing through public links and require user authentication for all file access. In addition, your solution should meet requirements for two-factor authentication in order to restrict certain users to certain locations or protocols -- so even if a user's password is compromised, it won’t be usable from another location.

    Tracking and Monitoring

    To protect your organization and users from the increasingly complex threats of cyber attacks, it is essential to implement a managed file transfer solution that has features to effectively monitor and track your critical data.

    The first aspect of this effort involves intrusion detection and prevention, which enables you to actively monitor connections, detect suspicious activity and instantly blacklist any offending IP addresses. Unfortunately, most file sharing providers don’t provide intrusion protection, allowing access from any IP address in the world. This is a huge risk -- one you can’t afford to take with your critical files and information.

    The second aspect of this effort focuses on visibility and control. You need robust auditing and analytics in order to create a complete picture of your organization’s file sharing practices and minimize risk. It’s crucial to find a managed file transfer solution with the proper tools (on-demand reports, detailed logs and historical analytics) to glean actionable information for making critical business decisions.

    Experts in the field of data security no longer refer to attacks in the sense of if, but rather when. That’s the unfortunate reality in today’s digital landscape. But that doesn’t mean you should take security for granted. In fact, it’s never been more essential to strengthen your security efforts and take every measure to safeguard your business. Join the conversation by sharing your comments below, and be sure to download your free copy of The Dangers of File Sharing: 20 File Sharing Threats That Could Land Your Company in Hot Water.


    Martin Horan

    Martin, Sharetru's Founder, brings deep expertise in secure file transfer and IT, driving market niche success through quality IT services.

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