March 22, 2017

    What Hackers Don't Want You to Know About Secure File Sharing

    If you could have an open, honest conversation with a hacker, what would you learn? Chances are you’d uncover a lot about the vulnerabilities in your company’s network that cyber criminals prey on. You’d find out just how it easy it is for them to breach your system and compromise your data. You’d come away feeling pretty concerned about the weaknesses in your file sharing process, as well as the lack of data security training for your employees , and you’d want to take immediate action to secure your assets.

    The unfortunate reality for modern businesses is that hackers continue to evolve and become increasingly innovative . For example, an FBI tally indicates that ransomware attacks cost their victims $209 million in the first three months of 2016, an enormous increase from $24 million in all of 2015 . Your data assets become more susceptible to hacking efforts every day, which is why it’s imperative to implement highly secure file sharing solutions and procedures at your organization. To help strengthen your defenses, here are some valuable insider tips on secure file sharing that hackers don’t want you to know.

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    Enterprise-Grade File Sharing Softwares Are Superior

    There are plenty of consumer-grade file sharing products out there -- software options that lack the advanced security features your organization needs in order to protect its critical data. If you’re going with a free, convenient service like Dropbox, your IT team doesn’t have the visibility and control to manage all user permissions. Without an ability to set permissions based on individual roles, you can’t restrict information properly across the company. And any hacker will tell you about the havoc that can be done when data falls into the wrong hands.

    What’s more, these consumer-grade file sharing services, especially public cloud-based solutions, render you powerless in terms of where your data is stored. In fact, your highly sensitive files could be physically located anywhere in the world -- even in a country with less stringent protocol regarding who can access information or how their data facilities must be secured and monitored. Unless you want to put a big red bull’s eye on your data, it is extremely advisable to choose a file sharing provider that’s transparent about where your data is housed and how it is physically and digitally protected.

    The right enterprise-grade file sharing solution will offer a myriad of essential security features to keep your data safe from lurking hackers at all times. It should:

    • maintain a system-wide IP blacklist that blocks all types of hacker activity,
    • allow you to restrict access to your server by country,
    • allow you to enforce user-level IP address and protocol restrictions,
    • allow you to prevent visibility of non-assigned folders,
    • allow you set upload/download/delete and list directory permissions, and
    • encrypt all files both in transit and at rest.

    It’s Best to Go Beyond the Minimum Compliance Data Requirements

    Yes, regulatory compliance is a necessary component of any organization’s data security plan, regardless of the industry. It would be unwise to overlook important regulations like HIPAA, ITAR and PCI DSS. But that’s not where your efforts should end. If your goal is to achieve a high level of cyber security, there’s more to consider than just compliance. Don’t make the mistake of equating compliance with comprehensive data security and asset protection.

    There are some security risks that involve other factors beyond those that fall under compliance. If you ignore these, you set a trail of opportunity for hackers to break in and precipitate devastating outcomes for the business. Think about ransomware, for instance, and the potential for a malicious intruder to render your files inaccessible. Even if a breach like this doesn’t violate any compliance requirements, it can still cause your company to halt operations or fork over a huge payload to regain functionality.

    Compliance regulations often necessitate the bare minimum in terms of keeping data secure. To thwart hacking efforts, your organization should go above and beyond these requirements, employing a secure file transfer system that delivers top-notch security features. Instead of falling into the false sense of security that often comes with meeting compliance standards, integrate these strategies with an all-encompassing data security plan that fully prepares your business to defend against hackers.

    The More Valuable Your Data, The More Hackers Want It

    Not all data is created equal. Some of your business files will be more valuable or sensitive than others. And the more valuable the information, the more eager a hacker will be to get their hands on it. So, what does this mean for your organization and its data security efforts?

    It means you need to have the file sharing capabilities to alter access levels depending on the type of file. Files containing data of great value (and therefore great risk) should have very limited access. If you can’t control exactly what your users are seeing, your ability to safeguard data assets is severely limited. The visibility of your data should be classified based on the sensitivity of that data, and only granted to those individuals specifically designated to access it.

    Administrators must be empowered to manage how each person interacts with company files, down to the individual user account. Not all employees will need access to all data, and your file sharing solution should be able to facilitate this with features that enable you to create private and shared folders, set unique permissions per user and deny access to certain files based on employee. Not every provider delivers the kind of granular user access controls your organization requires to ensure true data security, and some may leave you in the dark about who accessed or altered a particular file and from where they did so.  

    Employees Trained in Data Security Are Your Secret Weapon

    All of the best security technology and policies mean nothing if you don’t make sure that your employees understand and evade the dangers threatening your data security . Believe it or not, your employees may be your greatest security risk. Hackers are just waiting for one of your people to accidentally invite them in. So if employees don’t receive exhaustive and consistent data security training, your organization will never be able to overcome the risk of falling victim to a devastating data breach.

    Keep hackers at bay by establishing a precedent of security awareness throughout your company, at all levels of the business . You must reinforce data security training on a regular basis. Unless your employees have a deep understanding of the vulnerabilities that can jeopardize the organization’s critical data, they won’t be empowered to become part of the security solution.

    Is your business struggling with security training? Share your experiences in the comments below, and be sure to download your free Data Security Training Guide (Your Employees Can Be Your Biggest Risk).

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    Martin Horan

    Founder of FTP Today and an expert in secure file transfer and Internet protocols. A software and IT geek since a young age, Martin has successfully led his companies through the digital age by spotting market niches and filling them with quality IT services.

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