Why Sharing Business Data Via Files Poses a Security Risk

Why Sharing Business Data Via Files Poses a Security Risk

Kris Sæther
18. Mar 2021 | 5 min read

Why Sharing Business Data Via Files Poses a Security Risk

Let’s say your team is creating an important business or legal document that runs into several hundred pages. The work is distributed, with specific sections and roles assigned to different members of the team. Everyone works individually, and the project manager collates all the information into a single file. You primarily collaborate on the file via email.

Email file sharing is easy and convenient, but it also opens your company up to security risks. Let’s have a look at common file sharing methods and their inherent limitations in security.

Three Types of File Sharing – and their Pitfalls

One of the prominent characteristics of Web 2.0 has been the ability to generate content and quickly share it to a larger audience. File sharing has transformed the way that many businesses across the world operate on a daily basis. 

It's never been easier to quickly send a file over to a colleague, contributor or client. However, file sharing via email or file storage applications lacks the degree of security required in today's collaborative work environment and can actually put your business at risk in many ways.

Email Attachments

The simplest form of file sharing is to send an attachment via email. But sending it to the wrong address can wreak havoc. A user error or a simple typo can send sensitive data to unintended recipients or, worse, cause it to end up among competitors. The domino effect of an email going to the wrong address can be dangerous, since it’s difficult to retrieve it once it has been sent.

File Storage Applications

Sensitive information can land in the wrong hands when shared in file format. A global study conducted by Check Point, spanning 888 companies worldwide, shows that 80% of the companies reviewed had at least one file storage or file-sharing application running on their networks. But the risks of cloud file sharing are also many, including different versions of the same file floating around – employees could be storing the same information in different cloud systems for easier access.

P2P Network Sharing

Peer-to-peer or P2P file-sharing networks are used to share files between users. P2P networking is an easy target for attackers, since it opens a backdoor to networks and allows attackers to spread malware among files. Users could accidentally share folders and leak sensitive data, or even acquire media illegally. Check Point’s study showed that 61% of the organizations surveyed used P2P applications.

Read more: Take file sharing to the next level with proposal co-authoring

The Dangers of File Sharing in Collaborative Work Environments

Data is most sensitive when a transaction is imminent. This could be a major financial transaction like transferring funds from one company to another, or legal documents about a new deal or dissolution of a company, or intellectual property. The ease of data compression and the mobility of devices used to store data (external hard drives, USB drives, etc.) means that your confidential data could be anywhere at any point in time.

A global study by Cisco, spanning the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, China, Japan, Australia, India, and Brazil, gives a detailed account of the risk points in collaborative work environments. Some of the top reasons for data breach include:

Unauthorized applications

Checking personal emails, shopping online or installing messaging services on work devices makes your system an easy target for hackers. Most of these applications are unmonitored. Employees often bypass security settings to download music or access websites they are not supposed to. This gives hackers and cybercriminals easy access to files stored on those devices.

Almost 80% of the survey respondents admitted to using their work computers to check personal email, while 63% said they use work computers for personal use daily.

Remote working and BYOD

A lot of data transfer and duplication occurs when employees work remotely. Files are often transferred to home devices, which do not meet corporate IT standards, or worse, on mobile devices that are shared or can even get lost. Add to this the hazards of having a device stolen or left behind in a public place, and you have serious cause for worry.

  • Close to 50% of those surveyed admitted to transferring files between home and work computers.
  • 13% of remote workers said that they cannot connect to their corporate network from home, and end up sending business emails to customers and colleagues from their personal email accounts.
  • 75% of the survey respondents said they DID NOT use privacy guards when working remotely in a public place, like a coffee shop or café.

 

Summary

Sharing business-critical data via files poses a security risk. File sharing via email or file storage applications doesn’t meet the security standards of modern collaborative work environments, and it can put your business at risk.

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Kris Sæther

Kris Sæther

Kris Sæther is Chief Commercial Officer of Xait. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Media Studies, and has worked in financial communication in London and Frankfurt prior to joining Xait. He has 20+ years experience from the information management industry. Kris is an avid runner and skier, and a passionate fan of the world’s coolest soccer team, Tottenham. If he is not working or running you will find him cheering for his two daughters on the handball court.

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