Most modern businesses need a file sharing platform to continue operating efficiently. They might be used to allow employees to collaborate on documents and spreadsheets, to share important contracts with clients and partners, or to exchange information in other ways.
Because of the sensitive nature of these files, it’s important to ensure the security of your file sharing platform. But while most file-sharing companies would have you believe that your files are 100 percent untouchable, there’s no inherent guarantee that your file sharing is safe.
To better understand the risks you might face when using a file-sharing platform, it’s important to acknowledge the different types of vulnerabilities that exist:
- Baseline encryption. All your files are being stored somewhere, and hypothetically, if a hacker were able to force their way into that storage, they could access your files. Most file sharing services are acutely aware of this and have a layer of baseline encryption to protect against these attempts. However, not all encryption standards are adequate for the protection you need—which is why it’s sometimes important to add extra encryption as a form of additional security to platforms like Google Drive. If you do some digging, you can learn what type of encryption your file sharing platform uses, whether those encryption keys are also encrypted, and other details.
- Sources of storage. Your files could also be put at risk if they’re not being stored in a way that mitigates physical risk. Most modern data centers are sufficiently protected, with layers of thick concrete and safety measures to protect data servers from things like fires or natural disasters. Companies also typically invest in multiple redundant data centers that are geographically separated, so in case one is physically destroyed, the other can take over. Check to make sure your file sharing platform uses this approach.
You should also be aware that the responsibility for file protection doesn’t rest solely on the file-sharing platform; you’ll also have to examine your own vulnerabilities:
- Network vulnerabilities. Any files shared, uploaded, or downloaded over a network that isn’t secure are vulnerable to prying eyes. For example, if you and a coworker are trading an important contract back and forth, and your Wi-Fi network isn’t password-protected, it would be easy for someone to gain access to that network, and therefore gain access to whichever files you’re sharing. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest personal vulnerabilities to guard against. You can secure your Wi-Fi network with encryption, and create a policy that forbids your employees from using public networks while accessing or sharing important files.
- Device vulnerabilities. You could also have a device-based vulnerability that makes it possible for third parties to gain access to whichever files you’re modifying. For example, if an employee’s personal device is infected with spyware, it would be easy for a remote hacker to get a glimpse into the files they’re accessing. Depending on the nature of that malware, they may also be able to uncover that employee’s password, granting them access to the entire platform.
- Individual account vulnerabilities. That brings us to our last point—and potentially the most important one. Because your file sharing platform is used across the business, all it takes is one vulnerability among the people who access that platform to complete compromise its security. In other words, if someone can gain access to an employee’s account by guessing their password or forcing their way in, they could see anything and everything that employee would be able to see. Accordingly, it’s important to educate your employees on the importance of choosing a strong password, and prompt your employees to change their passwords regularly.
Is There a Better Platform?
So are some platforms better than others?
The short answer is yes. Some companies invest more into their infrastructure, affording them better protection against natural disasters and better encryption to protect against attacks. For example, Google is one of the top names in cloud services for a reason—it has better encryption and better protection than you might find in a much smaller, independent operation. You’ll need to do your research into the companies you’re considering, evaluating their history of data breaches as well as their commitment to encryption and data protection. You should be able to find this information on an About page, or by asking your account representative about the security standards that are in place to protect consumer data.
That said, many of the vulnerabilities of a file-sharing platform come from the habits of the people using them. Even if you’re using the best-encrypted platform, it’s essential that you have good password management and app usage policies within your business.
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