Trust, but Verify: Secure File Sharing Online
In a world of hackers, viruses, data breaches, and the sale of sensitive data, trust is becoming one of the most precious commodities in the business world. At the same time, however, as more and more business is conducted remotely, and more and more companies rely on a virtual workforce, online file sharing is increasingly necessary to an organization’s continued viability and competitiveness in the commercial world.
How to resolve this apparent paradox? The solution is secure file sharing online, which allows you to encrypt your sensitive information, designate the people you want to see it, protect it from unauthorized viewing, and track how, when, and by whom the data is used, all without having to deal with outdated modes of file sharing that can leave data vulnerable to hacking or other unauthorized access. With secure file sharing, you’ll be able to trust individuals, both within and without your organization, with your sensitive data because you’ll be able to verify that the data is being accessed and used according to your specifications and revoke access to individuals who no longer need it or who misuse it.
The History of File Sharing Online
The term “file sharing” gained something of a negative connotation in the early years of the 21st century because it was associated with the illegal piracy of music, movies, and other copyrighted material. To this day, some people in the business world may have the mistaken impression that file sharing is illegal. To be clear, while some people utilize the technology to engage in illegal activity, file sharing itself is not illegal. As long as the data that you share is not copyrighted, you are entirely within your rights to share files with others online.
That being said, early online file sharing technology did come with associated risks of users unwittingly sharing sensitive and even confidential data with unauthorized personnel over its networks. However, thanks to technological advances over the past twenty years, document management services can make sharing your files considerably more secure via the following methods:
- Encrypting information
- Using only secured internet connections
- Permission-based, private online workspaces
- Digital rights management
- Watermarking of documents
Alternate Means of File Sharing
Secure sharing of online files through a document management service is, of course, not the only means of sharing files, but it is among the most advanced and streamlined method. Other methods are less secure, cumbersome, and out of date.
In the past, organizations resorted to emailing documents back and forth. While convenient in many ways, this method of document management is no longer recommended due to concerns over security. In the first place, once an email has been sent, there is no way of controlling what the end-user does with it. Your sensitive information could be forwarded along to unauthorized personnel without your knowledge or consent.
Furthermore, email has become increasingly vulnerable to malicious software embedded in attachments. Viruses, spyware, and the like have been known to temporarily disable entire networks just because one user on the network mistakenly opened an attachment that he or she shouldn’t have. As a result, some companies have adopted a policy against sending or opening attachments via email at all.
Another means of secure file sharing is removable media, such as CDs or flash drives. Though useful for storing backup data, removable media are cumbersome for sharing files in-house on a day-to-day basis, and for sharing files remotely, they are extremely impractical due to the time and expense required to transport the media from one place to another.
The Importance of Privacy
Within some industries, privacy is not only important but mandated by law. In health care, for example, any personally identifiable patient information is given protected status and can only be shared and viewed by those who have a reason to see it.
Nevertheless, even if the law does not require you to keep certain information secure, maintaining the privacy of sensitive data can be important to the future of your business and the integrity of your brand.
When your customers or clients share sensitive information with you, they are investing trust in you that you will safeguard that information. A data breach, whether intentional or accidental, is also a breach of that trust. Customers or clients who feel they can no longer trust you will take their business elsewhere, and a data breach may sow seeds of doubt even in the minds of those not directly affected about how secure their data is in your hands.
The Human Factor
Even with the technological advancements made in secure file sharing online over the past decade or two, the human factor plays a significant role in maintaining the security of your sensitive data. Even the most sophisticated online file sharing system may be compromised if the people using it don’t know how to use it correctly or are unaware of the potentially serious consequences of a data breach. Ninety-five percent of employees polled in a recent survey reported that they were able to access and take data that they didn’t work on themselves from their companies. That’s why it’s so important to keep your secure file sharing system up to date and to use a system that allows you to keep track of when your data is being accessed and by whom so that you can hold employees accountable for any unauthorized use. Even more important, however, is educating your employees about the risks involved in file sharing. It’s necessary for them to know not only how secure file sharing online works but why it is important to maintain data confidentiality and what potentially serious risks are involved with file sharing online. An educated workforce is one you will be able to trust.