File sharing can be dangerous. But ask us to go back to the gloomy days of distributing USB sticks and DVDs and emailing large documents to coworkers? No chance! File sharing, collaboration platforms, and cloud storage services provide encryption and protection from hackers, with protected access and continuous syncing to make work easier.
But if used carelessly, even these secure platforms can expose users to online threats such as identity theft and data theft. And marketers are custodians of highly sensitive customer and company strategy information so a data leak can expose them and their organizations to a wide range of security risks.
It’s not hard to avoid the most common file-sharing mistakes that compromise the security and privacy of sensitive information.
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What Are the Risks of File Sharing?
There are plenty of risks if your documents fall into the wrong hands:
● Data theft: a data leak could ruin your brand’s reputation and have severe legal implications, such as compensation claims and fines.
● You may cause harm to individuals: how would you feel if you were responsible for a breach of your customer’s personally identifiable information (PII) that leads to them getting hacked or defrauded?
● Malware: attackers can install viruses or other malware in shared files to expose other users to danger.
● Man-in-the-middle attacks: accessing shared files without a VPN gives snoopers the opportunity to intercept data while it travels between your computer and the cloud storage server.
● Leaking of proprietary information: would your company be able to overcome the setback if it lost proprietary product information, financial data, strategic planning documents, or confidential information about its competitors or employees?
● Prosecution over copyright breaches: you may expose yourself or your company to prosecution for sharing copyrighted materials.
Choose top tech tools for file sharing safety
While there are many ways to share files (secure FTP, P2P networks, handing out physical data storage devices, emailing documents, or creating shared access on local servers), the most popular way is to upload files to cloud storage solutions such as Dropbox, or collaboration platforms such as Microsoft OneDrive, Notion, Asana, or Google Drive.
Choose your platform carefully
It should be built around security and data protection, and for the best security, you may have to look further than free solutions. Key features are robust encryption, authentication and access controls, password protection, and MFA.
Protect your devices from cyberattacks
Remember that the devices of any one of the trusted contributors may get compromised at any time. Malware-infected devices often act as a distribution point for spreading malware to others. So, secure all your devices with high-quality antivirus software to block threats like viruses, ransomware, or spyware. Remain naturally cautious around shared files – hackers find new exploits all the time!
VPN pros and cons
What are the VPN pros and cons? There are zero cons to using a VPN for file sharing. File sharing exposes your files and data to eavesdroppers. For hackers, it’s a simple matter to intercept the data you send and receive on the internet. A VPN creates a secure communication tunnel to contain and protect the sensitive
data you’re working on.
10 Tips to avoid common mistakes when sharing files
Once you’ve chosen a secure cloud solution, follow these practical guidelines to make sure that both you and your data stay safe.
● Get into a routine of always customizing and checking sharing settings. It’s better to be over-cautious and stick to a minimum access level default setting. Disable downloads and editing or add passwords to documents as routine. It’s better to get participants to request download or editing rights for documents than allowing everyone to do whatever they like to your precious reports.
● Don’t give users admin rights when editing rights will do. Someone with admin privileges can accidentally change vital security settings, corrupt your macros, revert to previous versions, change data, or even permanently delete documents.
● There’s also a difference between ownership and admin rights. On most platforms, the person who uploads a document retains full admin access, in perpetuity, as the designated owner. Changing that status can be a rigmarole. The problem is that if they retain ownership, a disgruntled employee could
simply revoke access at some stage, leaving you and the rest of the group with nothing. So, if a contributor uploads a document, fix the privileges before anyone starts to work on it. You may have to download and upload the document yourself, then grant the necessary privileges to other users.
● Create a policy or rules for downloading and distributing shared documents via other routes. There’s not much point in protecting access to your files if people can share your downloaded documents via email, Telegram, or Skype.
● Regularly check file privileges. In an environment where you’ve shared or been granted access to dozens or even hundreds of files, it’s astonishingly easy to forget about access expiration dates. Diarise a recurring reminder to review access privileges for completed documents. What would happen if ex employees accessed your data accidentally months or even years after they’ve gone?
● Verify recipients before sharing. If you get the email address on the invitation link wrong, the person on the other end may not be who you intended.
● Implement MFA (multi-factor authentication) to lessen the risk of hacking.
● Think before you share extremely sensitive or confidential information.
● Don’t share copyrighted or pirated content, it could mean legal trouble.
● Never log in from unprotected or public Wi-Fi. You might compromise your files and platform logins without knowing it happened.
Most file-sharing mistakes stem from lapses in reviewing and maintaining user privileges. Take the time to review user privileges regularly. Set up user privileges so that it’s easy for everyone to contribute but harder to disseminate files indiscriminately. Encourage strong password practices, use an antivirus, and always use a VPN to encrypt your connections. Happy file sharing!