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Authentication Factors that Help Ensure Secure File Sharing
Martin Horan

By: Martin Horan on February 21st, 2018

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Authentication Factors that Help Ensure Secure File Sharing

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Verifying that someone is who they say they are is essential for keeping your company’s data safe. In the past, a single, unique password might have been enough protection to keep potential digital thieves at bay, but hackers’ methods have become more sophisticated with each passing today.

So, what can you do to maintain the wall of security around your data?

Authentication is a way to verify the person attempting to access your FTP server and the data stored within it is actually who they say they are. If your business deals with sensitive data, strict authentication measures are imperative for keeping data out of the wrong hands. And, ineffective authentication can have an impact on compliance, too.

Without a strong gateway to your file sharing solution, your most sensitive data could be at risk.

Because authentication is so important, it’s crucial that you find a secure file sharing solution that offers effective authentication methods. Fortunately, there are various authentication tactics and features secure file sharing solutions offer.

Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular options, and we’ll discuss why they’re powerful tools to help you maintain data security.

 

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Multiple Authentication Methods

When it comes to authentication, it’s helpful to have a choice. Not all businesses have the same needs. Perhaps you don’t deal in sensitive government data, but you do have proprietary information that you want to keep safe.

Because all companies have their own unique needs, it’s essential that you look for a secure file sharing solution that supports advanced authentication measures including the user of passwords or SSH-keys.

 

The First Factor of User Authentication (a password or SSH key)

All secure file sharing solutions require users to input a password to gain access to their server. Passwords are your baseline defense against unauthorized user entry.

Although passwords are commonplace in much of the technology you use each day – email accounts, social media accounts, mobile devices – it’s important that you set standards for your users’ passwords. Ensure users have complex passwords that are not easy to crack, with upper and lowercase letters, symbols, and multiple numbers.

The harder a password is to crack, the safer your data will be.

Instead of passwords, users can use SSH-keys to access your secure file sharing solution. This option is more secure than password authentication, and facilitates secure, password-less authentication.

When using SSH-keys to authenticate, a pair of keys is created and kept on the user’s computer. This consists of a private key that is never exposed and an associated public key that is shared during the authentication process. The public SSH-key is sent to the FTP server from the user’s computer instead of a password. This key will be compared by the server to the public SSH-key stored for a particular username. If the SSH-keys don’t match back to the original private key, login is denied.

With a top secure file sharing solution, administrators have the capability to limit a user to only password authentication, only SSH-key authentication, or both. With this level of granular control, you can evaluate your security needs and identify which option best suits your team.

 

A Second Factor or Authentication (user IP address)

What if a hacker gained access to a user’s password for your secure file sharing solution? With IP address restrictions, you can identify whether or not the location of a login attempt is approved and restrict access if that location doesn’t align with your cybersecurity standards.

IP addess restriction gives your FTP site administrators  a powerful capability for maintaining both security and compliance -- the ability to limit server access based on:

  • Password + location or
  • SSH key + location.

For example, is you’re working with the military, you likely need to maintain ITAR compliance, which prohibits the sharing of data with non-U.S. citizens. With IP address restrictions, you can limit FTP server access to users located only in the U.S. In addition, you can then restrict each user to a specific IP address (or range) within the U.S.

These user-level access rules give you the granular control needed to restrict individual user connections if the remote IP address and/or protocol doesn’t align with your approved standards. For example, a top secure file sharing solution like FTP Today enables both IP address and protocol restrictions. Thus, even if a password is compromised, you don’t have to worry about it being used from another location.

 

Multi-Factor Authentication

For companies that require the most stringent levels of user authentication to keep their data secure, multi-factor authentication is an essential feature to look for in an FTP solution.

Multi-factor authentication is a powerful benefit that only top FTP providers offer. Think of it as an added level of verification beyond the single-factor password and beyond the second-factor IP address, i.e. users have to get through a third security gate to access your solution.

With multi-factor authentication (MFA), users first input their username and password. Then, they are sent a unique, one-time code to a connected email account or through text (SMS) message to their mobile phone.

Only after they input that unique code are they granted access to the secure file sharing solution.

What are the benefits of multi-factor authentication? Think of it this way – if a user’s password is compromised, it would be a long shot for a thief to have access to that user’s personal email or physical mobile device. This extra step in the authentication process that can lead to great benefits in terms of security.

This should also be configurable on a user-by-user basis, meaning you can restrict multi-factor authentication requirements to high-level administrators or to specific individuals handling secure information.

Before you select a secure file sharing solution, consider your authentication needs carefully. If you need the height of security to protect your data, make sure you choose an FTP solution that features these authentication methods. When you choose an industry-best secure file sharing solution, you’ll have peace of mind knowing every user accessing your server is who they claim to be, since they have been properly vetted before gaining entry to your data.

Find out more about how to choose the best FTP service for your company’s needs. Download this free guide today.

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About 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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