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File Share Best Practices for 2021 and Beyond
Martin Horan

By: Martin Horan on October 12th, 2021

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File Share Best Practices for 2021 and Beyond

Cyber and Data Security FTP Cloud FTP Solutions File Sharing Best Practices GOVFTP Cloud Secure File Sharing The Cloud

Cybercrime has skyrocketed in the last 18 months. Malware, phishing and other tactics are widely known, and IT teams go to great lengths to protect their organizations from these attacks. But companies that aren’t following file share best practices could also be at risk.

Traditional share links may be acceptable if you’re sending non-sensitive documents, slide decks, images and similar files. But many businesses and organizations handle highly sensitive documents that demand privacy. When it’s time to share these sensitive documents, commonly used file storage and collaboration systems like DropBox, OneDrive and Google Drive don’t offer the necessary level of security.

Organizations operating in the legal, medical and finance industries, plus companies that need to share information with government agencies, must follow file share best practices that ensure privacy and security. At FTP Today, we offer an InfiniShare™ File Sharing solution that delivers the privacy and security required by companies and organizations that need to share files online.

See below for more information on the shortcomings of commonly used file sharing platforms, plus a detailed list of 7 file share security best practices your business should be following.

2 Major Issues With Standard File Share Links

What’s wrong with using a basic file share link? Again, it’s not necessarily an issue if you’re sending non-sensitive files. But, if you are sharing sensitive information, or even if you have sensitive information stored in the same location, there are 2 major issues:

  1. Credentials: Many share links require no credentials. Anyone with the link can access the file. Hackers can even run programs that test randomized links until they discover one or more that work. File storage and management platforms like Google Drive allow you to limit access to files via share links. But users often downgrade these security measures manually to make files more accessible to users outside their organizations. Doing so definitely makes files more accessible — but it also makes them more vulnerable.
  2. File Visibility/Accessibility: Share links too often dump users into a folder where they can see other files in the same place. In other cases, visitors can see the names of other folders and how folder storage is organized. For any company that manages sensitive information and files, this represents a significant breach. Remember: Even if the file you’re sharing isn’t sensitive, access to that file may provide access to sensitive files in the same folder, or provide visibility into where sensitive files are located.

What constitutes sensitive information or files? Almost all organizations are storing proprietary information that must be protected. Almost all organizations are storing personal information related to their team members, like social security numbers. And almost all organizations have credit card details, banking information, plus other financial details that should not be accessible to third parties.

And then there are organizations that operate in industries where sensitive data and files are common: finance, legal, medical, government, military, manufacturing, etc. Unfortunately, these organizations often don’t find out how insecure their file share links are until it’s too late.

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7 Essential File Share Best Practices

When anyone wonders how to share files, they typically think of DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive and similar platforms. These are well-known and commonly used file storage and sharing solutions , but they don’t offer the security most companies need.

Alternatives exist for organizations that want to protect their proprietary information and other sensitive files. If you’re looking for one of these file storage and sharing alternatives, seek out a platform that allows you to follow these 7 file share best practices.

1. Require an Email Address

Here’s No. 1 among file share permissions best practices: Choose a file share solution that requires an email address. Requiring an email address allows for targeted sharing, and it eliminates the ability of any non-authorized users to access the files in question.

Again, many popular file storage and sharing solutions allow users to share files with anyone who has a link. If you choose to share files in this fashion, you lose control over who can access, download and use your files.

2. Hide the File Location

As noted above, many file share links drop you into a folder where you can see multiple files and also how files are organized. Choose a file storage and sharing platform that keeps visitors from seeing things they aren’t supposed to see.

This holds true for both downloads and uploads. When you share a link, the recipient should be able to download files without seeing other files in the folder or seeing how folders are organized. And when you provide a link for file upload, your recipient should be able to upload without seeing other files already in a folder or how the folders are organized.

3. Limit Link Creation

Not everyone in your organization needs to be able to create and share file links. This is especially true when you work in an industry where highly sensitive files are regularly shared. Find a file storage and sharing platform that allows you to authorize specific users to create links.

For example, you should be able to give your internal users “read” access to look at files without the ability to create links and share them. A subset of “read” users may also have “write” access to change and update files. Only a small portion of your team should have “share” access to create links and deliver to third parties.

4. Encourage Password Protection

If you want to follow file share management best practices, limit access to sensitive files by strong passwords. If you work regularly with sensitive files that need to be shared, find a platform that allows you to require strong passwords associated with every link created.

Not only is this a smart approach for your business, you may also find that other organizations operating in sensitive industries require high levels of security (like password protection) before they will share files back and forth with your team.

5. Set Links to Expire

Link expiration is another helpful security measure you should seek out in a platform. By setting links to expire, you exercise even greater control over sensitive information, who has access, and for how long.

Imagine you’re working on a deadline-driven legal case. Your files contain a significant amount of sensitive information, but you need to share them with another law firm. Sending with a link that expires in 24 or 48 hours moves them to download and store the files on their side as quickly as possible. Once your link expires, there’s no longer a threat that the link can be used by anyone unauthorized.

6. Meter Link Usage

In most cases, sensitive files only need to be accessed by a small number of people. World-class file storage and sharing platforms allow you to meter link usage. In some cases, you may want to limit share links to as few as 2 or 3 uses when passing sensitive information.

You can use many of the best practices on this list in tandem with one other to reach peak security for your sensitive files. For example, if sharing a sensitive file with a law firm, you could send to a specific email address, require a password for access, limit access to 48 hours, and limit link access to 2 uses. This cascade of measures provides a level of security that’s not available through commonly used file storage and sharing platforms.

7. Configure Receipts

Know when your link is used by choosing a platform that allows for receipts. Configuring receipts means that you know who is accessing files and when they are accessing them. The best file share systems also allow you to shut down a share link if and when you detect it’s being used improperly.

Meet InfiniShare™ File Sharing By FTP Today

Don’t wait for a breach to start following the file share best practices outlined above. At FTP Today, we make safe, secure file sharing possible through InfiniShare™. InfiniShare is the best way to share files because users get to exercise control over their sensitive information by:

  • Restricting link usage.
  • Hiding the location for file uploads and/or downloads.
  • Requiring strong passwords for access.
  • Creating link expiration dates.
  • Metering link usage.
  • Configuring receipts.

Administrators can also establish the above controls and prohibit link creators, usually employees, from modifying them. Organizations in the finance, medical and legal industries, plus other organizations that handle sensitive files, can store and share with confidence. Our users actively limit their exposure and any related liability by using best-in-class file share security.

Are you ready to start sharing files with confidence? Learn more about InfiniShare™ by scheduling a demo.

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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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