File Sharing Secrets: How to Protect Your Business Data from Hackers
Many small and mid-sized businesses don’t see their file sharing processes as a serious risk to the security of the company’s data, but this is a big mistake. The misnomer that large businesses are at greater risk of being hacked is a costly trap to fall into. You are in danger, and you must take action to safeguard your data, the lifeblood of your business.
According to a recent Business.com article, “Cybercrime, in general, is on the rise. Last year, cyber criminals launched 430 million new types of malware software out into the world. The financial costs of these attacks are ever increasing, as well. In 2014, cyber attacks cost $12.69 million, and last year, the cost increased to $15.42 million. Small businesses, usually because they lack the sizable security budgets of larger firms, make for prime targets for cyber criminals. And the financial consequences can be costly. One study by the Cyber Security Alliance found that 60 percent of small businesses that experience a substantial cyber attack often close their doors permanently within six months.”
Don’t let this be the fate of your business. There are effective ways to protect your business from hackers and secure your data. The following file sharing secrets can help you manage the threat of cyber attacks prevalent among businesses like yours.
Perform a Thorough Security Audit
“Your security policies are your foundation. Without established policies and standards, there's no guideline to determine the level of risk. But technology changes much more rapidly than business policies and must be reviewed more often. Software vulnerabilities are discovered daily.” (TechTarget)
Trying to protect your business data without having a clear picture of the gaps in your security measures is a futile effort. You’re flying blind. You can’t improve your file sharing practicesif don’t know why, how and where they need to be improved in the first place. That’s why the first secret to data protection is a security audit.
“Cybersecurity preparedness starts with having a complete understanding of the internal and external vulnerabilities that can affect any business, how hackers can gain entry including their different methods and motives, and how to identify points of weakness.” (Forbes) Fully equipped with this insight, you can begin to address the security holes that leave your data open to hackers and put your entire business at risk.
Educate Your Staff
Your employees may be a big part of the data security problem at your business. If they’re not following secure file sharing procedures, they could unknowingly open the door to intruders and leave your data vulnerable to compromise.
As employees execute file sharing processes and solutions to communicate and perform their responsibilities efficiently, many of them don’t fully understand all of the risks involved. Unless your business has a formal file sharing policy to protect your data assets and information -- and fully educates users at all levels of the organization -- you’re subject to suffering from serious repercussions in the event of an attack.
Ensure that every employee -- from the C-suite to the intern pool -- knows their role in data security. They should be educated well and often in order to stay up to date on the ever-evolving threat landscape and make every effort to safeguard the business’s critical files.
Enable Strong Password Protection
If just one of your users is victimized by a hacker, it puts your entire business in harm's way. One of the easiest ways for hackers to penetrate your files and data is by preying on weak passwords. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that you are complying with password best practices and enforcing protocol across the business. Your password policy should include the following recommendations:
- Choose passwords that comprise long strings of unrelated numbers, letters and special characters.
- Assign individualized sets of file permissions based on account status so that if an account’s password is compromised, the entire file server is not at risk.
- Make a firm rule forbidding the use of passwords repeated from personal applications and devices.
- Enforce severe consequences for failure to comply with instituted policies.
- Require passwords to be changed at least once every 90 days.
- Choose a file sharing solution that features the ability to set password strength and expiration rules, thereby preventing users from choosing passwords that are too simple, making them update passwords regularly and prohibiting them from reusing old passwords.
Encryption is hugely important in the effort to defend against hackers. By “scrambling” the data contained in your files, encryption ensures that only the sender and the intended recipient can gain access to the relevant information. There are two specific types of encryption you should be aware of to fortify your file sharing activities:
At-rest encryption: The file is encrypted on the server regardless of whether or not it is encrypted on the hard drive of the recipient's computer. Even if someone with malicious intentions gained access to the server, they still wouldn't be able to see the valuable data on it.
In-transit encryption: This safeguard is designed to protect files when they are being sent or received over an Internet connection. It prevents any data being transmitted over an unsecure connection from being “seen” by an intruder as it travels from "point A" to "point B."
Your file sharing solution should feature encrypted logins and encrypted data channels, utilizing file transfer protocols such as:
- HTTPS (SSL encryption)
- FTPS (SSL encryption)
- SFTP (SSH encryption)
- SCP (SSH encryption)
Furthermore, your file sharing solution should either not offer any unencrypted protocol, such as FTP, or it should allow you administrative control to completely disable unencrypted access.
Run Regular Backups
Whether this seems like a very elementary form of data protection or not, it is one of the best ways to shield your business from the devastating effects that a threat like ransomware poses. You must have an effective backup plan in place before your business ever gets hacked. Ransomware relies on an attacker's ability to block you from your own files, so it’s vital to make sure there are backup copies stored in a safe place. This precludes the chance of losing anything of value.
Backups should be run several times per day so as to limit any loss of productivity in the event of an attack or a system failure. Backups should also be encrypted and housed at a secure, off-site location.
Use a Secure FTP Software Solution
If your business is relying on email or consumer-grade file sharing options, the threat to your data security is immense. Many of these file sharing programs are highly vulnerable to hackers, and they can leave you with debilitating consequences, like productivity losses, significant costs and reputational damage.
Instead, opt for smart FTP software that offers advanced security features. With the proper solution, you’ll be able to ensure that each of the previous security secrets is easily accommodated. You’ll put your business in a much more secure position and reap the benefits of top-notch data security.
Want to know more about what threats your business is up against and what it stands to lose? Read The Dangers of File Sharing: 20 File Sharing Threats That Could Land Your Company in Hot Water for free today.
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.