File Sharing and Cybersecurity: Is Your Small Business At Risk?

Posted by Marissa Olson | Sep 30, 2021 2:50:09 PM



Today's business technology makes it possible to generate and store all types of files you can imagine, including office documents, videos, audio, and software applications. File sharing solutions for small businesses (SMBs) enhance collaboration across departments.

Organizations that share files also save money because they don't have to duplicate documents or use more storage space. 

Your SMB can share files in two main ways. Employees can access a computer system or database in a local workstation. Alternatively, they can share files through a network file server and access them via the internet. Whichever option you choose, you can control how users access these files through various permissions, such as full control, read-only, or change and read. 

However, there is more to file-sharing than these benefits. For instance, did you know that file-sharing exposes your SMB to cybersecurity risks? Every time your employees leverage a technological platform to share files, your IT infrastructure gets exposed to potential hacking and malware infections. 

File Sharing, Cybersecurity, And Your SMB

In 2018, organizations all over the globe spent more than $114 billion on data security products and services. Gartner Inc. forecasts this expenditure to grow to $170.4 billion by the end of 2022. From these statistics, you can tell how organizations are beefing up their cybersecurity solutions, some even spending up to 6% of their IT budget on cybersecurity. 

Here is a sneak peek into the prevalent ways of sharing files, the risks involved, and how to mitigate them. 

File Sharing Software

There are several free file-sharing software, making this solution a go-to option for small startups not keen on advancing their IT budget because of revenue constraints. 

Popular file-sharing software platforms include Google Drive, One Drive, and Dropbox. These solutions are user-friendly and come with advanced security features such as password protection.

Related Article: Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): What Is It, and Do You Need It?

Employees will likely prefer file-sharing software to other solutions for these reasons. Hackers love to target file-sharing solutions used frequently by employees. For instance, they can hack into one user's credentials to access the software and target other employees.

So, what's the solution? Won't built-in software encryption protect my files? Well, to some extent, yes. 

However, hackers also leverage advanced technology, and unless you level up, they'll find a way around your file-sharing software. You can solve this by installing a VPN to offer a second for safeguarding sent emails and shared files and folders within the software. 

Personal Equipment and Devices 

Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy is taking shape in many organizations. Employees enjoy greater flexibility and workforce mobility when they use their devices to share business files. Moreover, the BOYD policy enhances employee satisfaction, translating to more productivity. 

Although 67% of employees leverage this policy, a recent report suggests that more than 4,000 office workers understand the risks of storing and sharing confidential business files in their personal gadgets. 

Despite this, workers will still go home after business hours and use the devices for their daily activities such as accessing social media, streaming, making online purchases, and talking to their friends—including strangers they meet on the internet.

The security risks and cyber-attacks of sharing files through personal gadgets include data theft, malware attacks, spyware, and stolen devices. Organizations can mitigate these risks through employee sensitization and enacting relevant policies. 

Or, you could encourage everyone to install a VPN for a secure connection when sharing files. 

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Emails and Phone Systems

Emails and business phone systems are the central communication tools for almost all businesses. 

Emails are fast and easily accessible via any device, making this option a go-to solution for many small startups. There are no costs for setting up a simple email account unless you want a customized business email. But do you know emails have the weakest security protocol compared to other file sharing solutions such as cloud platforms?

First, your business has no control over the service provider's server. Secondly, it's easy to share sensitive files with the wrong people through emails by just missing a single letter at the intended recipient's address. Also, hackers find it easier to target files shared through emails.

How do you mitigate these risks? Enact a policy that forbids sharing sensitive business files through emails and tell your employees to avoid opening attachments on emails from unknown senders. Alternatively, use a spam filter so that you don't receive suspicious attachments in the first place. 

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) 

File Transfer Protocol techniques are gaining traction for a good reason—they are efficient and reliable for sharing files across networks. Businesses can launch FTP actions via a network tool or command prompt window, providing a user interface. You only need to specify the file's origin and destination, and you're good to share it with your team.

FTP actions are ideal for sharing large and unusual types of files such as legacy data. However, note that leveraging FTP actions means you're sharing files in plain text. 

The same applies to usernames and passwords shared through this solution. That means you're making it easy for hackers to hijack this sensitive information. Alternatively, they can use brute force to crack weak or repeatedly used passwords. 

Removable Storage 

When the network fails, your small business can rely on removable storage solutions to share massive files and sensitive data. 

Removable storage such as hard drives and USBs can be pretty reliable when sharing data within the same premises. Moreover, they are easy to use, meaning you won't spend on onboarding sensitization.

Organizations can employ the following tips to guarantee the security of their removable storage and safeguard file sharing processes through these media:

  • Encrypt any information stored on removable storage
  • Apply strong password protection
  • Limit the usage of these devices through authorized access only
  • Scan data for malware before sharing
  • Disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity when not in use  

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The Final Say: Protect Your Shared Files and Data at All Costs

Business data is one of the most valuable assets an organization can have. That's why hackers demand millions in ransom to release any data they breach. But, you don't have to get to that point. 

Data breaches are costly and may wash your reputation down the drain. Make sure to consult with your office technology vendor about the best security practices for file sharing solutions. 

At AIS, we want your business to continue on its path of growth and success. We want to protect you from hackers and cybercriminals, and we’re always looking for the best solutions for your organization. To learn more about the best security protocols, make sure to reach out to us today. We’re here to give you peace of mind to help you win more business.

Topics: IT Services, Articles, All Types, All Topics, All Industries

Written by Marissa Olson

A true southerner from Atlanta, Georgia, Marissa has always had a strong passion for writing and storytelling. She moved out west in 2018 where she became an expert on all things business technology-related as the Content Producer at AIS. Coupled with her knowledge of SEO best practices, she's been integral in catapulting AIS to the digital forefront of the industry. In her free time, she enjoys sipping wine and hanging out with her rescue-dog, WIllow. Basically, she loves wine and dogs, but not whiny dogs.

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