In the old days before the Internet, the only way to share files was to copy them to hard media, such as a CD, and then send the media to the recipient either through the mail or by hand delivery. Such transfers were inconvenient, required extra time, and cost money. But they were also secure. Unless a potential criminal had a way to break into a mailbox on the exact day the files were being transferred, there was no way he could gain access to your data.
Today, sharing a file is as easy as emailing it or popping it in a cloud storage locker to which the recipient has access. Transfers are almost instantaneous but can be insecure. Putting your file on the Internet potentially exposes it to hackers next door or in Eastern Europe. While no online sharing of information can be 100-percent secure, you can increase the safety of your transfers with the following tips.
- Educate everyone involved with file sharing. Make sure all people involved with the sharing process, whether it’s your clerk at reception or the client getting the info, are aware of the safety issues and what they need to do for security. Create a list of best practices that you can distribute to people involved. For example, do not allow file transfers over insecure public wi-fi services, such as coffee shops or commuter lines.
- Add encryption and password protection. A file sharing or cloud service that automatically encrypts files adds a strong layer of security. But even if it does not, many operating systems, such as Windows, have built-in encryption services that are easy to use as right-clicking a file and marking a check box. Third-party encryption tools are also available, such as VeraCrypt or 7-Zip. Just make sure your recipient has access to the same encryption protocols or she won’t be able to access what you send.
- Add security software and keep it updated. Viruses and other malware can hitch a ride on your files at any point during the transfer. You may not be able to stop a determined hacker from infecting your work but you can prevent his efforts from spreading throughout your systems with anti-virus and security software. Make sure that your firewall is enabled at all times. Keep all your software updated. Hackers constantly always develop more sophisticated attack methods, which requires nearly constant updates from security software manufacturers. The only way you can keep up is by implementing any changes as soon as they appear.
- Double-check any files you receive. Your security software will hopefully automatically run checks on any files that are shared with you, whether they arrive online or via hard media. It will typically inform you that it is performing the checks and acknowledge what it finds with a message. If you see neither the performance message nor confirmation result, run a manual check on the files yourself. If nothing still happens, ask the sender what’s going on. The files may have picked up malware that prevents your security software from functioning on those particular files.
The most secure way of sharing files is also the most old-fashioned and inconvenient. Put them on media that you physically transfer to your recipient. Barring that, you can continue to share files online more conveniently and securely but only if you do so with knowledge and by taking appropriate precautions.
If you want to know more, please contact us. As your IT help desk experts, we will be glad to show you how to implement enterprise-wide security precautions that protect all your file transfers with minimal fuss on your part.