File Transfer Security: Top Considerations and Best Practices

When examining file transfer security options, decision-makers should take into account their company's industry requirements, cloud needs and mobile device use.

In today’s business environment, the vast majority of companies leverage some sort of file transfer system to ensure the security of documents and data when transmitted internally or from one organization to another. As the threat landscape continues to grow, it becomes increasingly critical to ensure that file transfers remain protected.

Managed File Transfer Solutions

However, no two managed file transfer solutions are the same. Each software platform comes with its own unique set of safeguards, benefits and challenges that the company must address. Therefore, file transfer systems are not a “select it and forget about it” technology. Considerable thought must go into the process to ensure that the company chooses the best options for its needs and deploys it effectively.

In this spirit, decision-makers should take into account these considerations and best practices when examining their file transfer solutions and enterprise security:

Industry Requirements

The particular industry that a company operates within will help determine its file transfer security needs. For instance, the healthcare, legal and educational sectors are all beholden to specific rules when it comes to the treatment of certain private information. As such, they will need specialized managed file transfer systems to ensure that they remain compliant with these industry regulations. Failing to take these into account can result in improper file transfer security, which could create the potential for information to be compromised. Therefore, considering sector guidelines is in every organization’s best interest.

Cloud-based File Transfer

The Association of Corporate Counsel noted that decision-makers should also weigh their needs when it comes to transferring files via a cloud platform. Many companies utilize the cloud for a range of purposes, and cloud-based file transfers could bring a number of benefits when implemented effectively. However, not all cloud systems are alike.

“Cloud-based services vary greatly,” ACC contributors Deborah Baron and Robin Hardy wrote. “Industrial-grade private cloud-based services are better suited for managing sensitive or private information, electronic discovery, audits, investigations or confidential and highly valuable data. In comparison, lower grade public cloud-based options are better suited for content of lesser value that poses low risk to the organization such as routine communications, document drafts, email advertising and entertainment-oriented audio and video.”

In order to select the best option, administrators should take a look at the types of data they will be transferring. In some cases, it is advantageous for companies to leverage both a private and public cloud-based file transfer solution to ensure that all of its needs are properly met.

Data Encryption

The enterprise sector has consistently been a target for cybercriminal attack due to the sensitive nature of the data these organizations deal with. As the files being transferred could – and likely do – contain such information, it is imperative that proper security precautions are followed. This includes, but is not limited to, the use of encryption. IT Business Edge noted that when appropriate encryption technology is not in place, files are at risk of being exposed during the transfer. This could cause incredibly sensitive corporate data to be compromised.

However, considerations should not end there. In addition to checking that encryption is in place, decision-makers should also examine the level of file transfer security the technology will offer. Security firm GoSecure advised that organizations utilize systems that provide encryption that is in line with industry standards. These include AES, AS2, SSH, SSL, TLS, Open PGP and S/MIME encryption depending on what sector the organization belongs to.

Mobile Devices

While many file transfers will likely take place via a desktop computer at the company’s premises, administrators should also prepare for employees who need to transmit information from outside the office. Mobile devices play an important role for staff members, and including these endpoints in file transfer security considerations can make all the difference in protecting the firm’s overall network. ACC noted that file transfer solutions should provide mobile capabilities, including offering oversight and a means to audit transmissions made from smartphones, tablets and laptops.