Online file sharing poses great security risks

As online file sharing becomes increasingly common as a business practice, SMBs are more at risk than ever before, according to Symantec.

A new survey revealed that SMB employees are increasingly adopting unmanaged, personal-use online file sharing solutions without permission from IT, part of the broader trend of the consumerization of IT in which the adoption of online services for use on personal mobile devices blurs the lines between work and play. These early-adopter behaviors – like those driving the use of file sharing technology – are making organizations vulnerable to security threats and potential data loss.

“71 percent of small businesses that suffer from a cyber attack never recover – it’s fatal,” said Rowan Trollope, group president, SMB and .cloud, Symantec. “As the fastest adopters of cloud technologies, such as file sharing, SMBs need to use safe practices, especially when using a solution that might not be built for businesses. As employees increasingly adopt consumer cloud services at work, the risk to SMBs only grows.”

SMB stakeholders recognize that file sharing helps drive productivity among employees. Seventy-four percent of respondents said they adopted online file sharing to bolster their own productivity.

Also, 61 percent of respondents reported employees to be somewhat-to-extremely influential when it comes to adopting file sharing solutions internally, on par with mobile device usage (63 percent), PC/laptop/tablet usage (64 percent) and social media usage (53 percent).

Many respondents recognized the potential risks that poorly managed file sharing practices can bring into their organizations. Among respondents, risks cited as potential concerns included sharing confidential information using unapproved solutions (44 percent), malware (44 percent), loss of confidential or proprietary information (43 percent), breach of confidential information (41 percent), embarrassment or damage to brand/reputation (37 percent), and violating regulatory rules (34 percent).

Moreover, the lack of policy enforcement also enhances risks for many respondents as more than one-fifth (22 percent) of respondents have not implemented policies restricting how employees can access and share files.

Employee behaviors around file sharing indicate further potential for security risk. When asked what employees might do when they need to share a large file, respondents indicated they would either ask IT for help (51 percent), use a solution suggested by a customer, contractor or partner (42 percent), utilize the IT system in place (33 percent), or search online and download a free solution (27 percent). Furthermore, 41 percent indicated damaged brand reputation was a concern when it comes to file sharing.

Many of the files shared internally and externally are significantly increasing in size. One in seven (14 percent) respondents reported the average size of files currently shared by their organization to be more than 1 GB while three years ago, only 6 percent reported the average file size to be more than 1 GB.

Respondents indicated the number of employees working remotely and/or from home has gradually increased over the past three years, and the number is projected to increase. Respondents predicted that one year from now 37 percent of SMB organizations will have employees working remotely (up 22 percent from three years ago and 32 percent today), and 32 percent will have employees who work from home (up 20 percent from three years ago, and 28 percent today).

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