In the past five years, there has been a significant rise in the sharing of files and information between computer users. Many businesses have also taken to sharing files using cloud services and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, allowing users to share files with each other over the Internet. This brings about a number of issues, both with file recoverability and overall security.
With the seizure of a number of cloud storage and sharing websites, including Megaupload, and the seemingly omnipresent malware in P2P files and the shaky security in relation to P2P networks, businesses have had their hands full staying secure. Do you know what your options are when it comes to data security?
Cloud Services Knowhow
The recent seizure of Megaupload’s files and servers by the US Government caught many people and businesses unprepared. While Megaupload’s main purpose was file sharing, it was found that a large number of organizations were using their services to store files. If you had files stored on Megaupload, the chances of getting the files back are non-existent.
It needs to be pointed out that many cloud services don’t guarantee that files stored on the service will be recoverable in the event of a crash, or disruption in service, e.g., a government seizing servers. If you read the user agreements of a number of major cloud services, they all have clauses stating that if data stored on their service is lost for any reason, it’s gone forever, and the hosts can’t be held liable for losses.
Risks of P2P
With high speed Internet widely available at low prices, P2P file sharing has become incredibly popular, it’s almost uncommon to find someone who has never used a P2P service. If you or your employees use P2P at your office, there are a number of potential security threats you should be aware of:
- The unknown share: If you put a file in a folder that is shared on a P2P network, it’ll be shared with all other people connected to that folder and almost anyone can access it. This is normally done by mistake, i.e., not looking where the file will be saved when you save it. There’s also malware out there that will move files into a shared folder which the developer of the malware can find and upload with ease and without the user knowing it is happening.
- Open network: Typically P2P works on open networks: users give and share. What this means is that when using P2P on a poorly configured network, the whole network could be unsecure, allowing for access to other computers connected to the network.
- Untracked data: If you share a document with another person, and they then share it with others, there is potentially, an unlimited amount of people that can get the data. If you want to take it back, it can be impossible to do so, even if the original document is deleted.
- Storage hijacking: There’s news of malware that has been developed with the purpose of downloading illegal material onto your hard drive. This could pose a problem if the data is found, as you will be liable.
What Should I do?
With regards to cloud services, as with anything that comes with a contract, the first thing you should do is gain an understanding of it by utilizing reading material such as blogs, news articles and Wikis. It’s a pain in the neck, but it’ll help you understand the boundaries of the program and your responsibilities. Remember that if you go to court to get files back from a company, and it becomes known that you didn’t read the agreement, you’ll probably end up losing that case.
Second, it’s not recommended to keep single copies of data on one cloud service. Chances are high that in your business, you store your data and backups in a place separate from the computer. This makes sense with the cloud as well - keep your data with a number of different cloud services. If it’s important enough, have physical backups of what you put in the cloud.
For P2P networks there are also a number of steps you can take to protect the data on your network:
- The most obvious one is to ban employees from using any file sharing services outside of your network.
- If you do allow file sharing, it’s a good idea to establish and strictly enforce a protocol for this. You should also set which users are allowed to share files, and what files are appropriate to share. Be sure that all staff are aware of your policy and the measures that will be taken in the event of any deviations.
- Develop a system to classify documents by whether or not they can be shared, and who they can be shared with.
- If you work in an office where you need to share files, but don’t want to use a P2P network or the cloud, and are unsure of other solutions out there, don’t worry. There are companies that specialize in document sharing solutions that should be able to provide you with assistance.
The most important thing is that whatever the situation is, you take action to try to solve the problem while frequently revisiting the actions to ensure that they are working. If you’d like to learn more about document sharing over the cloud, or via P2P networks, give us a buzz. We’re more than happy to help.