Data security is a necessity within today’s digital, distributed workplaces, especially when sharing information between multiple employees across multiple locations.
Since the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19 prompted a global increase in remote work, 71% of IT security professionals have reported an increase in data security breaches.
A good data protection plan should help businesses ensure continuity, avoid data breaches, and prevent unauthorized access to your company’s information and systems. This is especially important given that an estimated 28% of employees are using personal devices and unsecured networks to access company data.
Although most companies have some sort of data protection plan in place, many are aimed only at overall database, network, or endpoint security.
These are key points in a comprehensive data protection plan, but once an individual gains access to the network or device, the person has access to all the information stored therein.
This increases the risk of data access by unauthorized parties, such as an employee accessing information not relevant to their job or a malicious party stealing company data.
That’s where file-level security comes into play. File security is a subset of data security that focuses on each file within a company data inventory. Rather than granting full access to an entire database at once, every individual file is protected, making it much more difficult for would-be malicious parties to gain access to the actual information.
Think of it as a treasure chest that, when unlocked, reveals thousands of tiny, locked chests inside. In order to access the real treasure, there’s a lot more work to be done!
Healthcare, banking, and government rely on file security
Healthcare, government, and financial institutions handle some of the most sensitive data in the world. Account records, health data, social security numbers and more can fall into the wrong hands via a cyberattack. If only database protection is present, all that information can be instantly accessible to anyone who gains access to your system.
In early 2020, Magellan Health Services was the victim of a data breach wherein an unauthorized party accessed 654,000 patient records via malware that stole employee credentials. Although the attack gained access only to a single server, the attackers stole hundreds of thousands of records and threatened victims with ransomware.
Passwords and logins are not enough to keep cyberattacks at bay. Companies must employ both network and file security methods to ensure that their data is as safe as it can be.
In addition, the more control a business has over the way their data is shared, the easier it is to track the source if an attack does occur. Security event logs record each instance of things like logging in and out, opening or sharing files, etc., allowing you to review exactly who accessed compromised data when the incident occurred.
The impact of remote work on file security
With the rise of remote and hybrid work environments, the need for data protection is at an all-time high. Not only is it necessary to secure in-house servers that store sensitive information, but companies must also protect that information as it moves from place to place—often in uncontrolled and unsecured environments.
As the lines between work and home continue to blur, bring your own device (BYOD) culture is growing. An increasing number of employees are accessing company email accounts, attending meetings, and downloading work files on personal computers, tablets, and mobile phones.
While this practice is extremely convenient for end users, it’s a growing security concern for IT teams. One report suggests that up to 50% of companies that have allowed BYOD in their workplace have experienced some sort of data breach.
Not only do personal devices tend to have fewer security measures in place, but lost devices are a goldmine for hackers and other malicious parties, as the personal data on them can be sold on the dark web for a hefty profit.
Three methods to increase file security
Now that you know why implementing file security measures is so important, let’s explore three methods you can use to better protect sensitive files.
1. Require strong passwords and passphrases
Most businesses use passwords to protect different applications, files, and locations within their systems. To ensure data security, these passwords must often meet complexity requirements, such as being a certain length or using a variety of characters.
For example, if a user’s password is “P@s$W0rD”, they are using common substitutions to increase the complexity (i.e., a mix of lowercase and capital letters, special characters, and numbers).
This seems like a great idea at face value, but what happens when users can’t recall which letters they substituted? Strong, frequently changed passwords are easily forgotten, which leads to the reuse of easy-to-recall passwords across multiple locations and platforms.
Passwords are also one of the easiest forms of security to hack, allowing malicious parties to quickly breach your system.
Some companies have moved toward passphrases in lieu of the traditional password. A passphrase is a sentence or series of words rather than an assortment of random characters. Many users find passphrases easier to remember than passwords, and malicious parties find them more difficult to hack.
In addition, passphrases can require the same complexity requirements as passwords, such as using numbers or special characters.
2. Purge old and redundant files
Getting rid of old data is just as important as protecting new data. Not only does this process optimize your storage capabilities, but deleting old data prevents confusion and redundancy when dealing with multiple versions of one file.
If there are several similar editions of the same document floating around, users are more likely to send or grant access to an incorrect or outdated version.
In addition to compromising file security, this can disrupt workflows and productivity as file versions are sorted out and merged into the most current version.
3. Implement file-level encryption
One of the most intricate and effective methods of file protection is encryption. With this method, each individual file is uniquely encrypted, granting access only to individuals with the correct decryption key. This allows a company to control access to files based on the needs and role of each particular user.
Allowing a user access to only the necessary information is called the Principle of Least Privilege, or POLP, which suggests that any user, program, or process should have only the bare minimum privileges necessary to operate.
Not only does this principle allow you to trim down access to your most sensitive data, but it also allows businesses to detect exactly where and when data was compromised if a breach occurs.
Maintaining such a granular level of control is especially important considering that 60% of data breaches are set in motion by company insiders.
Unlike database or network security, file-level encryption is not a one-time setup. This level of protection requires constant monitoring and updates to ensure that the correct users have access to the correct files as the day-to-day operations change.
WinZip Enterprise enables file protection
While file encryption is the most effective protection against data breaches, it can be costly and complicated. As a result, many companies avoid implementing these more thorough security measures because they feel the hassle is not worth the payoff.
WinZip® Enterprise is a modern, streamlined solution that allows your business to go beyond standard data protection to safely guard your files, ensuring each and every piece of data is protected. This solution features extensive file- security capabilities to protect your data throughout transit, use, and idle storage.
WinZip Enterprise features a simple encryption process, allowing you to keep security protocols up to date as your business grows and evolves and employees move into and out of roles.
Rather than allowing free movement throughout the entire network, IT administrators can easily maintain POLP and track exactly where and when data is accessed.
This solution also saves time and bandwidth by allowing users to compress their files while encrypting them, which provides the added benefit of saving money on storage space.
And for an extra layer of security, you can even add password protection to your encrypted ZIP files. By combining these data security tactics, you can be assured that your files are fully secure with WinZip Enterprise.