Especially in today’s business environment, when people are mostly working remotely due to the pandemic, sharing files online has become a widely-spread practice. It is convenient, fast, reliable, and, for the most part, safe, allowing people to share documents, edit them on the spot, and improving collaboration.
Still, file-sharing has been used for years by hackers to gain access to someone else’s computer. By downloading a malware file that you have no idea was corrupted, you could compromise not only your personal information but sensitive business data as well. This is why you need to pay close attention to anything you open or download from the World Wide Web.
To help you keep your personal and business data safe, we have put together a guide that explains what file-sharing is, how to properly use file-sharing services, and how to minimize risks. Keep reading to find out more.
What is file sharing?
Put simply; file sharing is the activity of privately or publicly sharing data in a network that can have various levels of accessibility. Based on the level of accessibility, a designated number of people is allowed to access, view, or edit the files that have been shared.
Based on the type of file-sharing tools chosen, people can give others access to a specific file, folder, or network. At the same time, these file-sharing services can allocate a specific amount of file storage to each individual user or to a team.
Risks involved with file sharing
When not done properly, sharing files can put your computer at risk. The most common risks associated with file-sharing are:
Exposing sensitive data
This is one of the biggest threats associated with file-sharing. If safety policies, such as making sure you never open or download files whose origins you don’t know, are not applied, you can unwillingly put your data at risk. If an unauthorized individual gains access to your file-sharing service, it’s going to be very hard to find out exactly how much they have accessed and where your data has gone.
Vulnerability to cyberattacks
Never trust a file-sharing service that requires you to bypass firewalls in order to upload or download files. These services should not be affected by security software such as firewalls, antiviruses, and so on. DDOS attacks are easy to deploy now, so it’s better to keep yourself protected. If you are required to deactivate your antivirus to download a file, you are better off without it.
Downloading malicious software
If you download a risky file, you can expose yourself and your coworkers to malicious attacks and compromise the security of the entire office. What’s more, if you upload a file that has been jeopardized and you had no idea about it, you will only spread the malicious software across the entire network, putting it at risk.
Best practices for sharing files securely
To avoid security issues when it comes to file-sharing, users need to follow some safe practices that reduce the risk of exposure. We are going to explain them below so that you can continue sharing files without worry.
Put security first
Ignoring data protection just because you think it can’t happen to you is a sure way to put yourself and others at risk. Make it a priority to only use reputable services that allow you to share files securely and never take down any layer of security. If the service used asks you to deactivate your firewall or antivirus to share files, you might want to reconsider your options.
Use a reliable system
Consumer-grade tools are good, for the most part, but they are not built with business needs in mind. If you are using these systems to share files in a business environment, it is best that you look for a business-grade tool that offers extra layers of security and allows for better team collaboration
Think of others
When you share files, try to do so with formats anyone can use and edit. For example, if you are working for a publishing house and you are using epub files, they can only be read by specific software, such as the one used to read e-books. If possible, convert epub to pdf files to make sure anyone can open, read, and edit the document if necessary. PDF files can easily be viewed and edited by anyone that uses a PDF editor, making it less restraining and enabling better collaborations.
Use the cloud for improved accessibility
Cloud-based systems can be implemented fast, and they don’t require users to set up any kind of software on their devices. They are reliable, fast, and secure, especially if you are using a business-grade tool that understands the needs of employee teams.
Types of file sharing
Because the internet is here to make out lives easier, we have various types of file sharing to choose from. Below are some of the most common ways to share files online, each suited for various circumstances:
File transfer protocol (FTP)
FTP is the most common system used to transfer files on the internet. This system is used to view or edit files among multiple users using a password. By accessing the FTP server site, users can get access to all the files shared there and download them using the set password. One example is Firefox’s Filezilla, which is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
In peer-to-peer networking, hardware (computer, phones, etc.) and software are allowed to communicate without the existence of a central server. In this situation, files are directed towards a person through a p2p network, with the files being located on a person’s computer and shared with the other person rather than by using an online server. Examples include instant messaging services, such as Skype or WhatsApp.
Online file-sharing services
Web systems that enable users to store and exchange files on the internet are known as online file-sharing services. One member can upload images, notes, PDFs, and other files to an online file-sharing site, from which others can import them.