What is Secure File-Sharing?
Online file-sharing has become increasingly common due to the availability of cloud storage services. File-sharing refers to sharing or providing access to computer files over a network. File types that can be shared may include documents, audio files, video files, graphics, computer programs, e-books, or presentations. File-sharing allows people to use the same files with the purpose of reading, viewing, listening, modifying, copying, and/or printing.
A typical file-sharing procedure involves one user granting access to files and content to another user over the internet via cloud file-sharing or file transfer. With a multitude of file-sharing services available, it is important to know what features to look for in a secure service. This is true when you are looking to send a file, but it is also prudent to investigate whether the platform that a sender is using to share files with you has the security features that you would choose for yourself. Potential file-sharing security concerns include viruses, malware, compromising personal information, sharing data with unknown users, and vulnerabilities caused by open ports. To protect yourself and your data, some security features to look for in your file-sharing solutions are:
End-to-end encrypted (E2EE) file transfer. Throughout the process of an E2EE file transmission, the file remains encrypted, and even the platform provider cannot decrypt it. Only the sender and receiver can decrypt it, using a key. The biggest challenge for E2EE is the provision of the key to the receiver, as the most secure method for sharing a key would be in person, which is rarely a suitable option. Instead, senders and receivers often rely on public key infrastructure, where the receiver creates a public key, the sender sends an encrypted message using this public key, and the receiver decrypts the message using a private key that only the receiver is in possession of; this method is classified as E2EE.
User permissions. A secure file-sharing solution that allows access limitations to be set on a user-by-user and folder-by-folder basis provides security by ensuring that the file manager can determine precisely who needs to see what information and for what purpose. This features also allows the file manager to determine who has accessed, downloaded, uploaded, deleted, or copied any of the files. This can help to ensure that essential files are not manipulated or deleted and can also help to track the source of a data compromise.
Multi-factor authentication. This is the process of using multiple pieces of unique information to verify that the person trying to use a password is who they claim to be, often by delivering an SMS or email with a one-time password (OTP).
IP restrictions. Access restrictions can be set to ensure that file-sharing can only occur in certain preapproved locations, or it can restrict access to certain IP addresses or to certain countries.