Today’s work environments are changing, thanks to the ongoing global pandemic plus new technology advances. The days of dedicated workstations with an assigned computer are over—55% of global businesses currently offer some capacity for remote or hybrid work.
This shift means that employees now access work-related data and software applications via multiple devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The number of devices used continues to increase: Workers operated on an average of three devices in 2019 and will use an average of four by 2024.
More than 50% of employees access data on personal devices such as their own laptops and smartphones—often via unsecured networks such as public Wi-Fi. Accessing sensitive data on unsecured networks or devices increases cybersecurity risks, including data theft, ransomware, and viruses.
Cybersecurity attacks on businesses continue to increase
Cyberthreats continue to increase in number and severity. By September of 2021, the year’s data breaches outnumbered 2020’s by more than 17%. Cyberattacks also increased by 27% last year—and cost companies an average of $1 million more when remote work was a factor in the attack.
Cyberattacks pose real threats with file storage, which is the method used to organize and store data on a hard drive or storage device. Portable devices such as flash drives are popular storage solutions for employees who need to move files between work and home environments, but they leave organizations more vulnerable to cyberthreats.
Although these devices are often essential for file sharing and storage, they pose numerous cybersecurity risks as they are easily lost, breached, or misappropriated.
Employees also often bring their own flash drives or USB devices to work, and these solutions may not offer the same protection as company owned and managed devices. Confidential information should therefore never be stored in employee-owned or commercial solutions.
Organizations should instead seek appropriate enterprise-level file storage solutions that meet industry and legal compliance requirements.
Depending on the industry and the strictness of its standards, these storage requirements will vary. Industries such as finance, healthcare, and insurance, for example, handle particularly sensitive information and are therefore subject to stringent, industry-specific standards regarding data storage.
Companies must shift to secure and reliable file storage solutions to protect their data, whether they need to meet the compliance requirements of a strictly regulated industry or not. This article will cover the benefits of enterprise-level software solutions for secure file storage.
1. Administrative controls to manage access and permissions
Regardless of your business type or industry, it is vital to maintain control over who can access what data. With a secure file storage solution, IT administrators have greater control over user permissions such as password protocols and encryption levels.
Secure file storage often includes multi-factor authentication (MFA), which is the use of personal identification numbers (PINs), passwords, fingerprints, and verification codes to access devices, systems, or files. This extra layer of protection reduces the risk of unauthorized access by up to 99%, thus limiting the potential for data exposure and loss.
Rather than providing shared credentials for groups of users, secure file storage uses individual credentials. This gives greater accountability to each user and helps reduce the risk of human error that can occur when certain access levels are not implemented.
Secure file storage and sharing also involve “least privilege access” models, which ensure each user has only the access privileges needed to complete their specific responsibilities. Through custom controls, administrators can also temporarily provide higher access controls on an as-needed basis. These access controls can immediately be revoked after task completion.
2. Industry-specific, military-Grade encryption and compliance
Employees may be familiar with commercial file sharing and storage solutions that are designed for user convenience. Although these solutions often provide appropriate storage for personal accounts, they lack purpose-built security controls regarding file backup and access.
These commercial-grade systems also typically lack the specific compliance features necessary in heavily regulated industries. Some of these common compliance regulations include the following:
- Companies that handle cardholder data must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Requirements include practices such as managing access control, encrypting transmissions of cardholder data, strong password policies, and monitoring access to data and network resources.
- Technology vendors and service providers are subject to audit under the Statement of Standards for Attestation Engagements 18 (SSAE 18). SSAE 18 informs Service Organization Control (SOC) reports, which address internal controls related to items such as data privacy, processing integrity, and system security.
- Healthcare-related entities must comply with HIPAA rules regarding the protection of Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI), which is all information that can identify an individual. Organizations must identify and protect against real and anticipated security threats to avoid unauthorized use of systems and unauthorized disclosure of personally identifying information.
- Companies in the finance industry (or those that outsource finance-related operations to third-party vendors) must comply with System and Organization Controls (SOC). Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) utilize the SOC and its guidelines to ensure any outsourcing of data storage is compliant with industry standards.
Regardless of the industry and compliance measures, all industries should follow the military-grade encryption set forth by the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS). FIPS is the security standard for transmitting sensitive information.
Companies are deemed FIPS compliant when they adhere to defined data security and computer systems and encryption and decryption. Organizations may receive FIPS validation after undergoing a rigorous evaluation process.
3. Strong in-transit and at-rest encryption protocols
For heightened protection, all sensitive files should be encrypted. Encryption can be defined as the method of converting data into code that potential hackers cannot decipher. Encryption also supports regulatory compliance (for example, PCI DSS requires the encryption of card data when it is stored and when it is transmitted).
Files should be encrypted both in transit and at rest.
- In transit protection protects data as it moves from one place to another, e.g., when data is sent via email.
- At rest protection prevents cyberattackers from restoring a backup to an unsecured server, from making a copy of a database and its files, or from attaching these files to another unsecured server.
Off-the-shelf, consumer-level systems may provide some level of encryption; however, these systems often provide very little customization. This lack of agility can make these systems cumbersome for IT administrators who are already facing new challenges regarding system and data protection due to the increase in remote work and the subsequent increase in device types used.
4. Data backups to prevent loss
As backing up data becomes a crucial component of business technology practices, the volume of data storage (the means in which digital data is stored on computers or other devices) increases. Data storage is estimated to have increased from 260 million units in 2020 to 2.9 billion units in 2021 (one unit is equivalent to 1 million pieces of data).
A secure file storage system will automate business-critical tasks such as securing backups locally (and/or to the system’s cloud). Cloud-based file storage automates the backup process, while policies such as Windows Information Protection (WIP) help secure business data stored on both employee and company-owned devices.
IT admins can use WIP to add tags to corporate data that trigger automatic data encryption when files are downloaded from or saved to a company’s storage solution. These features help to reduce human errors, such as forgetting to back up data.
Enterprise-level storage solutions typically offer both on-site and cloud backups so that stored files are both secure and readily accessible to authorized users.
Building this redundancy into storage systems prevents data loss in the event of one method storage solution being compromised. Through features such as data monitoring and logging, company leaders can rest assured that their backups include all relevant data.
5. Long-term data retention requirements
Industry regulations may require that data be maintained for several years (or even for the duration of an individual’s life). Examples of industry-related data protection requirements include:
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA requires healthcare organizations to maintain some medical records for at least six years. Healthcare companies may also be subject to state laws regarding medical document retention.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA requires businesses to maintain employee records for at least seven years after an employee’s termination. It additionally requires employers to maintain medical exposure records for 30 years.
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). SOX requires all businesses to retain records––including electronic records such as files––for a minimum of five years.
Additionally, many data privacy and protection regulations—such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)—have specific requirements regarding data retention that are not industry specific. It is therefore vital that organizations choose storage solutions that can safely maintain data long term.
Securely store files with WinZip Enterprise
To securely store their data, many businesses turn to enterprise technology systems such as WinZip®Enterprise. This solution protects data in transit and at rest via several different encryption methods, including the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS).
WinZip Enterprise provides FIPS 140-2 compliant security. Developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), FIPS 140-2 identifies security requirements for cryptographic modules to ensure protection of government’s sensitive data.
This solution also secures data backups with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption. Although AES 256-bit encryption was initially developed for the US government in 1997, it is now available to businesses that require higher levels of data security.
WinZip Enterprise is a WIP enlightened application, which means IT can set custom storage access and use restrictions within the WIP policy. This both protects information and prevents data loss while empowering IT admins.
Additionally, to save storage space (and lower the ever rising costs of data storage and security), WinZip Enterprise finds and flags duplicate files. This helps to lessen the strain of capacity storage limits for businesses.