File Sync & Share – With Freedom Comes Great Insecurity

File Sync & Share – With Freedom Comes Great Insecurity

It’s no secret that we live in a time where the standard is for people to be connected 24/7. As more and more businesses embrace the concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), this standard of perpetual connectivity is only being reinforced. I’ll save commentary on the health of such a standard for another time, but the reality of this standard in a business context is that people need access to their data constantly and from anywhere.

Enter the File, Sync & Share (FSS) applications. These applications are cloud-based data repositories that allow users to store data in all kinds of formats and access it from anywhere they have an internet connection. Originally, FSS applications were developed as an easy way for people to share media content and other large files that were too big to be easily emailed, without having to go through the hassle of setting up an FTP site.

In the last couple of years, FSS applications have begun to appear within organizations as a way for employees to maintain access to the data they need to do their jobs, no matter where they are in the world. Employees are taking it upon themselves to install these applications and IT departments are woefully unaware. The problem with this is that by storing company data in these applications, employees are removing the data from the protection of IT security. Traditionally, organizations had to be concerned for their data if an employee lost a laptop, as locally stored files could be compromised or the machine could be used to access the network relatively easily. That same risk is magnified exponentially with FSS applications since the data is stored in the cloud and all that is needed to access the information is a web connection. If an employee uses a computer and forgets to log out of their FSS application account or accidentally stores their credentials on a machine, organizational data is immediately available for anyone to access. Furthermore, there are very few built-in security capabilities like you would find on an actual file system (e.g. file and folder permissions).

In an effort to curb the risk posed by these applications, companies have invested in enterprise versions of FSS applications. These EFSS applications come with far more built-in security features than consumer-grade versions, such as role-based access to data and encryption capabilities. These applications have exploded onto the scene in the last year. In fact, Gartner has created a magic quadrant specifically for EFSS applications and identified EMC Syncplicity, Box, and Citrix as their leaders in the market.

Deploying an EFSS application isn’t the right choice for every organization though. These applications can be extremely expensive and for smaller and mid-size companies and may be a little like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Blacklisting FSS application thin clients is a common tactic amongst these organizations, but it does not guarantee that thick clients have not been installed in the environment already. Pairing blacklisting with a scan of the environment for installation instances of these applications drastically increases the effectiveness of a security program designed to eradicate unauthorized use. While it is possible to scan the environment using manual methods like scripting, security vendors, such as STEALTHbits, offer utilities to quickly and easily discover every instance of these applications. The advantage of using these utilities is that they often offer additional information such as the name of the machine the application is installed on, the IP address, and even the owner of the machine.

Want to learn more? Check out our File Sync & Share Discovery Solution and download the free assessment scan today!

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