Don’t Risk Corporate Data: Three Steps to Take Back Control of File Sharing

Bring your own device (BYOD) has redefined the way we work. It allows us to work from any device and access corporate files and networks from anywhere.

Now we also have bring your own cloud (BYOC). Workers are using the device and cloud service provider of their choice for a range of things they would traditionally have used corporate systems for, including file sharing. Without the proper policies in place, this can cause a major headache for IT.

Email remains the most prolific platform for communication and messaging in the workplace. However, certain limitations within email can lead to data security issues. Users simply want to remain productive, send and receive files of any size, and ultimately, work free of restrictions – and they want to do so in a familiar environment. Unfortunately, file size and storage limitations within commonly-used email platforms impose restrictions that force users to find workaround solutions. In most cases, the workaround solution is an unsanctioned, consumer-grade file sharing service.

With the right policies, personal devices at work don't have to be a data security threat.

With the right policies, personal devices at work don’t have to be a data security threat.

Ask yourself: Do you have policies in place to control the use of file sharing services – and ultimately protect corporate data – across your organization? Are you among the 37 percent of organizations that have no policy in place? Or, are you among the 46 percent of organizations that “restrict and say no” to file sharing services altogether, according to research from the recent report from Bloor?

We get it. You are overwhelmed, under-resourced and focused on issues flagged as “top priority.” But if the protection of your corporate data is not a priority, it will eventually catch up to you – most likely in the form of information leaking out of the organization. Whether or not you choose to acknowledge the issue, employees at your organization are finding ways to send, receive and share files of all sizes. According to Workshare, 69 percent of employees are using free file sharing applications – but only 28 percent have authorization from the organization to do so. Consequently, data from Symantec shows through the use of rogue cloud-based file sharing services, 83 percent of large enterprises and 70 percent of SMBs have had sensitive information placed in the cloud without organizational oversight.

The repercussions of consumer-grade file sharing services in the workplace can include loss of IP; sensitive data leakage; loss of visibility and control over where data resides; and compliance, regulatory and eDiscovery breaches. Many of these will not only cause you inconvenience, a significant breach could cost you business, irreparably damage your reputation and result in significant fines from regulatory bodies.

How to Take Control of File Sharing at Work
The bottom line is this: users want your support. If you give them guidance, education and a viable, frictionless solution, they are a lot more likely to comply with your policy. Here are three easy steps to keep corporate information protected by putting in place a secure, controlled file sharing service:

1. Don’t ignore the problem. There is a lot of file sharing happening at work, and file sizes will only continue to rise. Instead of ignoring data protection, make it a priority by finding a service that allows users to work within email to send and receive files – regardless of size – instead of finding workaround solutions.

2. Select an enterprise-grade platform. Consumer-grade services leave your organization susceptible to data leaks and other security threats. They also make it hard for you when it comes to eDiscovery or statements of compliance. Find an enterprise-grade service that gives you visibility and control, while allowing users to work seamlessly within a familiar environment. Use a platform that is built with access controls; content control and data leak prevention; archiving, compliance and eDiscovery; expiring access; and centralized policy management, reporting and logging.

3. Train and educate users. Programs should be in place to help your users understand the sensitivities of different classes of information and the risks associated with mishandling sensitive data. Users should have a clear understanding of what cannot be shared outside the organization and secure ways of sharing appropriate information with external parties.

By following these three steps – and finding the right solution – you can take back control of file sharing in your organization. Interested in learning more? Download this report by Bloor Research: “Take Control of File Sharing Services … Best Practices for the Safe and Secure Use of File Sharing for Organizations.”






Information Governance Best Practice in Legal – How Do We Get Lawyers to Change?

Here at the Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum this week I’ve been listening to, and participating in, various panel discussions around what constitutes good information governance in the legal industry.

This does seem to be a particular challenge to law firms because there are some very entrenched and outdated ways of working that are very hard to shift, both on the lawyer and client side. The CIOs and Information Architects at this event are clearly trying to make sense of this, and deliver value to the business, but it’s often a slow and painful process.

Matthew Ravden, Chief Strategy Officer, Mimecast chaired a panel discussion at Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum 2014 on ‘Best Practice Information Governance’

Matthew Ravden, Chief Strategy Officer, Mimecast chaired a panel discussion at Legal Week Strategic Technology Forum 2014 on ‘Best Practice Information Governance’

One of yesterday’s panel sessions was all about the use of so-called ‘consumer-grade’ services such as Gmail and Dropbox. As is so often the case, Dropbox was called out as the poster child for dangerous, non-compliant tools that end users inside law firms use to collaborate and send large files. There was a quite clear sense from the CIOs in the room that the use of Dropbox is not ideal, but equally, a somewhat disappointing tone of resignation that it’s too difficult to police. So although the room was split in half with those ‘for’ and those ‘against’, very few were advocating any kind of ban on its use. In fact, it seemed to be considered relatively low risk (in the grand scheme of things) provided the right Ts and Cs were in place to ensure ‘proper’ use, and an acceptance of where accountability might lie in case of something going amiss.

I’ll confess to finding this a bit mystifying. I wouldn’t say that outlawing the use of certain tools is necessarily the way to go – all it’ll do is cause resentment, and force bad practice underground – but surely IT should be guiding users towards tools that fit squarely within the approved corporate framework, and keep sensitive material protected and discoverable. There’s clearly a belief that no matter what’s mandated, it’s very hard to enforce, particularly if the end users are head-strong lawyers. But if the tool that’s been suggested as an alternative offers an entirely frictionless, simple user experience, then it should be quite a simple task to affect a change. Shouldn’t it?

Mimecast’s Large File Send product, from an IT point of view, ticks all the boxes for security and compliance. But from the end user’s perspective, it can be pretty much invisible. You just send the large file in the same way you’d send any file. There’s a .lfs suffix if you care to look closely, and you get a pop-up window that gives you some options over how long you leave the file accessible for, if you want a notification that it’s been accessed, and so on.  But other than that, the message to the end user is, ‘you don’t even have to leave Outlook.’ Surely, for this particular use case of Dropbox, or Hightail, or WeTransfer, it’s a no-brainer?  Want to send large files? Go back to email!

All of this is easy to say, of course, but it doesn’t mean that lawyers will necessarily down tools and adopt a different service straight away. If they’ve got used to something, they won’t want to change.

The solution may well be to personalize the problem – or rather, personalize the upside of using a tool like Large File Send.  For example, lawyers like to know when a client has accessed a file, or indeed sent them a file, and Large File Send will alert them as soon as this happens.  With something like Dropbox, it’s likely that the client will put the file on the service and then have to call or email the lawyer to tell them it’s there. Two steps rather than one.

As well as unruly lawyers, the CIOs in the debate pointed to clients’ own practices having a significant influence on the tools that are used to exchange information. But once again, I was left thinking that surely it’s in both sides’ interests to use secure, enterprise-grade technology rather than tools that put data at risk? The same rule applies, though. The experience has to be easy, or the client will stick to what they know best. Again, Large File Send can help here. If you want to receive a large file from a client, simply ‘request a large file’ using Large File Send and the client can upload the document securely and send it to you. They don’t even have to be a Mimecast client.

I resisted the temptation to launch into a sales pitch – in fact I was under strict instructions not to. But for goodness sakes – if you want to send large files, and send them securely – just go back to email!!


Another Day Another Breach – eBay…Now Office

eBay seems to be coping with the hack of its user database. Weeks on from the announcement that its user database had been breached and we’re seeing millions of users change their passwords after receiving notifications from the online auction giant.

If you missed the news, around 145 million eBay users had their email addresses and encrypted passwords stolen when one of eBay’s databases was breached.

We now know that hackers were able to gain access to the user database by compromising three corporate eBay employees and using their credentials to access the eBay network. eBay has also told us that it believes there was no customer data compromised initially, but gives little more information than that.

We can speculate that the attack was most likely perpetrated through a targeted attack in email or a spear phishing attack. If this is right, the corporate employees of eBay who had their credentials compromised would have been sent a link in an email that tricked them into giving away their user details. We don’t yet know if those credentials were eBay’s website username and passwords or if they were network or corporate credentials.

Spear phishing and targeted attacks have become the de facto attack vector for anyone hacker trying to compromise an enterprise. Attackers know that most organizations have been lulled into a false sense of security regarding spear phishing – thinking that their existing legacy anti-spam and anti-virus systems protect them from spear phishing. While it would be true to say the majority of Secure Email Gateway vendors have started to build in protections for spear phishing; we also know that all the recent major and most public breaches have successfully snuck past major security vendors.

This week brings another personal data compromise. Office, a UK shoe retailer has admitted that its website has been compromised to the extent that customer personal data has been stolen. Office is asking all its customers to change their passwords.

Office and eBay are both quick to point out that no “financial information” was stolen. While this seems to be the case, stealing personal data, as in the Office hack, may give the attackers enough information to allow them to steal your identity. Once you lose that, you risk losing that key financial information.

The CIOs and CISOs I talk to are generally worried; none of them want to be the next big breach. They all understand the risks associated with spear phishing and are all trying to educate their users, but many worry constantly about those few users who still click the link in the email, or enter their user credentials in mystery websites.

Protecting against this human risk is a much tougher task, and until we solve that, these big breaches will continue. It’s why new security technology to counter spear phishing like our Targeted Threat Protection service must be combined with effective user monitoring and education if we are to successfully counter this growing threat to our organizations.


eBay – A Trophy Hack?

The news over the last week confirmed that eBay has been hacked. Media comments suggest that upwards of 145 million users have had their account details, including passwords and personal information, stolen.

According to reports, the story started when a bizarre blog post appeared on PayPal’s website that indicated eBay was asking users to change their passwords. The post was quickly deleted, but not before it had been retweeted dozens of times. The cat was out of the bag and eBay started making the headlines.

What we know

eBay has been hacked! If this isn’t alarming enough, consider that eBay’s user-base is huge and the data that appears to have been stolen contains more than just usernames and passwords. eBay is obviously worried that the breached database contains personal information as well as encrypted passwords.

What we dont yet know

So far eBay has been reasonably tight lipped about the breach. But there are some significant unanswered questions that it needs to address quickly:

  • How much data was stolen, and how easy would it be for the attackers to use that data?
  • How was the data encrypted?
  • How were the passwords encrypted? How strong was the hash function and were the passwords salted too?

The trophy hack

eBay is one the world’s largest websites and given the nature of its business need to retain a significant amount of personal information about its users. In terms of a target for attackers, eBay is a holy grail and a trophy, because a compromise of its databases would be the one-stop-shop attackers need to gain personal and financial information.

What you should do now

The advice in the event of hacks like this is always the same. Change your password. Consider also changing your PayPal password in this case.  Although PayPal appears not to have been affected, I’m betting lots of people use the same password for PayPal as they do for eBay.

Then consider which other sites you may have used that password on. This is yet more proof if you need it why you must never share passwords across websites, but despite the common sense of this many people still do it. Also change and rotate your passwords regularly.

Better still, use a password tool like LastPass (other password tools are available) which will generate a long and complex password for you, then remember the site and password for you.

I’m waiting to see how this incident pans out and I’m expecting we’ll learn a lot from it. I’ll provide more analysis on this blog shortly.