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News and Perspectives from IT Experts
January 23, 2024

Beginner’s Guide to File Sharing Encryption: Learn How to Keep Your Data Safe and Secure

Data breaches have been rampant in the past few years with an upwards of 2,800 reported breaches that led to the exposure of over 8.2 billion records in 2023 alone. Shockingly, the criminals seem unrelenting, ever refining their methods.

This means that if you handle sensitive data, data privacy and encryption should never take the back seat. If you're just getting started, combing through jargon-filled articles and tutorials to try to grasp even the most basic file-sharing encryption basics can never be fun.

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Don't fret though. In this beginner's guide, we will break down the key concepts in file-sharing encryption and expound on how to keep your data safe. No fluff, no technical jargon—just a clear guide to secure your files. Read on!

What is the File Encryption?

File encryption is a crucial aspect of data security. But, what is it and how does file share encryption work?
Simply put, file encryption is the process of transforming information into an unreadable format to safeguard it until decrypted with authorized_keys. This means that unless you're the intended recipient of the shared file with the authorized keys, you won't be able to open it or know its content.

To ensure secure file access, data encryption has evolved significantly from ancient techniques like the Caesar Cipher to sophisticated algorithms that are in use today. Modern encryption makes use of complex algorithms that shuffle file contents, with decryption relying on a provided key.

What are the Security Risks of File Sharing?

File sharing is a convenient way of sharing crucial information. However, it comes with significant security risks that demand attention.

Up to that point, if you're curious about ensuring secure file access you may wonder; what are the security risks of file sharing? Here are the four most notable security risks;

  • Malware and Viruses: Sharing files online exposes them to potential malware and viruses. To mitigate this risk, files must be scanned for viruses and malware before being sent. It is also important that you use reputable file-sharing platforms that value data privacy like FileWhopper. The platform encrypts files with zero-knowledge encryption to ensure maximum privacy and security.
  • Unauthorized Access: Inadequate file share encryption settings leave the door ajar to unauthorized access. Without proper configuration, anyone may stumble upon and download your files.
  • Phishing Attacks: Crafty attackers exploit file sharing by concealing malware within seemingly harmless links. Clicking on such links can redirect users to malicious sites. Depending on the intention of the attacker, clicking on the links may also initiate malware download.
  • Data Breaches: Sharing files that lack robust security measures leaves your sensitive information vulnerable to unauthorized access and data theft. To defend against data breaches, it is important that businesses not only encrypt files but also use secure file-sharing platforms and enforce stringent access controls.

Secure File-Sharing Encryption Methods

Ensuring secure file sharing is a huge step in the right direction for businesses that care about the safety of the confidential pieces of data they handle. The problem is that there are so many encryption methods which make choosing the right protocol daunting. To make your work easy, we created this list of secure file-sharing encryption methods you may want to implement in 2024;

  • TLS/SSL Encryption: TLS/SSL is ideal for online transactions. This encryption method prevents data interception and tampering by using both asymmetric and symmetric encryption. To implement TLS/SSL file-sharing encryption, you will need to buy and install an SSL certificate on your website. There are several options including cheap SSL certificates for affordable and secure data transmission.
  • PGP Encryption: PGP encryption uses public and private keys to provide end-to-end encryption and limit data access to just the sender and intended recipients. PGP encryption is often preferred for authenticating digital certificates, and encrypting and decrypting files, emails, text messages and even whole disk partitions.
  • S/MIME Encryption: This file-sharing encryption method is mostly preferred in email communications. It encrypts message contents and attachments with a public key and the recipient can only decrypt the messages with a corresponding private key.
  • Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP): The applications of SFTP include securing file transfers over the internet. SFTP uses the SSH protocol in data sharing, encryption and authentication. This method prevents unauthorized access and interception during transit to ensure the safe exchange of files between parties.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): VPNs establish secure connections between devices over the internet and are essential for remote work. VPNs encrypt all transmitted data by creating a secure tunnel for safe access to corporate networks.

Benefits of Secure File-Sharing Encryption

Now that you understand the security risks of file sharing and secure file sharing encryption methods, you may wonder; what are the benefits of secure file sharing encryption? Here are the three key advantages to take note of;

  • Regulatory Compliance: If you're in an industry bound by stringent data privacy regulations like HIPAA and GDPR data encryption is mandatory. In fact, failing to comply can lead to hefty fines and legal repercussions. To adhere to regulations and avoid financial and legal consequences, adopt secure file-sharing encryption methods like the use of digital signatures and end-to-end encryption.
  • Peace of Mind: Let's face it; just knowing that your confidential data is kept out of reach of criminals provides peace of mind when you want to share files online. Secure file access gives you the confidence that your confidential information will only remain accessible to the authorized parties.

Data Protection: Encryption is a key tool for safeguarding sensitive information from interception. This is particularly important considering the escalating costs of data breaches—averaging $4.35 million.

Industries Where Secure File Encryption is Essential for Data Protection

There is no business that is safe from cyber-attacks. However, there are industries that can benefit the most from secure file share encryption, due to the nature of the information they handle. Here are five examples of industries that require file encryption for data protection;

  • Marketing and Advertising Firms: Many marketing and advertising firms are bombarded with an overwhelming number of strategic plans and confidential client data. If you're in these industries, you can benefit from file share encryption's ability to protect confidential information and help you comply with regulations like GDPR.
  • Educational Institutions: Higher education relies on secure file sharing to safeguard intellectual property, research data, and sensitive information about students and faculty. They also need to comply with FERPA and other privacy regulations.
  • Financial Institutions: From banks to investment firms and insurance companies, financial institutions are also trusted with loads of sensitive financial details. To maintain trust and reputation as well as comply with regulations and defend against cyber threats, financial institutions can use file encryption. 
  • Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences: For pharmaceuticals and life sciences, ensuring secure file sharing does not only ensure accuracy and safety in product development, and manufacturing. It also helps with regulatory record-keeping and compliance.

Healthcare Providers: Patient confidentiality is mandatory in healthcare. Secure file encryption protects medical histories, diagnoses, and treatment plans. It also helps ensure that providers comply with regulations like HIPAA.

Closing Thoughts on File Encryption

Thanks to secure file-sharing encryption, you now don't need to worry much about your company's confidential data landing in the wrong hands. And with this guide, we believe you now have everything to get started implementing secure file-sharing encryption best practices.

And as you saw in this guide, the platform you choose for file sharing can make or break your file-sharing encryption efforts. So, even as you implement secure file access best practices, see to it that you choose a platform you can rely on like FileWhopper which allows you to securely store and share files of any size.

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