9 Secure File Sharing Best Practices for Professional Services Firms

9 Secure File Sharing Best Practices for Professional Services Firms

Professional services firms often deal with sensitive and confidential data such as financial records, legal documents, and medical records. Therefore, ensuring secure file sharing is essential for maintaining the trust of clients and protecting their sensitive information. In this blog post, we will discuss why secure file sharing is important for professional services, the risks of insecure file sharing, best practices for secure file sharing, and what to look for in a secure file sharing solution.

Why Is Secure File Sharing Important for Professional Services?

Secure file sharing is crucial for professional services for several reasons. First, it helps to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information, which is especially important in industries such as law, finance, and healthcare. Second, secure file sharing helps to protect against data breaches, which can result in reputational damage, legal liabilities, and financial losses. Finally, secure file sharing is often a legal requirement for professional services firms, as they are required to comply with data protection laws such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Risks of Insecure File Sharing for Professional Services

Insecure file sharing poses significant risks for professional services firms, the biggest one being data breaches. When files are shared without proper encryption, anyone can intercept them during transmission, resulting in unauthorized access to sensitive information. This information can include client data, financial information, and confidential company data. The latest M-Trends Report from Mandiant confirms the risk that data theft is a growing target for cybercriminals and rogue nation-states: Data theft as a percentage of all incidents grew from 29% to 40%. Decoding files, at the same time, was seen as a technique in 27.3% of cyberattacks.

A data breach can cause financial losses due to legal fines, loss of business, and damage to the organization’s reputation. Identity theft is another risk associated with insecure file sharing. If an attacker gains access to personal information, such as names, addresses, and Social Security numbers, they can use this information to commit identity theft.

Insecure file sharing can also lead to financial losses. If an attacker gains access to financial information, they can use it to commit fraud and steal money. This can lead to significant financial losses for both the client and the professional services firm.

Insecure file sharing can also cause reputational damage to the professional services firm. If a data breach occurs, clients may lose trust in the firm’s ability to protect their sensitive information. This can lead to a loss of business and damage to the firm’s reputation.

To mitigate these risks, professional services firms should implement secure file sharing practices such as encryption, access controls, and regular security audits.

Best Practices for Secure File Sharing for Professional Services

Following are nine best practices that professional services firms can follow to ensure secure file sharing:

1. Use Encryption for File Sharing

Encryption is the process of converting data into a code that can only be read by authorized parties. Encryption helps ensure that data remains secure while in transit or at rest. Professional services firms should use encryption for all files that contain sensitive information.

2. Set Access Controls for File Sharing

Access controls limit who can access sensitive information. Professional services firms should implement access controls to ensure that only authorized personnel can access sensitive information. Access controls can include password-protected files or granting access to specific individuals.

3. Use Secure File Transfer Protocols

When sending content via Secure File Transfer, professional services firms should use secure file transfer protocols, such as Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) or File Transfer Protocol Secure (FTPS), to ensure that data is transmitted securely. These protocols encrypt data during transmission and provide a secure connection between the sender and the recipient.

4. Train Employees on Secure File Sharing Protocols

Human error is a common cause of data breaches. Professional services firms should train their employees on secure file sharing practices, such as using strong passwords and not sharing sensitive information through unsecured channels.

5. Regularly Audit and Update Security Measures for File Sharing

Professional services firms should regularly audit their security measures to ensure that they are up to date and effective. This includes updating software, reviewing access controls, and monitoring activity logs associated with file sharing.

6. Regularly Audit User Accounts and Permissions for File Sharing

Regularly auditing user accounts and permissions is crucial to maintaining the security of file sharing. This involves reviewing user accounts and permissions regularly to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to sensitive information.

7. Set Expiration Dates for Shared Links

Setting expiration dates for shared links is an effective way to reduce the risk of unauthorized access to files. This involves setting a time limit for shared links, after which they will no longer be accessible.

8. Employ Geofencing for File Sharing

Geofencing is an important tool for file sharing because it allows secure and controlled access to files based on the physical location of users. By setting up virtual boundaries around specific areas, geofencing can restrict access to certain files within those boundaries. This is particularly useful for businesses or organizations that need to share sensitive information with authorized personnel in specific locations.

Geofencing ensures that files are only accessible to those who are authorized to access them, preventing unauthorized access from outside the designated area. It also provides an added layer of security and control for companies that need to manage sensitive data, as they can limit access based on the user’s location.

9. Establish Governance Tracking, Controls, and Reporting for File Sharing

Governance tracking, controls, and reporting are critical components for file sharing. A lack of control can compromise data security and expose sensitive information to unauthorized individuals. Governance tracking allows organizations to monitor and manage access to shared files, ensuring that only authorized users have access to sensitive data. Controls are in place for ensuring proper security measures are in place, including encryption, passwords, and other protections. Reporting enables companies to identify threats and vulnerabilities, and take immediate action to mitigate any risks. With the increasing number of data breaches, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety and security of shared files.

Compliance and Regulations for Secure File Sharing

Professional services firms that engage in file sharing activities are subject to various compliance regulations and standards aimed at ensuring data protection and privacy. Two of the most prominent regulations are the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), though numerous others apply, such as the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), the Australian Privacy Principles, and numerous U.S. state privacy laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

The GDPR, enacted in 2018, is a regulation by the European Union that governs data protection and privacy for individuals within the EU. It applies to all organizations that process and store personal data of EU citizens, regardless of where the organization is located. Under the GDPR, professional services firms are required to obtain explicit consent from individuals before processing their personal data. They must also ensure that the data is secure, accurate, and up to date. Failure to comply with the GDPR can result in significant financial penalties, which can reach up to 4% of the organization’s annual global revenue or €20 million, whichever is higher.

HIPAA, on the other hand, is a United States federal law that governs the privacy and security of protected health information (PHI). It applies to all organizations that handle PHI, including professional services firms that provide healthcare-related services. HIPAA requires organizations to implement administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to protect PHI. It also requires that organizations obtain written consent from individuals before disclosing their PHI to third parties. Failure to comply with HIPAA can result in significant financial penalties, which can reach up to $1.5 million per violation.

It goes without saying that professional services firms must also comply with other regulations and standards, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), depending on the type of data they handle.

The consequences of noncompliance with these regulations can be severe, both legally and financially. In addition to the penalties discussed above, noncompliance can also lead to reputational damage and loss of business. Clients are increasingly concerned about the security of their data and are more likely to work with firms that can demonstrate compliance with these regulations.

How Professional Services Can Integrate Secure File Sharing

Integrating secure file sharing into professional services firms’ business processes can enhance collaboration, streamline workflows, and optimize productivity. Here are some key considerations for integrating secure file sharing with business processes:

1. Integration of Secure File Sharing Into Overall Business Strategy

Professional services firms should incorporate secure file sharing into their overall business strategy. This includes identifying the types of information that require secure file sharing and the appropriate security measures to protect that information.

2. Using File Sharing for Collaboration and Communication Among Team Members

Effective collaboration and communication among team members are critical for successful file sharing. Professional services firms should use collaboration tools and establish clear communication channels to facilitate efficient file sharing.

3. Streamlining Workflows and Optimizing Productivity With Secure File Sharing

Secure file sharing can help streamline workflows and optimize productivity by eliminating manual processes and reducing the time required to share files. Professional services firms should identify areas where secure file sharing can improve efficiency and productivity.

4. Implementation of Policies and Procedures for Secure File Sharing

To ensure secure file sharing, professional services firms should implement policies and procedures for secure file sharing. This includes establishing access controls, using encryption for sensitive files, and training employees on secure file sharing practices.

Integrating secure file sharing with business processes requires a holistic approach. Professional services firms should consider their overall business strategy and identify areas where secure file sharing can enhance collaboration, streamline workflows, and optimize productivity. They should also establish policies and procedures for secure file sharing to ensure that data remains secure while in transit or at rest.

Effective communication and collaboration among team members are critical for successful file sharing. Professional services firms should use collaboration tools to facilitate file sharing and establish clear communication channels to ensure that team members understand the appropriate security measures for sharing files.

How to Choose a Secure File Sharing System

Secure file sharing systems are essential for businesses and individuals who frequently exchange sensitive information with their clients or colleagues. With so many options available, choosing the right file sharing system can be a daunting task.

Checklist of Key Factors to Consider

The following checklist is a great starting point for organizations that are assessing file sharing options:

1. File Sharing Encryption

Ensure that the file sharing system uses strong encryption methods, such as AES 256-bit encryption, to protect your data in transit and at rest.

2. File Sharing Access Control

Look for a system that allows you to control who has access to your files, with options for password protection, time-limited access, and the ability to revoke access at any time.

3. User Management in File Sharing

Ensure that the system allows you to manage users easily and efficiently, with options for adding and removing users, setting permissions, and creating user groups.

4. Integration of File Sharing

Consider the system’s compatibility with other software and tools you use, such as cloud storage platforms, collaboration tools, and project management software.

5. Audit Trails of File Sharing

Look for a system that provides detailed audit trails, including information on who accessed files, when, and from where.

6. Tech Support of File Sharing Vendor

Consider the level of customer support and technical assistance offered by the system’s provider.

7. Compliance Capabilities of File Sharing

Check for compliance with data protection regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, FISMA, PCI DSS, or CCPA.

Kiteworks Secure File Sharing for Professional Services Firms

In today’s interconnected world, businesses generate a lot of sensitive content that requires secure sharing. Professional services firms, in particular, deal with confidential documents related to financial plans, legal briefs, mergers, and acquisitions, among others. The Kiteworks Private Content Network emerges as the best solution for secure file sharing for various reasons.

First, Kiteworks offers a simple and secure way to share private information. With Kiteworks, file owners can decide with whom to share files and folders and designate access privileges ranging from view only to download, upload, and edit. This feature ensures that sensitive documents remain confidential and are only accessible to authorized personnel.

Second, collaboration becomes easier with Kiteworks. The platform’s seamless integration with email, mobile, office, and enterprise apps makes accessing files and folders easy, thereby increasing productivity. The secure collaboration feature allows employees to access a document from any enterprise repository, from any device, from anywhere. Additionally, Kiteworks also integrates email collaboration with shared folder collaboration, empowering employees to work together on projects with any user, anywhere in the world.

Third, Kiteworks offers virtual data rooms (VDRs) for big corporate events like mergers, acquisitions, public offerings, and litigation. These events require complete confidentiality, and Kiteworks’ virtual data rooms enable boards of directors, senior executives, and strategic partners to collaborate with the highest levels of security and compliance. Corporate secretaries or general counsel tightly control data room access by enforcing third-party user identity, multi-factor authentication, and file and folder expiration.

Fourth, secure boardroom communications on Kiteworks allows directors, officers, and corporate secretaries to share sensitive content securely, efficiently, and in compliance with auditors and regulators. All emails and file attachments are encrypted, and access to folders is controlled by granular access privileges tightly enforced by multi-factor authentication.

Finally, content governance is crucial in today’s regulatory environment. Kiteworks provides visibility into all file activity, allowing organizations to detect suspicious activity and take action on anomalies as well as identify outdated and unused folders and files. The platform also helps businesses demonstrate regulatory compliance with CMMC, HIPAA, GDPR, and many other data privacy regulations.

Professional services firms require secure file sharing solutions that protect confidential content while increasing productivity. The Kiteworks Private Content Network offers the perfect solution with its features of secure sharing, collaboration, virtual data rooms, secure boardroom communications, content governance, and regulatory compliance. The platform’s simple and secure way of sharing private information, along with its seamless integration with email, mobile, office, and enterprise apps, increases productivity while ensuring confidentiality.

To learn more about how Kiteworks provides secure file sharing for insurance companies and other financial services organizations, schedule a custom demo of Kiteworks today.

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