Secure File Sharing With Access Control

Secure File Sharing With Access Control

As businesses increasingly rely on an extensive partner network to scale efficiently and reduce costs, the digital assets they share must be protected from unauthorized access to ensure their confidentiality and integrity. As a result, secure file sharing has become a critical component of business operations, particularly among highly regulated industries, such as financial services, healthcare, and government, where data privacy is not only paramount but must also be proved to regulators.

Secure File Sharing and Its Importance

Secure file sharing allows individuals or organizations to securely store, share, and access digital files on a network, usually over the internet. This type of technology is often used for confidential business communications involving sensitive content, such as personally identifiable information and protected health information (PII/PHI).

Security Certifications and Audits

Due to the sensitive nature of secure file sharing, it’s important for organizations to ensure their chosen products and services meet the highest possible standards for data security and confidentiality. In order to guarantee the security and accuracy of data, organizations should look for services that are protected by certifications from reputable organizations, such as the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA). Every year, organizations should also be audited for compliance with these standards, to ensure that their secure file sharing services meet the latest security requirements.

Access Control and Its Role in Secure File Sharing

Access control is a fundamental component of secure file sharing. It is a way of restricting access to certain digital assets based on user roles, organizational hierarchies, and business policies. Access control gives organizations the ability to precisely control who has access to what types of data and files, therefore insuring that only the right individuals can view and modify sensitive information. By utilizing access control, organizations can ensure that their confidential data is kept secure, in compliance with industry and regional data privacy regulations, while ensuring that employees have the access they need to perform their job duties.

In addition to providing an extra layer of security, access control can also reduce the risk of data loss due to a cyberattack, a lost or stolen device, sabotage, or other risk. By restricting access to certain files, organizations can better protect their confidential digital assets.

Access Control Types

Access control is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of different methods used to restrict access to networks and other digital systems. Access control ensures the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data by preventing unauthorized access and granting permission based on a user’s identity, role, location, and business purpose. Access control should be a critical requirement of any secure file sharing solution.

There are three main types, or categories, of access control:

Role-based Access Control (RBAC)

Role-based access control (RBAC) is a type of access control that grants access to different users based on their role within an organization or system. With RBAC, system administrators can assign different permissions and capabilities to each user, depending on their function within the organization. This allows for more granular control over access and helps ensure that sensitive data is not given to users without the necessary credentials.

Mandatory Access Control (MAC)

Mandatory access control (MAC) is another type of access control that is based on the “need to know” principle, where users only have access to the information that is necessary for them to complete their jobs. This type of access control has been used in many government agencies, military branches, and other highly secure organizations with advanced networks. With MAC, users cannot access data that is not explicitly granted to them, which helps prevent the potential misuse of sensitive information. 

Discretionary Access Control (DAC)

Discretionary access control (DAC) is a type of access control that permits users to decide who has access to data resources. DAC is typically implemented in a hierarchical structure, where each user is granted different levels of access based on their rank or role within the organization. This type of access control allows for the content owner to determine who should have access to the content, and gives them the ability to revoke that access when needed.

Access Control Techniques for Secure File Sharing

While access control types refer to the different categories of access control, access control techniques refer to the methods and processes used to regulate access control, namely who can access, view, modify, or delete files. By allowing certain users to access files and their content, the risk of potential data corruption, malicious activity, and data leakage is significantly reduced. Organizations can also use access control techniques to define who can create, update, modify, and delete documents, ensuring that critical data is handled with care and securely stored. Access control techniques for secure file sharing include:

User-based Access Control

User-based access control is the most common form of access control. This technique involves granting specific users access to specific files or folders, depending on their privileges. It is important to ensure that users are only granted the level of access they need to perform their jobs.

Role-based Access Control

Role-based access control is a more advanced form of access control. This technique involves granting users access based on their roles within the organization. By assigning users to roles and granting access based on those roles, organizations can ensure that users only have access to the resources and data they need.

Attribute-based Access Control

Attribute-based access control is an advanced form of access control. This technique involves granting access based on a user’s attributes, such as their department, position, location, or other factors. By defining a user’s attributes and granting access based on those attributes, organizations can ensure that users only have access to the resources and data they need.

Access Control Implementation for Secure File Sharing

Secure file sharing requires the implementation of access control measures to protect users’ data and prevent unauthorized access. We have discussed above the access control types and techniques for secure file sharing. Access control measures go into detail of how access control can be implemented by businesses for secure file sharing. The measures are a key part of securing files to ensure that only authorized users can view and access files. These measures include access control list (ACL), capability-based access control, encryption, and digital rights management (DRM). In this section, we will outline these access control measures and explain how they help to secure file sharing.

Access Control List (ACL)

The primary access control measure used for secure file sharing is the access control list (ACL). ACLs provide a comprehensive list of users and their associated access privileges to resources, allowing administrators to control which users can access what resources. The list is typically populated with a combination of user labels and their corresponding privileges, making it easier for administrators to manage user access. Additionally, ACLs also allow for granular control over access through conditional access rules. For instance, an ACL can be configured to grant access to a resource only if the user has a valid username and password.


Encryption is another important measure used for secure file sharing. By encrypting files, users can ensure that no one can access the file without the correct encryption key. Furthermore, this technique can be used to protect stored files, as well as files that are in transit. By encrypting files, users can be sure that even if an unauthorized user manages to gain access to the file, they will not be able to read it.

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Finally, digital rights management (DRM) is a security measure used for secure file sharing. This measure utilizes encryption and access control mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users are able to access and use a file. It also checks if the user has the necessary permissions to access the file, and can restrict or revoke access at any point. This makes it easy for the owner of the file to maintain control of their content, while still allowing authorized users to access and use it.

Best Practices for Secure File Sharing Using Access Control

Access control, a fundamental part of secure file sharing, is important for organizations to ensure the security of their data. Having robust policies and practices in place also helps. Here are a few best practices organizations should consider when implementing access controls into their secure file sharing processes.

Creating Access Control Policies

Organizations should establish clear, well-defined access control policies to ensure that users understand and follow the rules. Access should be granted on a need-to-know basis, and users should be required to provide justification for each access request. The rights and privileges of each user should be clearly defined, with the level of access based on the risk associated with the data the user is accessing. Policies should also include provisions for emergency access requests, such as processes for granting access when the system is not accessible or an emergency situation arises.

Access Control Policy Enforcement

Once the access control policies have been established, they must be enforced. Organizations must implement systems and processes to ensure that users do not exceed their levels of access, and that access is revoked immediately if necessary. Organizations should also employ monitoring and alert systems to detect any suspicious activities or attempts to circumvent the access control policies.

Regular Access Control Auditing

To ensure the effectiveness of their access control policies and procedures, organizations should conduct regular audits of user access rights. During the audit process, organizations should review the level of access granted to each user and ensure that it is appropriate for the data and tasks the user is authorized to access. Auditors should also check for any unauthorized access and investigate any suspicious activities that may have occurred.

Regular File Sharing Auditing

Organizations should also conduct regular audits of their file sharing systems. Auditing should include an examination of the security measures in place to protect the data, including access control measures such as authentication and encryption. Audit results should also be used to assess the effectiveness of existing security measures and identify any areas that need improvement. In addition, organizations should review their file sharing activity logs to detect any suspicious activity or attempts to circumvent security measures.

Implement Access Controls in Your Secure File Sharing With Kiteworks

The Kiteworks Private Content Network (PCN) enables organizations to control access to sensitive content and share it securely.

Kiteworks’ secure file sharing offers critical security capabilities, including AES-256 and TLS 1.2 encryption, a hardened virtual appliance, on-premises, private, hybrid, and FedRAMP virtual cloud deployment options, integrations with your existing security infrastructure, visibility into all file activity coming into and leaving the organization, and, of course, granular access controls.

To learn more about secure file sharing using access control, schedule a custom demo of Kiteworks today.

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