Secure File Transfer for Defense Contractors: Ensuring Confidentiality and Integrity

Secure File Transfer for Defense Contractors: Ensuring Confidentiality and Integrity

Defense contractors are constantly searching for more secure ways to transfer files. This is especially true in the age of advanced cyber threats and regulations such as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), NIST 800-171, and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). These regulations are essential for defense contractors to ensure that file transfers are secure, compliant, and efficient. In this article, we will discuss the challenges of secure file transfer for defense contractors, the different secure file transfer solutions available, and best practices for secure file transfer.

Understanding the Risks

As defense contractors continue to work on sensitive projects, it is critical that they have a secure means of transferring files between parties. To protect against cyber threats and maintain confidentiality, defense contractors need to use secure file transfer methods that ensure the integrity of their data.

Before we dive into the various methods of secure file transfer, it’s important to understand the risks associated with insecure file transfer. When files are transferred over unsecured channels, they are vulnerable to interception by cybercriminals, who can then access sensitive information contained within them. In addition, files that are transferred without encryption are also susceptible to tampering, which can compromise the integrity of the data.

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Why Is Secure File Transfer Important for Defense Contractors?

Secure file transfer is important for defense contractors because they must protect the integrity of confidential or sensitive information and avoid potential security risks that could lead to a data breach or the release of classified information. Secure file transfer solutions ensure that the data is transferred securely and is encrypted end to end, so that it is not vulnerable to interception or tampering. Secure file transfer also helps defense contractors comply with government regulations and contractual requirements for handling sensitive information.

The Challenges of Secure File Transfer for Defense Contractors

When it comes to securely transferring files, defense contractors face several challenges. One of the biggest is transferring large files. Defense contractors often deal with several large files, such as CAD drawings and engineering designs, which must be securely transferred. A secure file transfer solution must be able to support large file transfers without compromising security.

Another challenge defense contractors face is maintaining compliance while transferring files. ITAR and EAR both contain strict regulations governing the transfer of defense-related data. Additionally, many defense contractors are held to the standards of NIST 800-171, which requires defense contractors to have a secure file transfer solution in place. A secure file transfer solution must be able to support these regulations in order to ensure compliance.

Additionally, defense contractors must securely collaborate with partners and suppliers. This includes the exchange of large files and sensitive data. A secure file transfer solution must be able to support secure collaboration in order to ensure the security of the data.

Secure File Transfer Solutions for Defense Contractors

In addition to encryption, defense contractors can also use secure protocols to transfer files securely. Secure protocols are communication protocols that provide encryption and authentication mechanisms to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of data in transit. Some examples of secure protocols that can be used for file transfer include SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol), FTPS (FTP over SSL), HTTPS (HTTP over SSL), AS2, and MFT.


SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) can be used by defense contractors to securely transfer sensitive military documents and confidential files. SFTP provides a secure connection with low overhead, allowing for both encryption and authentication of transferred files. It ensures that the data is safely transferred, with access restricted to authorized users, and is compliant with all security regulations, and standards. In addition, SFTP offers enhanced logging capabilities, allowing for the tracking and recording of all file transfers.


FTPS (or FTP over TLS/SSL) is an encrypted protocol that can be used for secure data transfers between defense contractors and their customers. It provides an extra layer of security for data in transit, ensuring that any sensitive information sent or received cannot be intercepted or compromised. FTPS also supports stronger encryption algorithms than standard FTP and can be used to maintain the confidentiality of defense department documents, keeping them out of the hands of unauthorized personnel.


HTTPS provides greater security for defense contractors or any other type of online business. All communication is encrypted, and only the intended recipient can decode the message. This is important for defense contractors, as it helps to protect confidential information, which can have serious consequences if it falls into the wrong hands.

Furthermore, HTTPS helps to protect the integrity of the data being sent, ensuring that it is not tampered with or altered in transit. This is especially important for defense contractors, as it helps to ensure that the data being sent is received in the same format that it was sent. HTTPS helps to protect the identities of both the sender and receiver. This is beneficial for defense contractors, as it can help to keep sensitive information from being revealed.

4. Managed File Transfer Solutions

For defense contractors needing to transfer large volumes of data or require advanced security features, managed file transfer solutions can provide an additional layer of protection. Managed file transfer solutions are software applications that automate and secure the file transfer process. These solutions typically include advanced security features such as encryption, digital signatures, and access controls.

NIST 800-171 Secure File Transfer Requirements for Defense Contractors

NIST 800-171 requires defense contractors to secure their file transfer systems. This includes developing and implementing policies and procedures for the secure transfer of sensitive information between systems. The requirements for secure file transfer include:

  1. Establish secure authentication: All access to transfer files must be authenticated using strong credentials and access control lists.
  2. Establish secure encryption: All file transfers must be encrypted using approved encryption algorithms.
  3. Establish secure transmission: All transmissions must be transmitted securely using approved protocols.
  4. Establish secure storage: All files must be stored securely using approved storage formats and encryption algorithms.
  5. Establish secure maintenance: All maintenance activities must be performed in accordance with established security policies and procedures.
  6. Establish secure monitoring: All system activities must be monitored for compliance with security requirements.
  7. Create secure audit logs: All security activities must be logged for auditing and review.
  8. Implement secure disposal: All files must be disposed of securely in accordance with established security requirements.

ITAR Secure File Transfer Requirements for Defense Contractors

ITAR compliance requires defense contractors to use approved secure file transfer tools to send and receive ITAR-controlled technical data. To be approved, secure file transfers must meet certain security requirements and be registered with the U.S. government.

In general, approved secure file transfer services must:

  1. Encrypt files in transit and at rest
  2. Require authentication before transferring data
  3. Have audit capabilities to track all file transfers
  4. Have secure access controls to protect the data
  5. Be regularly maintained and updated
  6. Not store data on foreign servers
  7. Provide technical support in the event of a system failure
  8. Comply with the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS)

Best Practices for Secure File Transfer

It is important for defense contractors to follow secure file transfer best practices in order to ensure the security of their data. One of the most important best practices is to use strong encryption. Sophisticated encryption algorithms, such as AES-256, should be used to ensure that the data is securely transferred.

Another best practice is to implement multi-factor authentication. This adds an additional layer of security to the file transfer process, making it more difficult for an attacker to gain access to the data. It is also important to monitor and audit file transfers to ensure that the data is not being accessed without authorization.

Finally, defense contractors should have a system in place to monitor and track security incidents. As part of this process, defense contractors should educate their employees on secure file transfer best practices. Employees should be aware of the importance of secure file transfer and how to properly transfer sensitive data.

Secure File Transfer With Kiteworks

Kiteworks’ secure file sharing capability, which is part of the Kiteworks Private Content Network, plays a crucial role in enabling DoD suppliers to achieve and maintain compliance with important regulations and standards, including, but not limited to, FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program), CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification) 2.0, and National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF). As the DoD and its associated agencies require strict adherence to these security guidelines, Kiteworks ensures that suppliers can meet many of the requirements without sacrificing functionality or ease of use.

FedRAMP establishes a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and monitoring for cloud products and services. Touting six consecutive years as FedRAMP Authorized for Moderate Level Impact, Kiteworks’ secure file sharing satisfies rigorous FedRAMP security controls, ensuring that DoD suppliers can confidently store, manage, and share sensitive data in the cloud.

CMMC is a unified cybersecurity standard that serves to assess and enhance the cybersecurity posture of the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) supply chain. Kiteworks’ support for CMMC Level 2 compliance means that DoD suppliers can trust that their sensitive content communications, including secure file sharing, has a comprehensive set of cybersecurity best practices in place, which are required for handling controlled unclassified information (CUI).

NIST CSF provides a prioritized, flexible, and cost-effective approach to managing cybersecurity risk. Kiteworks enables DoD suppliers to adhere to NIST CSF guidelines by implementing a robust suite of security controls that address the framework’s core functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover.

Kiteworks’ secure file sharing capability empowers DoD suppliers to maintain compliance with key regulations and standards, bolstering their cybersecurity posture while streamlining collaboration and communication. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, suppliers can rely on Kiteworks to stay ahead of emerging threats and regulatory requirements, safeguarding their business operations and, ultimately, contributing to the security and resilience of the nation’s defense infrastructure.

For more information on Kiteworks’ secure file sharing, schedule a custom demo today.

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