FTP May Be Easy, But That May Be the Problem
It happens in your office every day: someone on your team hits a roadblock when they realize that email just won’t handle the huge file they need to send – immediately. Or another coworker starts to send an account number or password via email and realizes that perhaps, email isn’t all that secure.
That’s when the tech savvy gal in the corner suggests the obvious solution: just send that file or sensitive personal information via FTP! She lists a variety of “free” tools that can be downloaded easily, as well as a couple cloud solutions, and in desperation (and often ignorance), your coworker takes her advice and a new FTPer is born.
FTP, or “file transfer protocol,” is a solution that’s been available for more than 30 years. Within the last decade, so many free or inexpensive FTP tools have become available that many of us assume that FTP must be a reliable solution, or why would so many people be using it?
As we know with many of society’s ills, just because something is easy to find and popular to use doesn’t mean it’s a smart or effective idea.
The downside of FTP
While FTP may be able to send large files, standard FTP – like email — is not secure, and is therefore vulnerable to hackers.
Rogue FTP tools, like those free tools sprinkled on employees’ PCs, start to become a liability to the company, both financially and to its reputation and credibility.
To begin with, multiple employees with multiple FTP tools mean that no one has a master view of the flow of data in and out of your company. It’s impossible to know who is sending what to whom, and who is receiving files from where.
State and Federal laws require that data which contains personally identifiable information must be encrypted and secured. This also applies to most of the financial data that we collect and create. How can you keep tabs on all of this with a lot of FTP processes running on various PCs throughout the office?
Second, because FTP is not secure, the company increases its risk for a data breach. Costs to notify those affected when a data breach occurs, combined with the fines that can be assessed, can be in the millions of dollars, not to mention the damage to the company’s brand.
If not FTP, then what?
One approach to control FTP traffic is to set up restrictions on the corporate firewall, essentially prohibiting access for all but specifically authorized personnel to the ports required for FTP processes to work.
Chances are, though, that the same tech savvy employee who suggested FTP in the first place also knows how to bypass this restriction by finding different ports or switching to online FTP services. For determined FTPers, even our cell phones are equipped to send and receive files.
So, if it’s hard to stop it, the next best option is to educate your employees, and to develop and promote clear expectations and consequences regarding sending files and sensitive data from work. Many employees want to do the right thing, but don’t understand the implications of sending sensitive data through the easiest – though not necessarily the safest – means.
Another option that is rapidly growing in popularity is the implementation of a managed FTP solution that can be configured to allow users to send and receive large files and sensitive information within their daily workflow, but with the addition of administrative control and much greater security.
A managed file transfer solution such as Linoma Software’s GoAnywhere Suite, in combination with setting up appropriate firewall rules and educating all employees of corporate policy and procedures, will keep your employees – tech savvy or not – productive and happy, and give your IT department peace of mind knowing that the company data is secure.