Users turning to risky file sharing services, survey says

As more people work remotely, users need ways to share files with each other – and if IT doesn’t help, they’ll look for unsecured file sharing applications on their own. 

Users in small and mid-sized businesses are increasingly setting up online file sharing services without permission from IT, according to a recent Symantec survey.

Especially as more work is done remotely, IT professionals recognize the usefulness of file sharing. Among the 1,325 IT decision makers surveyed, 71% said it’s important for users to be able to upload and update files in shared workspaces, and 74% said it’s important to be able to access those files from a variety of different devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Despite that, users often aren’t given access to IT-approved file-sharing methods, and therefore must take matters into their own hands.

When asked what users in their organizations would likely do if they had to share a large file,  just over half (51%) of respondents said they would ask IT for help. However, just 33% said employees would use an IT system that’s already in place, while 29% said they would search online and download a free file-sharing application without input from IT.

Some IT departments also aren’t regulating or monitoring employee file sharing — 10% said they’re unaware of if and how users are sharing files internally and externally, and 25% don’t have policies regarding file sharing.

If users find file sharing solutions on their own, that can open the company up to serious security risks — especially if they’re using them to share sensitive corporate data. Those free services likely don’t have the kind of security controls businesses would want to be there to protect critical data and documents.

Also, users may turn to unscrupulous sites that are usetd to share illegal files and end up getting a malware infection.

As companies are seeing with users’s personal mobile devices, many employees will use the file sharing technology they want to, whether IT says it’s OK or not. So to avoid significant security risks, Symantec recommends providing users with access to secure, approved methods for sharing files and collaborating with each other.

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