How to share large or sensitive files online securely



Here are some tips for securing file transfers and other things to consider when sharing sensitive documents to keep your data safe.

How to Share Sensitive Files Online Safely

Our lives are increasingly lived in the digital world. And while this has many benefits, it also exposes us to the threat of data theft. Whether it’s personal, medical, or sensitive financial information, anything the bad guys get their hands on could be used in further fraud or even blackmail. In short, not sharing your most sensitive files securely could have major consequences. No one wants to endure the stress, financial loss, and potentially time and effort required to clean up after a major data incident.

But with so many options available, it can be difficult to know where to start. Continue reading to learn more.

Why is secure file sharing important?

According to recent search, 61% of Americans have learned that their personal data has been hacked on at least one of their accounts. And more than two-fifths (44%) say it has happened more than once. Often, cybercriminals target organizations that hold our data, in mass. According to Verizonmore than 94% of data breaches occurring in 2023 were financially motivated and more than 70% were committed by organized crime groups.

However, the same motivations drive cybercriminals to target individuals with phishing attacks. You may also worry that the government is spying on your private data or that unauthorized users can read confidential information.

What to be wary of

There are many potential options for sharing files. Some, like USB drives or other removable storage media, are clearly out of the question for online transfers and come with other potential disadvantages. The following also have their disadvantages:

  • FTP: File Transfer Protocol (FTP) was designed specifically for file sharing. But it lacks built-in encryption (unless you use its secure form known as FTPS or a secure alternative to FTP known as SFTP) and can require complex setup that only tech-savvy businesses and individuals can support.
  • P2P:Peer-to-peer (P2P), which eliminates middlemen, can work for sharing some files, but absent other precautions, it’s generally not the best option for sharing sensitive documents.
  • Email attachments: People often consider this to be the best way to send sensitive files. But they forget that many providers don’t necessarily secure (encrypt) a message once it reaches the recipient. Additionally, what happens if your or the recipient’s email account is compromised? There is also a size limit on many platforms, which may not be suitable for large image or video files. A proven service offering end-to-end encrypted email is usually a better option in many scenarios, but there are other options as well.

7 Tips for Sharing Large Files Securely

End-to-end encrypted cloud file storage is fine for most people, especially when the solutions above fail. If you take the right precautions, it can provide a secure cloud storage facility, where your files are kept under lock and key. You can then invite certain users to view them by providing a limited-time download link. This is important because it means you can update the files while they are in use and everyone will be able to see the same copy.

However, not all solutions are equal, and you may need to take additional steps to mitigate the most serious security, privacy, and user experience issues. Consider the following:

  1. Choose end-to-end encryption (E2EE): Because your secrets are scrambled at the source and decrypted at the intended destination (and remain encrypted while stored), E2EE is ideally suited to exchanging data from one device to another. This then covers encryption at rest and in transit and means that even if the provider is targeted by cybercriminals, your data will not be revealed. In addition to E2EE cloud file sharing providers, E2EE email services are also available, although there are file size limits.
  2. Opt for a provider focused on security and privacy. There are many offers on the market. It’s important to do your research up front to make sure the provider you’re dealing with is the right person. Read the privacy policies and understand how your data is secure.
  3. Don’t forget access controls: To further enhance security, make sure files are password protected with strong and unique credentials, in order to protect them from prying eyes. And enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for additional account protection against phishing and other attacks. Set up a sharing link so that people with the link can access your files.
  4. Limited time links: By setting an expiration time on download links you send to a recipient, you can minimize the risk of unauthorized access to your files. Some providers may also allow you to remotely delete files or revoke access once they have been uploaded, for added protection.
  5. Use a VPN on a public Wi-Fi network: If possible, do not access any sensitive accounts while connected to a potentially insecure public Wi-Fi network. If you must do this, make sure you are using a trusted VPN to jam all traffic.
  6. Support for large files: Check the size limits of your pre-selected cloud file sharing providers to ensure you’ll be able to send data quickly and easily.
  7. Use security software: It goes without saying that you should treat any inbound links to file sharing sites with caution, even if they appear legitimate. Security software will scan these links or downloaded files for malware and protect your own machine from attacks designed to hijack or eavesdrop on communications.

We all have different tolerances for security and privacy risks. But using the tips above as a rough guide, you should be able to select the right service for your file sharing needs.

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