When it comes to data security, few industries have higher stakes than healthcare. Hospitals, doctors' offices, clinics and other care providers must accumulate and utilize a huge amount of extremely sensitive patient data. If this information is exposed, patients will not only have their privacy violated, but will be vulnerable to identity theft and fraud.
Considering the stakes involved, it is no wonder that organizations in the healthcare industry must meet stringent data protection standards or face fines and other sanctions.
The consequences for healthcare providers that fail to implement satisfactory secure file sharing solutions was recently highlighted by the case of a National Health Service (NHS) trust in Staffordshire, which received a significant fine following a data breach.
For failing to adequately protect its patients' data, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has levied a fine of approximately $86,000 on the North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust. The trust had previously sent sensitive information concerning three patients to the wrong recipients. The information exposed included names, addresses and medical histories.
Critically, the ICO investigation determined that the trust had best practice guidelines in place to reduce the likelihood of data breaches occurring. However, staff members were not adequately trained to follow these procedures.
"Let's make no mistake, this breach was entirely avoidable," explained Sally Anne Poole, ICO's enforcement group manager.
This is a common refrain when it comes to data breaches. In the majority of cases, the breach itself is largely attributable to mistakes or negligence on the part of employees and could almost certainly have been prevented if better policies and practices had been established and maintained in the offending organization.
Somewhat uncommonly for these types of incidents, the method of the breach in the Staffordshire case was a fax machine. Increasingly, hospitals and other healthcare providers are becoming entirely digital in their record keeping, as well as their record sharing.
This trend puts the Staffordshire incident in sharper relief, as it is even easier to mistakenly send an email to the wrong recipient than a fax. This means that those organizations which have embraced electronic medical records (EMRs) need to be even more careful when it comes to data security.
There are two keys to achieving a robust, dependable data protection policy in the healthcare industry. First, firms must invest in the right tools. Organizations need solutions that are dependable and easy to use. That is why firms should look for secure file sharing options that are specifically designed with the end-user in mind. Only by making the tools convenient can healthcare providers ensure that its employees will actually utilize these solutions.
Additionally, healthcare providers need to take the time to ensure that employees receive sufficient training concerning how to effectively use these resources. Without such educational measures, workers will be far more likely to inadvertently cause a data breach.
Bring your own device (BYOD) is one of the most important IT trends to develop in recent years. Employees in every industry are now using their personal smartphones and tablets to conduct work-related tasks while at home, on the road or elsewhere. This greatly increases productivity as workers become more flexible and agile. The policy is also extremely popular with workers, meaning that those firms which implement BYOD are better able to retain a skilled workforce, whereas those that don't may struggle to attract talented young workers who have come to expect this option.
However, with all of that said, there are undoubtedly risks involved with the embrace of BYOD policies. Most notably, companies are wary of the additional security risks that these operations entail. When employees are allowed to use their personal mobile devices to access, store, send and receive sensitive corporate data, the risk of these files falling into an unauthorized user's hands increases significantly. Such a data breach can have devastating consequences, including a damaged reputation and the loss of intellectual property.
For this reason, a significant number of companies have simply forbidden BYOD. Yet while this may seem like a safer solution, in reality, it is actually extremely dangerous.
BYOD, one way or another
The problem with a strict no-BYOD policy is that it is becoming increasingly unrealistic. The more companies that adopt BYOD, the more that employees will expect to be able to use their personal mobile devices for work. If this expectation is thwarted, workers will have a variety of reactions. Obviously, some, and hopefully most, will abide by the policy and avoid using their devices in this capacity. However, many others will resent such a restriction and, as a result, will be far more likely to ignore it. They will use their personal devices for work with or without official approval.
This is a major problem for companies because it reduces the oversight of these devices. It is already extremely difficult for firms' IT departments to effectively manage security in a BYOD environment. If the devices are being used without approval, and therefore without the IT department's knowledge, the risks are exponentially increased. Workers pursuing BYOD without approval are less likely to install and maintain antivirus and antimalware measures on their devices, and they are more likely to use insecure methods for sending and receiving files.
To avoid this result, businesses should acknowledge the fact that BYOD is here to stay. Realistically, only those firms responsible for the most extremely sensitive information, such as certain government agencies, can justify ignoring BYOD.
Next, these organizations must invest in secure file sharing solutions designed specifically for BYOD environments. This is a critical step, as without easy-to-use, secure tools in place, employees are likely to resort to less burdensome, more risky options.
By making secure file sharing options readily available and actively supporting their use, business leaders can ensure that their employees enjoy the benefits of BYOD without additional risk.
Few technologies currently generate more excitement within the business community than big data. In a relatively short period of time, big data has evolved from a burden to a key resource for firms in virtually every industry. By leveraging advanced business intelligence (BI) and analytics tools, organizations can gain unparalleled insight into their customers, their competitors and their own operations.
However, for any big data initiative to succeed, it is imperative for businesses to invest not only in the tools necessary for analysis, but also big data transfer solutions. Big data is typically collected and created at a wide variety of locations and then analyzed elsewhere. Without the means to move these data sets quickly and efficiently, businesses cannot gain the full value from their big data resources.
There are a number of secure file transfer options on the market, and it is critical for businesses to choose wisely. Here are three key factors to consider when making this decision.
Security is of paramount importance whenever data of any kind is being moved, stored or utilized. After all, data exposure can have devastating consequences for businesses, ranging from reputational damage to the loss of intellectual property. This is true not only of financial data and other obviously sensitive information, but also the unstructured and semistructured data which comprises big data. Increasingly, cybercriminals are coming to realize that while big data may not yield immediate, direct financial benefits, it can be sold to interested parties for significant profits.
Consequently, they are beginning to actually target businesses' big data resources. Such attacks can occur at any time, but firms are particularly vulnerable when transmitting the big data from point to point which, as noted above, is almost always a necessity.
That is why businesses need to make certain to choose a file transfer solution that features top-quality security controls. The solution should be highly adaptable to ensure that it can handle the constantly evolving attacks cybercriminals use to steal information. To this end, firms should only choose to partner with secure file transfer vendors that have established trustworthy reputations within the field.
2. Ease of use
For many companies, the transfer of big data sets and files is performed by numerous employees at every level and throughout the day. Businesses have increasingly adopted self-service models for a wide range of IT services, including BI, analytics and customer relationship management (CRM).
For these technologies to prove useful, employees must be able to send and receive big data with ease. If the program used for this purpose imposes too great a burden on workers, overall productivity and efficiency will inevitably suffer.
Additionally, the onset of delays will damage the effectiveness of the results produced, as big data is most valuable the moment it is created, and it begins to lose value from that moment onward. If the big data transfer solutions are inefficient, employees may only gain access to these information resources once they have lost a significant portion of their total utility.
The amount of big data that a firm will collect, generate, send and receive in a given day is, for most companies, highly variable. A spike may occur one day, followed by a trough the next. Furthermore, different weeks, months or seasons may lead to more or less big data, depending on the market.
As a result, many companies' big data transfer needs will be inconsistent. Only by leveraging a scalable solution can firms avoid either over- or under-investing, thereby maximizing cost-efficiency and performance.
File sharing is a critical function for businesses of all kinds. Firms in every industry and of all sizes must regularly send and receive files between employees as well as to clients and other external organizations. These exchanges need to be fast and, critically, secure. If this is not the case, the business will be at risk of suffering a potentially devastating data breach.
Unfortunately, this is a lesson many firms have learned the hard way. And while there are many different contributing factors, one of the most frequent causes of such incidents is employee use of consumer-grade box file sharing options. While Dropbox and similar products are excellent tools for personal distribution of and access to files, they simply lack sufficient data protection measures to effectively protect sensitive corporate data. Dedicated secure file sharing solutions, on the other hand, can keep files safe at all times without posing a burden to employees.
Without a doubt, data breaches are a serious concern for organizations of all sizes and sectors. The consequences of a data breach, even a relatively small-scale one, can be devastating. Firms will often lose invaluable intellectual property, hurting their ability to compete in difficult markets. Even worse, the exposure of sensitive client information can lead to lawsuits, regulatory fines and a severely tarnished reputation.
With all of these potential risks, it is no surprise that businesses are extremely eager to invest in tools and strategies which may reduce the likelihood of such events transpiring. The only real question is how far to take such initiatives and what kind of resources businesses should leverage to this end.
Often times, companies will focus their efforts on preventing hackers and other cybercriminals from infiltrating the organizations' networks in order to steal valuable information. While this is certainly a very real danger and one which deserves significant attention and investment, preventing external threats is not enough. Additionally, businesses must develop robust tactics and utilize advanced solutions for preventing insider-originated data breaches.
It is a well-established fact that data breaches can be devastating for the affected businesses. When a data breach occurs, organizations typically lose at least one of these three assets: money, intellectual property or sensitive client data. While the first category causes the most direct loss, breaches in any of these areas will have a major, negative impact on the targeted companies.
The scope of this impact can be seen in a new report, which found that data breaches and fraud are increasingly linked, and undoubtedly causing untold damage to firms' reputations.
These days, the cybersecurity landscape can appear rather bleak. It seems hardly a week, or even a day, goes by without news of yet another data breach affecting a company, hospital, school or government organization. These incidents range from the relatively small scale to enormous breaches affecting tens of thousands of individuals and invaluable corporate intellectual property. Regardless of the scale, though, there is no doubt that such occurrences are deeply damaging to firms, both financially and in terms of reputation.
Considering the sheer number of data breaches that are occurring, the increasing sophistication demonstrated by cyberattackers and the growing opportunities for employee error to expose company information, many have concluded that data breaches are simply inevitable and that organizations should accept this reality and focus heavily on preparing a response for when such an event occurs.
While it may be tempting to succumb to this view, the truth of the matter is that the risk of data breach, while high and growing, is far from 100 percent. On the contrary, many firms have never experienced such an event and, if they keep their guards up, they never will. With the right tools in place, such as secure file sharing and managed file transfer (MFT) solutions, organizations can greatly enhance the overall quality of their cybersecurity efforts, thereby minimizing the chances that they will become the victim of a data breach.
By now, virtually every business is well-aware of the threats posed by data breaches. These events have received a tremendous amount of news coverage, and for good reason. When a breach occurs, a firm will inevitably experience significant, negative consequences. Any lost information may undermine the company's competitive advantage in its given industry, and exposed client data can hurt a firm's reputation, as well as lead to regulatory action.
A recent study further emphasized the impact of data breaches on companies, finding that the cost per incident for U.K. firms has never been higher.
In recent years, few technological trends have gained greater excitement and interest than big data analytics. Big data, which is defined as information sets which are too large and varied for traditional analytics tools to adequately leverage, includes unstructured data, such as social media posts, photographs, videos and much more. Without big data analytics, all of this information is of limited value, as firms simply lacked the means of translating this data into useful insight.
The rise of big data analytics has been extremely sudden, to the point that these tools are widely seen as basic essentials for businesses of all sizes and industries. Those firms that fail to quickly adapt may struggle to keep pace with their more technologically savvy competitors.
However, in addition to the potential benefits it provides, the sudden embrace of big data analytics also carries significant challenges for companies. One of the most significant of these is ensuring that big data can be shared among the various personnel and departments within an organization easily and quickly. To this end, companies must invest in high-quality secure file transfer solutions.
Now more than ever, businesses of all sizes and industries are dependent upon the accumulation, distribution and leveraging of information of all kinds. In order to become and remain a leader in a given sector, a firm must have the means to harness available data.
Achieving this goal is obviously a complex, multi-step process. Undoubtedly, though, one of the most critical components of this objective is ensuring secure file sharing among a company's employees. If a firm's workers cannot easily, safely share information, that data will lose a great deal of its value, hurting the organization's overall ability to compete.
With that in mind, here are three tips for achieving secure file sharing within your company.