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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Surge of spam emails highlight risks of free file-sharing services

The dangers of less well-protected file-sharing options were recently highlighted by an outbreak of spam attacks affecting Dropbox customer.

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There is no question that Dropbox and other free file-sharing services have had a major impact on the way people share and store data. By using these platforms, individuals are able to access their documents and other files from anywhere with an internet connection, making it easier than ever to be productive while traveling or outside the home.

These programs have had a significant effect on companies, as well. However, in these cases, the advantages of Dropbox and similar solutions are far less obvious, and potentially nonexistent. The problem here is that free file-sharing services typically lack robust security, meaning that the data stored and accessed via these methods is not necessarily as well-protected as companies may need it to be.

That is why many industry experts recommend that businesses invest in secure file sharing solutions. By doing so, a firm can ensure that its data remains safe even as its employees increasingly share and access corporate files as part of their daily work.

The dangers of less well-protected file-sharing options were recently highlighted by an outbreak of spam attacks affecting Dropbox customers, as ZDNet contributor Zack Whittaker reported.

Fallout
Whittaker noted that Dropbox's support forum is currently saturated with complaints of email spam. The writer also pointed out that Dropbox experienced a significant data breach last year, in which numerous usernames and passwords were stolen. A number of accounts were accessed, as well.

According to Whittaker, there have been no reports of subsequent data breaches at the company. This suggests that the recent spike in spam messages directed to email addresses connected to Dropbox accounts is likely continuing fallout from that initial data breach.

This development is notable for several reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates that the consequences of a data breach may be extremely long-lasting and difficult to predict in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Secondly, such events can put users and, in some cases, their companies at risk.

"I have an internal to my company email address that I used for Dropbox only and I am getting the same fake Paypal scam emails," wrote one representative user, according to Whittaker.

If an employee were to receive such an email but not recognize the message as spam, he or she may inadvertently open an attachment or provide sensitive information that could lead to data exposure or a malware infection. This can be an extremely costly event for a company, with untold consequences. 

A better way
Obviously, it is in businesses' best interests to avoid these incidents. And investing in secure file sharing solutions is one way of achieving this goal. However, this will only be the case if the tools selected are easy for employees to use. One of the main reasons why employees often rely on Dropbox and similar services is convenience, and many workers would rather utilize a less-secure but simpler file sharing program than a complex, time-consuming solution.

By choosing a file sharing solution that is just as convenient as Dropbox, however, firms can greatly reduce the likelihood that employees will utilize less secure options.