Regardless of its size or industry, every organization needs to have the capacity to conveniently and securely share files among employees and partners. Many companies have traditionally used file transfer protocol to handle these duties, but the technology has begun to show its age. As more organizational leaders cope with increasing security demands and the need to audit internal operations, FTP has come up a bit short. The application-level protocol was not designed with this level of performance in mind, creating headaches for enterprise members who require more functionality from their file transfer assets.
Filling the void for a high-quality, information-sharing tool, managed file transfer has emerged as a viable solution for businesses that need to ensure their documents are fully secured. These applications offer far greater security and auditing capabilities that make them ideal platforms for sending and sharing files within a large organization.
FTP security concerns persist
Business leaders may be hesitant to invest in new enterprise-level technology or upset the status quo, but if they continue to lean on FTP services as their sole means of delivering materials to their employees, they will allow massive security vulnerabilities to persist. With hackers developing more sophisticated means of attack, these cyberdefense issues will only become more exacerbated. Swati Khandelwal, senior editor with The Hacker News, recently highlighted several of the threats that can take advantage of FTP weaknesses:
- Brute force attack - It has become standard practice for authentication portals to limit the number of login attempts a user can execute before he or she is denied access. FTP places no such restrictions on its server authentication processes, meaning individuals can try to login as many times as they please. Hackers can take advantage of these circumstances by launching brute force attacks, in which the system is barraged with authentication requests until the correct password is given.
- Bounce attack - Cybercriminals can exploit FTP's use of the PORT command to pose as a middle man sending requests. By doing so, hackers can access different ports on the server without having to directly engage them.
- Packet capture - One of the most glaring weaknesses in FTP security is the lack of encryption. Data sent over FTP can be viewed in clear text, allowing unauthorized users to see sensitive information such as authentication credentials. Packet capture tools allow hackers to grab data as it is being transmitted and expose its contents.
Khandelwal noted that the security features built into MFT effectively addresses these vulnerabilities, providing the encryption capabilities needed to prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive information.
"Managed file transfer is the best option for file transfer compared to all other file sharing methods such as using FTP, HTTP, TFTP, peer-to-peer file sharing and cloud drives," Khandelwal wrote. "A managed file transfer server facilitates secure file transfer through the Internet by providing a high level of data security. The MFT server software provides secure internal, external and ad-hoc file transfers for both pull-based and push-based file transfers."
MFT boosts security and compliance capabilities
Many of the security features included in a high-quality MFT package can also be used to verify an organization's compliance with industry or government regulations. Khandelwal noted that MFT allows business users to monitor transfers in real time as well as audit file-sharing operations and generate reports when needed. This will provide a clear paper trail for organizational leaders to show to auditors if their companies are ever required to demonstrate their compliance to regulatory guidelines.
This capacity will become increasingly critical for a wide variety of organizations as more industries implement comprehensive data security and governance regulations, including the healthcare, financial services and retail sectors. TechTarget contributor Don Jones stated that depending on the industry, these guidelines can outline requirements in granular detail or leave things in a much more ambiguous fashion. Either way, it is imperative that organizational leaders err on the side of caution and have the ability to clearly map out where their information is being stored and where it has been sent.
MFT allows companies to see exactly where their files are at any given time and generate reports whenever required. This way, administrators can prove that they have adhered to any regulations regarding data governance. For instance, hospitals beholden to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act could demonstrate to government officials that sensitive patient information never left medical servers at any time. By doing so, healthcare officials can avoid being hit with significant financial penalties.
Another major asset MFT offers regulated industry members is the ability to encrypt information sent between business units. This is of critical concern for financial services companies that routinely send highly sensitive customer data over their networks, including account information or payment transactions. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards have made it very clear that businesses are responsible for protecting that information when it is being sent from one party to another. MFT's encryption capabilities effectively address these concerns by obfuscating data when it is in-transit with secure socket layer tools. If unauthorized users attempt to access encrypted data packets, they will not be able to view the contents without a great deal deal of time, energy and luck.
Streamlining MFT implementation
Studying the migration from FTP servers to MFT solutions, Gartner researchers noted that some organizations have found managing their newly implemented high-quality assets to be an intensive process and can require a great deal of time from IT. Businesses can ease the integration of MFT resources and eliminate headaches by seeking the assistance of an experienced and trusted IT service management provider.
By looking outside of the organization for assistance in this area, executives can remove the burden of MFT operations from their IT departments, which may not be poised to get the most value out of these tools. In addition, personnel can refocus their efforts on other areas of the enterprise. Managed IT services providers have the experience and know-how needed to properly configure MFT solutions for optimal performance, including evaluating current capabilities and resolving any lingering issues that could impede deployment. This way, businesses can launch MFT services without having to worry about the logistical problems that a new tech investment can bring.
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