As any company that has been victimized by a man-in-the-middle attack knows, transferring files can come with a sizeable risk. Hackers know that files transferred between organization networks can be especially vulnerable if one or multiple parties lack the means to securely and pragmatically send them. Legacy file transfer protocols, in many cases, are now inherently vulnerable to bounce attacks, brute force threats and other data-exploiting tactics, while systems and data storage sites are pushed to the limit. As file sizes grow longer, the risks involved in transferring them grows as well. Companies need to re-engineer their file-sharing strategies in order to preserve data integrity. A managed file transfer solution, supported by expert consultants, can help organizations insulate themselves against security issues.
Risky business: Threats facing file transfer protocols
There are a wide array of potential B2B file transfer vulnerabilities. They thrive on a lack of comprehensive systemic control, a dearth of organizational oversight and outdated methods. Here are a few examples today's organizations face:
- Brute force attacks: As The Hacker News pointed out, cybercriminals launch brute force attacks with programs that try to guess FTP server passwords in order to gain access. This can be particularly problematic for intra-organization file transfers if the same weak password is used on multiple servers - once a hacker gains access, a wealth of data is at risk. Larger files, which take more time and horsepower to transfer, can put systems at higher risk.
- Bounce attacks: File transfer protocols are particularly susceptible to this kind of attack, in which a proxy FTP is used if there is a slow connection or a large transfer time, as The Hackers News observed. The client then uses this proxy to shepherd the data transmission between servers. However, this opens up the possibility for a hacker to pose as a middleman and intercept the request, gaining access to information without either transfer party knowing about it.
- Lack of oversight: Do you know where your data is? Organizations need to have accurate, real-time awareness of the location and status of information, particularly that which has been transferred outside of their network. File transfer protocols are limited in this regard, leaving companies not always sure if files were transferred completely and correctly. A lack of insight into the timeliness and status of transmitted information can lead to operational issues as well as security problems, with the partial, incomplete or slow transfers creating situations in which critical information can be misplaced or lost.
- User practices: Business users have increasingly little patience for a company-sanctioned program or practice if they perceive that a better one exists elsewhere. "Shadow IT" is on the rise, and the adoption of file transfer tools that have not been properly vetted or protected by the company is a very real threat to information integrity. However, if the current corporate standard is slow or low performing, users will continue to seek out other methods to get the job done. In order to truly remedy this issue, organizations need to move on from file transfer protocols that can't deal with big data and large files.
Managed file transfer solutions to the rescue
In order to neutralize the many security variables that can disrupt large file transfer integrity, organizations need a new, progressive solution. Treating each vulnerability in a piecemeal process is both time-consuming and needlessly complex, so companies must adopt a file transfer service that addresses all needs in one fell swoop. TechRadar contributor John Slocum outlined the various roles a managed file transfer solution needs to fill:
"Organizations should consider a comprehensive system in which a broad range of end-user and system-to-system workflows are supported, with tools that connect trading partners, empower mobile workers, automate local and remote transfer processes, and intelligently and securely control the flow of content," Slocum wrote.
A managed file transfer solution specifically targeted at the transmission of large files, like Aspera eXtreme File Transfer (XFT), can allay the bandwidth and usability issues that quickly metastasize into problems. With such a platform, a company can expect bandwidth and infrastructure to scale up to ensure a file or batch of data can be sent with no bottlenecks or latency, traveling through networks at speeds exponentially faster than a file transfer protocol can achieve. The assurance of speed and availability itself is enough to alleviate the shadow IT and slow-transfer workarounds that put many file transmissions in harm's way.
Organizations can also steer clear of man-in-the-middle and proxy-based attacks by centralizing control of all file transfers. With a managed file transfer solution such as the IBM Sterling Control Center, organizations gain multi-pronged visibility into such important facets as server performance, file transfer times and system availability. In turn, they can use this information to communicate better with trading partners, spot any outlier issues and establish better continuity and contingency planning. Better and more comprehensive information leads to smarter security decisions, and the safety of data critical to business success.