Study: Many companies exposed to unsecure commercial file sharing

June 8, 2012

Cloud-based file sharing is on the rise in companies, but many employees risk exposing corporate data by using unsecured applications without their IT departments' knowledge, according to a survey by a file sharing company.

With the bring-your-own-device trend in full swing and file-sharing a major benefit of the policies, data security in the cloud has become a major issue. Though many companies have stringent data protection policies regarding the use of personal devices and outside applications, the study shows that many employees break the rules anyway, risking the exposure of everything from personal data to trade secrets.

Ignorance isn't bliss
Free file-sharing platforms were used by two-thirds of all employees surveyed, while 55 percent of those who used them failed to alert the IT department at their company. When unable to provide a secure cloud computing option, IT departments may be forced to allow the applications{,} as some sectors use the service at near-unanimous rates.

Professional and financial services are the most likely to use free platforms to share corporate documents, at 87 percent and 84 percent of all respondents, respectively. Those who required the use of the platforms were also more likely to seek IT approval, as 95 percent of financial positions reported their use to IT. Sales positions - with 80 percent claiming they required access - only told the IT department they were using the applications 29 percent of the time.

Mobile reality
Modern work environments often necessitate remote access to work materials. Four out of every five employees claimed that they needed to use documents outside of the office, with every person who worked in a job with some legal functionality requiring access. Marketing (97 percent needing access) and finance (92 percent) were next on the list.

BYOD is becoming more common with every passing study, as 77 percent of information workers in the file-sharing company's survey reported use of their personal mobile or tablet for work purposes. More than 50 percent of companies with over 200 employees use BYOD, with professional services, financial services and healthcare the top three mobile sectors.

Security concerns
The use of unauthorized file sharing - and BYOD in general - creates IT headaches surrounding cloud security. A May study from a networking company found that security and privacy were the biggest concerns with the growing mobility of employees.

One of the biggest employee priorities of BYOD was the mixing of the work and personal lives , according to the study. That included doing personal activities at work as well as vice versa. With that, 69 percent of those surveyed reported that they want to put unapproved applications on their devices, including social networks and commercial file-sharing products.

-McAfee Cloud Security