Tuesday, 11 May 2021 10:29

Four types of collaboration habits that make information security breaches inevitable

By Chris Smith, Alliance & Partner Manager, ANZ, M-Files

Guest Opinion: Rapid digital transformations and remote work initiatives saw more than half of Australian organisations suffer a data breach in 2020, according to The Future of Cybersecurity in Asia Pacific and Japan report.

(1) Progressive firms are supporting their remote teams with cloud-based tools that make it possible to be just as productive outside of the office as in it. However, certain staff collaboration habits make information security breaches almost inevitable and can cost businesses millions per year on average. (2) Understanding what these collaboration habits are and what businesses can do to avoid breaches is key to keeping data secure and clients happy. 

1. User error. 

Simple user error can easily lead to data breaches. Staff share passwords with other employees, use insecure collaboration tools to share content, send an email to the wrong recipient, or forget to use Bcc in a mass email. No matter how careful employees are, human error occurs on a regular basis. To combat this, organisations need to make it easy for employees to access the data, the tools, and the systems required to do their jobs, while also ensuring data only goes to the right person at the right time. Likewise, businesses need to invest in ongoing cybersecurity training to help make sure staff are aware of all the potential risks, for example, phishing attacks. 

2. The risk of data overexposure. 

Employee chats and files shared in online collaboration platforms are usually retained indefinitely, meaning that the data and the organisation are vulnerable to a cyberattack. Even if a business' network is not breached, the collaboration tool is a weak point that enables hackers to access information preserved within it. 

It is important for organisations to wisely choose the right cloud-based technologies and assess each one's level of data and system security before implementing one. Organisations should add as many security measures as possible to each data repository to help reduce risk, including making sure that employees are using two-factor authentication and moving away from using free applications. Sensitive or confidential information should always be classified correctly so that key personnel know exactly where critical data is and how it needs to be protected. There should also be control over who can access information at different stages of a process, for example changing access automatically when people leave the business or move into a new role. 

3. Unsafe personal devices. 

Employees who insist on using their (inherently insecure) personal devices make it possible for data breaches to take place. It is difficult to secure data or provide content security when staff are using their own personal devices. Organisations that provide corporate devices can ensure the data within those devices is encrypted and can provide up-to-date security patches that help to mitigate risk. In addition, businesses must regularly audit their IT environment and network, and pay attention to suspicious activity. 

4. Shadow IT. 

One of the biggest collaboration habits that increase the chances of a data breach ultimately comes down to the use of unsanctioned tools, otherwise known as shadow IT. Employees can feel more comfortable working with their own personal file-sharing services. However, it is difficult for organisations to protect these services, especially when they are unaware that staff are using them and when personnel use them to link to or share corporate files. 

For best results, firms must work closely with all departments to understand employee workflows and identify business needs. Unsanctioned tools may be used by staff because the organisation is not giving them access to a feature or data. Try to really understand why staff are using shadow IT, then select collaboration tools that address these issues, to minimise security risks across the board. 

Ultimately, organisations need to be aware of the collaboration tools that may now be in place following the move to remote work to understand and mitigate the risk to the organisation while at the same time ensuring that employees have what they need to work efficiently and productively wherever they may be. 

(1) https://www.sophos.com/en-us/medialibrary/PDFs/whitepaper/sophos-future-of-cybersecurity-apj-wp.pdf 
(2) https://www.ibm.com/au-en/security/data-breach 

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