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Study documents risks of file sharing

Veronica C. Silva | June 26, 2012
SMBs are more prone to risks because of IT consumerisation.

A new study by Symantec has recently revealed the dangers that file sharing can pose on small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

As information technology becomes more consumerised, employees can hardly distinguish between which actions are part of work or play. As a result, employees easily share files using personal mobile devices and other consumerised IT devices, the study noted.

The study, dubbed the 2011 SMB File Sharing Survey, was conducted by IT security provider Symantec and involved over 1,300 SMBs worldwide with employees between five and 500.

The study revealed that file sharing is encouraged in small- and medium-sized organisations as a means for employees to become productive at work. Ironically, such practice is encouraged even though respondents say they are aware that the practice involves risks. Respondents raised some of their concerns about file sharing - that it also involves sharing confidential information (44 percent of respondents) and sharing malware (44 percent).

The risks are further exacerbated by the lack of policy to control such file-sharing practice. One-fifth (22 percent) of respondents surveyed said their organisations have not implemented policies restricting how files should be accessed and shared.


Symantec warns that such risks may be dangerous to the organisations and that recovering from the aftermath of the risks involved may not be easy.

"A staggering 71 percent of small businesses that suffer from a cyber attack never recover - it's fatal," said Rowan Trollope, group president, SMB and .cloud, Symantec. "As the fastest adopters of cloud technologies, such as file sharing, SMBs need to use safe practices, especially when using a solution that might not be built for businesses. As employees increasingly adopt consumer cloud services at work, the risk to SMBs only grows."

SMBs are also adopting some of the practices of big companies, such as working remotely. The study noted that the number of employees working remotely has "gradually increased" over the past three years among SMBs, and this number is expected to increase. In a year's time, 37 percent of SMBs surveyed said their employees will work remotely, up from 22 percent three years ago and 32 percent today. Some 32 percent of respondents said their employees will be working from home, up from 20 percent three years ago and 28 percent today.

To minimise SMBs' security risks, Symantec recommends a centralised file storage and management system with a secure Web-based system. Separate access and controls to distinguish between private files and work files are also recommended.


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