Ericka Chickowski did a nice job in her Dark Reading article on how old-fashioned FTP introduces unnecessarily levels of compliance and security risks to organizations.  And here’s an alarming data point from Harris Interactive – approximately 50% of organizations are currently using the FTP protocol to send and exchange files and data.

Talk of security concerns with FTP is certainly not new.  FTP was never designed to provide any type of encryption, making it possible for data to be compromised while in-transit.  A common answer for this is to use encrypted standards-based protocols such as SSL/FTPS and SSH/SFTP.

Luckily, modern managed file transfer solutions deliver not only the security you know your business requires, but also the visibility and control that IT needs to properly govern company information.

Ipswitch’s Greg Faubert offers his thoughts in the Dark Reading article:

“While FTP is a ubiquitous protocol, depending on it as a standard architecture for file exchange is a bad strategy…. The PCI standards look specifically at the security surrounding your FTP environment. It is a significant area of focus for auditors, and they will fail companies in their PCI audits for a lack of adequate controls.”

And yet, somehow, many organizations continue to rely on unencrypted FTP to transport mission-critical or sensitive information.  For those guilty, here are a few steps to help you get started in migrating away from antiquated FTP.  And don’t worry, it won’t be painful.

“My company still relies heavily on FTP.  I know we should be using something more secure, but I don’t know where to begin.”

Sound familiar?

The easy answer is that you should migrate away from antiquated FTP software because it could be putting your company’s data at risk – Unsecured data is obviously an enormous liability.  Not only does FTP pose a real security threat, but it also lacks many of the management and enforcement capabilities that modern Managed File Transfer solutions offer.

No, it won’t be as daunting of a task as you think.  Here’s a few steps to help you get started:

  • Identify the various tools that are being used to transfer information in, out, and around your organization.  This would include not only all the one-off FTP instances, but also email attachments, file sharing websites, smartphones, EDI, etc.  Chances are, you’ll be surprised to learn some of the methods employees are using to share and move files and data.
  • Map out existing processes for file and data interactions.  Include person-to-person, person-to-server, business-to-business and system-to-system scenarios.  Make sure you really understand the business processes that consume and rely on data.
  • Take inventory of the places where files live.  Servers, employee computers, network directories, SharePoint, ordering systems, CRM software, etc.  After all, it’s harder to protect information that you don’t even know exists.
  • Think about how much your company depends on the secure and reliable transfer of files and data.  What would the effects be of a data breach?  How much does revenue or profitability depend on the underlying business process and the data that feeds them?
  • Determine who has access to sensitive company information.  Then think about who really needs access (and who doesn’t) to the various types of information.  If you’re not already controlling access to company information, it should be part of your near-term plan.   Not everybody in your company should have access to everything.

Modern managed file transfer solutions deliver not only the security you know your business requires, but also the ability to better govern and control you data…. As well as provide you with visibility and auditing capabilities into all of your organizations data interactions, including files, events, people, policies and processes.

So what are you waiting for?

 

SC Magazine just published a short article titled “FTP described as unsecure and generally unmonitored”.

In the article, fellow Managed File Transfer (MFT) vendor Axway correctly points out that “usernames, passwords, commands and data can be easily intercepted and read while files transferred via FTP are uploaded or downloaded without any encryption.”

Not to overstate the obvious, but I wholeheartedly agree (and this should come as no surprise to our avid blog readers).  The FTP protocol turned 40 years old in 2011 and although still functional, it was not designed to provide any encryption or guaranteed delivery.  Unfortunately, many organizations are still relying on outmoded homegrown FTP scripts or have deployed basic FTP servers scattered throughout their organization – all lacking basic security measures, not to mention important visibility, management and enforcement capabilities.

Today, the 40-year old FTP protocol proudly serves as the foundation for the majority of data transfer and application integration technologies that organizations rely on so heavily.    But luckily for us all, modern file transfer solutions deliver much more than basic FTP:

  • VISIBILITY capabilities such as logging; reporting; alerts; notifications; chain-of-custody and file life cycle tracking
  • MANAGEMENT capabilities such as workflows and scheduling of file related processes; person-to-person file transfer;  integration with systems/applications; data transformation; high availability;  virtualized platform support
  • ENFORCEMENT capabilities such as user provisioning;  password policies;  encryption requirements (for example, requiring 256-bit AES encryption over FTPS or SFTP protocols);  file integrity checking;  non repudiation

Now is the time to replace old and often insecure point FTP solutions and hard-to-maintain scripts with technology that includes the benefits of a modern MFT solution.