Common Mistakes When Sharing Business Information  

Here are four common mistakes employees make when sharing information, and best practices organizations can follow to alleviate risks.

29 October 2014


We live in a world where data breaches are all too common. Threats such as hacking, phishing, or physical theft can all lead to data loss. But just as significant of a risk – which is sometimes forgotten or ignored – is data leakage through negligent, unsecure file sharing and collaboration.

We all know that securing information is crucial, especially for organizations in highly regulated industries. Due to this, many businesses have put provisions in place (such as security processes and approved technologies) to protect data. But often, employees are hastily sharing information outside the company without the proper security and controls – and in many cases, without the IT department’s knowledge or approval.

A study by the Ponemon Institute, “Breaking Bad: The Risk of Unsecure File Sharing” confirms that poor file sharing practices causes the enterprise to become vulnerable to data loss and compliance violations.

Here are four common mistakes employees make when sharing information, and best practices organizations can follow to alleviate risks:

  • Regularly sending unencrypted emails – According to the Ponemon Research, 61 percent of respondents have often or frequently sent unencrypted emails. To avoid this in your organization, you should implement an adoptable, alternative sharing and collaboration solution that meets your security requirements and employees’ needs. Additionally, you should train employees (if you haven’t already) on the risks of unsecure file sharing – more on this in the next section.
  • Disregarding information security policies – The same research found that 61 percent of respondents ignore policies and do not delete confidential files as required. Enterprises should establish – and enforce – regular security training and awareness programs to ensure employees know the risks of data loss and follow the right steps to prevent it.
  • Accidentally sharing files with unauthorized individuals – Sixty-two percent of respondents have accidently sent files to unauthorized individuals outside the organization. Furthermore, 60 percent have been on the receiving end – seeing documents not intended for them. Mistakes happen, but you can avoid information loss by properly deploying identity and access management tools to manage and control user access to sensitive documents and how they are shared. Additionally, your organization can adopt a solution that has Information Rights Management (IRM) technology embedded to provide lifetime document control. IRM protects against accidental sharing by allowing authorized users to revoke access to content at will.
  • Using personal file sharing or file sync and share applications for work – Many “freemium” file sync and share applications do not offer the proper security controls to protect information throughout the content lifecycle. Unfortunately, not all employees practice safe sharing – 62 percent have used their personal file sharing or file sync and share applications in the workplace. To reduce Shadow IT in your organization, have a clear, enforceable policy for the adoption and use of cloud-based file sharing applications.

Organizations can reduce the risk of unsafe file sharing by effectively following proper governance and security practices, having clear policies around the adoption of cloud-based file sharing tools, and providing sufficient education annually around the risks of data loss.

If you’d like to learn more about the research, you can download the Ponemon Institute report “Breaking Bad: The Risk of Unsecure File Sharing,” soon. Stay tuned to our blog for more research highlights and safe sharing tips.  

Meagan Parrish

Meagan Parrish

Meagan Parrish is the Senior Manager of Social Media at Intralinks. She is responsible for social media strategy development and the communications for Intralinks' online communities. Meagan has been creating social media strategies for a variety of companies across verticals for the past several years. She holds Bachelor degrees in Marketing and Finance, with a minor in English Literature.