Recently we had a great debate at e-Share about file encryption and secure data collaboration. The discussion centered around a claim that if you are a modern collaborator, you do not need to encrypt shared files since links are used to access files stored in the cloud.
How we came to a consensus was with an analogy about riding horses and driving cars.
Before the car was invented, people rode horses. Intelligent horseback riders would wear helmets or protective gear to ensure they would not get hurt if they fell off the horse. After the car was invented, people did not wear helmets while driving since the car’s frame would give them protection. Cars have become even safer than riding a horse over the past century, with the advent of seat belts and airbags. Most people other than race car drivers do not wear helmets because it is redundant.
Traditional file sharing and content collaboration is like riding a horse. The sharing of data is built around an on-premises file transfer solution. Using encryption (putting a helmet on) makes sense as the data (the horseback rider) is exposed and needs protection as the data leaves the premises. Modern collaboration is like driving a car; the file is already and always stored in a trusted container (e.g., SharePoint Online), and adding encryption (wearing a helmet) is redundant. The critical thing to focus on is ensuring the correct privileges are established to access the information (the keys to access the locks to get in and start the car).
The other great thing about modern cars is their navigation system. They can track where you are always going. The same is true with modern collaboration. Link-based sharing allows you to ensure your data can be audited and always tracked at the time of access, not just at the time of sharing. This is a critical distinction. With secure links, the file is never downloaded by the recipient, and therefore you are not securing a file; you are controlling access through a least privilege model.
But people still ride horses…
Yes, horses are still ridden for work, transportation, and leisure but cars have replaced horses as the most popular form of transportation. We see a similar evolution in organizations. While most of the business is shifting to modern collaboration that protects data with a Secure Data Collaboration strategy, some people still share and download files. We do not argue that applying encryption (putting on a helmet) is a bad idea in those instances.
Please let us know if you would like to learn more about how your company can implement a solution that allows secure data collaboration. You can find us down at the stables trying to convince the modern collaborator holdouts. Giddy-up!