Defending Data In Motion

A digital rendering of binary code serving as a tunnel over a road

Files are the lifeblood of any organization. Nearly every aspect of business operations—from administrative documents, financial records, and customer data to internal communications and creative assets—is encapsulated within files of various formats. This accumulation of data is massive, with organizations averaging 240 TB of data and growing with each business transaction, email exchange, and project development. 

Yet, it’s not just the staggering quantity of files but also the diversity and complexity of the data they contain. Each file represents a snapshot of organizational activity, containing information often sensitive, proprietary, or critical to business functions, creating a risk surface to protect. 

Understanding the File Risk Surface

In understanding the file risk surface, it’s crucial to acknowledge that files are far more than static data repositories; they are active and vital components in the operational workflow of any organization. Traditional security models, which often treat files as inert and isolated entities, are no longer sufficient to meet the needs of modern business practices. 

Collaboration Opens a Number of Doorways

Teams are no longer restricted to single locations. They work remotely and across time zones, necessitating the constant sharing and updating of files internally and with external stakeholders.This makes collaboration one of the fundamental drivers of current business practices. However, data not only exists in internal collaboration but also comes from external connections, with organizations receiving data from external sources not as an outlier, but a standard, integral part of everyday operations. 

Customers, contractors, and partners share data required for business, but there is no guarantee their security is up to snuff, so malicious content often hides in these files. This new paradigm requires a rethinking of security strategies, focusing on the files themselves and the entire ecosystem through which they move, underlining the importance of comprehensive and adaptable security measures in protecting sensitive information.

The Castle Has Fallen

The traditional approach to data security, often likened to building a fortress, is becoming increasingly obsolete. Previously, the focus was on creating a virtual ‘castle’ for data, where stringent controls limited what could enter, and anything inside was deemed safe. However, this concept has been upended by the widespread adoption of cloud technologies, collaboration tools, and remote and mobile work normalization. These developments have made a tightly sealed data fortress impractical, if not impossible. Moreover, even the most fortified wall is vulnerable to internal threats and the risk of attackers impersonating legitimate employees using stolen credentials. Once thought impregnable, the castle has shown its weaknesses, signaling a need for a significant shift in our approach to data security.

Existing technological defenses, while necessary, are insufficient on their own. Antivirus (AV) solutions, for instance, are effective against known threats but often fail to detect zero-day exploits and novel, previously undetected threats. Firewalls may act as a barrier against direct attacks, but they are ineffectual against threats embedded in files that legitimately pass through these defenses. Similarly, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems are adept at detecting overt attacks, such as rampant malware. Still, their reactive nature means they often signal a breach only after damage begins. 

Reliance on these traditional tools alone is no longer tenable. Rather than place blind trust in an increasingly penetrable wall, a paradigm shift is needed. Security teams need solutions that focus on managing the flow of data in and out, as well as a better understanding of the interactions and movements of the files themselves.

Collaboration is Crucial

Understanding the flow of files across an organization becomes increasingly crucial, especially when dealing with a geographically diverse workforce. Files are not simply shared once; their journey is extensive, traversing multiple teams and endpoints, reflecting the interconnected nature of modern workspaces. Each file becomes a nexus of collaboration, linking disparate teams and locations. However, this ease of sharing also creates a significant vulnerability. The same pathways that facilitate seamless collaboration can also become conduits for the rapid spread of malware. Once introduced into this network, a single infected file can swiftly propagate across the organization, bypassing traditional defenses due to the trusted nature of internal sharing. This realization has caused many organizations to seek zero trust solutions.

No Business is an Island

Much of the data that flows into an organization comes from external sources essential for various operational needs. This is particularly evident in the fintech sector, where businesses are often legally required to collect customer documents to verify identity. These documents, which can range from personal identification to financial records, are necessary yet inherently risky, as there is no certainty regarding the security measures employed by the provider. This risk is not confined to obscure file formats; even commonly perceived “safe” formats like PDFs, Word documents, and images can be potential vectors for security threats.

Security Must Follow Files

The protection of data must expand to where files traverse. Organizations need solutions that sanitize files as they cross boundaries within the company, such as arriving through email, uploading to web services, or sharing via collaboration software. These solutions must adapt to how the company works and collects its data rather than vice versa. 

Discovering Where Files Go

To construct an in-depth and effective defense mechanism for their digital assets, organizations must first understand the journey that files take within their systems. This involves tracing the origins and pathways of files, ranging from emails, cloud storage, various web services, and browsing activities to utilizing numerous collaboration tools. 

It is akin to mapping the terrain in which a battle is fought. Organizations can strategically position their security measures—like filters and monitoring systems—at critical points along these routes by identifying where files originate and how they traverse through the network. This level of insight is crucial for preemptively addressing vulnerabilities and mitigating risks. It allows for tailored security protocols that are reactive and proactive, anticipating potential threats based on the nature and origin of file traffic. 

Protecting the Flow

Protecting the flow of information is no longer a matter of implementing security measures after the fact. Instead, file protection must be seamlessly integrated into the very fabric of the data flow as information crosses various boundaries within an organization. Advanced solutions are now designed to embed themselves within the information flow, connecting directly to the software tools businesses rely on. 

Using a combination of antivirus (AV) and Content Disarm and Reconstruction (CDR), these systems function by sanitizing data in real-time as it passes through. This type of proactive approach eliminates threats before they ever arrive at users. By integrating into the information flow, these solutions protect users without adding friction. Additionally, this non-intrusive security allows users to share and collaborate without knowing or taking actions that would impede productivity or force more work onto the SOC.

Focusing On Data Protection

Votiro protects data in motion by seamlessly integrating Data Detection and Response (DDR), CDR, AV, and in-depth threat analytics into one unified platform. Backed by Votiro’s Zero Trust principles, Votiro DDR provides real-time masking of PII, PHI, and PCI, and offers traceable, auditable proof of threat neutralization, enabling organizations to see a clear return on investment. 

Contact us today to learn how Votiro sets the bar for addressing hidden threats in files throughout their journey. And if you’re ready to try Votiro for yourself, you can take a free 30-day trial right here!

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