Not sure if your business data is completely secure in File Servers, Cloud Repositories or On Premise document storage system? You’ve come to the right article to learn about the most effective security measures focused on protecting the access to your documents. We will also discuss when collaborating or exchanging documents outside, internally and externally, with employees and with third parties. Our reccomendations are based on more than 10 years of Experience in Data Security for companies.

Table of contents:

 

1. Understanding Security Risks and Needs in Storage Repositories

Data breaches rose by 72% between 2021 and 2023 according to the 2023 Data Breach Report by The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), which has underscored the importance of robust document security. The main risks include phishing attacks, Zero-Day vulnerabilities, malware infections such as ransomware, insider threats, and insufficient encryption, all of which can result in significant financial loss, $4.45 million on average according to IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023. Since 2020, the average cost of a data breach has increased 15.3% from $3.86 million. The costs are expected to reach $5 million within the next few years based on this trend.

Let’s take a closer look at the types of threats and the importance of establishing adequate data security measures.

1.1 Why is it Critical Document Security for Businesses?

Document security is paramount for businesses as it safeguards the most valuable digital assets, which have escalated in frequency and severity. Since Cybercriminals have discovered new ways to profit, they have not stopped evolving, and they know that data is a gold mine. Their main motivation is to gain access to the most critical documents and data of companies to make a profit.

The average cost of an organization detecting and escalating a data breach is $1.58 million, according to the IBM 2023 Cost of a Data Breach Report, but cyberattacks have steep financial repercussions: remediation efforts, legal fees, regulatory fines, intellectual property theft, operational disruption, and reputational damage are several factors that account for the total cost. These facts highlight the financial imperative of robust data security measures. Effective document security strategies not only protect sensitive information but also uphold trust, proving invaluable in maintaining client relationships and business integrity. It´s important to highlight the role of CISOs, constantly facing Data Security issues, challenges, risks, and concerns to lay a foundation for enduring resilience and adaptability.

1.2 Types of Threats: Data Security in Document Storage System

Business data at rest in document storage systems face various threats:

  • Network Infiltration via Phishing: Unauthorized access to business data through stolen credentials, 15% of breaches or infiltration. This is the most common data breach and the initial vector, it accounts for 16% of all breaches according to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach report.
  • Malware, Ransomware: Attacks where the files are encrypted, stolen, and used to extort the organization. Ransomware attack victims increased by 128.17% between 2022 and 2023, as detailed in the Security Affairs Ransomware Attacks 2023 Report. According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach report, a ransomware attack costs a business $5.13 million on average, constituting 24% of malicious cyberattacks and 62% of financially motivated data breach incidents, 2024 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon. Know the real impact of ransomware on businesses here.
  • Insider threats: In these cases, employees steal critical information for their profit, they can sell it or use it to work for another company that can be interested in developing new products, extending the business, or making improvements. Internal threat actors accounted for 35% of breaches in 2024, indicating a significant increase from previous years according to Verizon´s DBIR 2024.
  • Third-party breaches: Cybercriminals can also gain access to your critical data leveraging the access privileges of your partners.  A recent report by SecurityScorecard reveals that the exploitation of trusted third parties is also an important security concern. Research shows that 29% of breaches have been caused by third-party attacks.
  • Vulnerabilities: Some attacks can start from a known vulnerability nonpatched or even a Zero-day affecting a service provider or a specific software to penetrate the network with free access to all the documentation. 14% of breaches involved the exploitation of vulnerabilities as an initial access step, almost triple the amount from the 2023 report, as reflected in Verizon’s 2024 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR).

2. Evaluation of Current Document Storage Systems

Current document storage systems often display weak points in encryption, access control, and vulnerability to insider threats, underscoring a prevalent insufficiency in data security measures. The lack of robust encryption exposes documents to unauthorized access, while inadequate access controls increase the risks of data leaks. Insider threats further exploit these vulnerabilities, leading to potential breaches.

Did you know that cryptography plays a fundamental role in the current digital era? Explore here the different types of Encryption.

Here comes another concern, when users download files from the document storage system or share them, the risk of data security breaches increases. This action can inadvertently expose sensitive information to unauthorized individuals due to insufficient encryption or secure sharing protocols. Sensitive Information is categorized into different levels, from personal identities to high-risk data.

3. Best Practices in Document Storage Security

As data security experts, it’s essential to stay updated with the latest guidelines for robust document storage security. Here’s a checklist of best practices you should consider:

  • Implement Advanced Encryption: Ensure all stored documents are encrypted with strong algorithms to protect data at rest. In case of any breach, your documents must be safe from any unauthorized access, having an additional layer of protection. Learn who should encrypt the data in your company, what documents, and its benefits here.
  • Enforce Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Add a layer of security by requiring MFA for system access to avoid infiltration with stolen credentials and make things harder for cybercriminals.
  • Regularly Update Access Rights: Review and adjust permissions periodically to minimize the risk of unauthorized access. Employees over the years can extend their access permissions even to documents that they don´t currently need. Remember to follow the principle of least privilege (PoLP), as part of the Zero-Trust Security model with internals and externals, where a user only has access to the specific data needed to complete his tasks. Remove access to partners you don´t collaborate more or to ex-employees. Explore the Zero-Trust Security model here.
  • Employ End-to-End Encryption for Sharing: Protect documents during transit with end-to-end encryption to avoid interceptions or techniques like man-in-the-middle.
  • Conduct Regular Security Audits and Compliance Checks: Keep track of vulnerabilities and ensure adherence to security policies.
  • Train Employees in Security Awareness: Educate staff about phishing and social engineering attacks to reduce insider threats.
  • Utilize Secure Backups: Maintain regular, secure backups of documents to prevent data loss from cyber incidents. It´s also useful against ransomware attacks when restoring all the documentation to the previous status.
  • Invest in Advanced Data Protection Tools: Use tools that provide real-time monitoring and threat detection for document access such as Enterprise Digital Rights Management Solutions. Don´t rely at all on your perimeter, if it is penetrated your data is defenseless and you lose control of who can access it, and what they can do with it.

3.1 Industry Standards for Secure Document Storage

  • Adopt ISO/IEC 27001: This is the leading international standard for information security management systems (ISMS). It outlines the requirements for implementing a comprehensive approach to data protection and cyber resilience.
  • Adhere to GDPR Principles: For organizations operating within or dealing with data from the European Union, following the General Data Protection Regulation’s strict data protection and privacy guidelines is crucial.
  • Embrace NIST Frameworks: The National Institute of Standards and Technology provides comprehensive frameworks for improving critical infrastructure cybersecurity, applicable to document storage strategies. Check out more about CMMC and NIST here.
  • Integrate NIS2 Directive Compliance: The recent update to the Network and Information Systems directive, known as NIS2, extends essential requirements for cybersecurity across various sectors. It is vital to align with these evolving rules to ensure resilient infrastructure and robust data protection practices. Incorporating NIS2 helps safeguard against emerging threats and strengthens overall security posture. Check here all you should know about NIS2 Directive.

3.2 Protecting Documents at Rest in Your Storage System

Securing documents at rest within storage systems is foundational to avoiding data breaches and data-related incidents. The cornerstone of this approach lies in adopting a data-centric security model. This perspective prioritizes the protection of the data itself rather than focusing solely on the perimeter. Here are key practices to ensure the safety of your documents at rest:

  • Encrypt Documents: Encryption transforms your documents into unreadable formats for unauthorized users, providing a robust layer of security. Utilizing advanced encryption standards ensures that even if the storage system is penetrated, the data remains incomprehensible to unauthorized users.
  • Apply Persistent Security Policies: Security policies that follow your data—no matter where it moves or is stored—offer continuous protection even beyond the repository.
  • Regularly Update Access Controls: Access controls should be stringent and regularly updated to reflect changes in roles and responsibilities. Implementing least-privilege access ensures individuals have only the access necessary for their roles, significantly reducing the risk of internal threats.
  • Monitor and Audit Access Logs: Keeping detailed records of who accesses your documents and when provides valuable insights for identifying suspicious activities. Regular auditing of these logs helps detect anomalies early and can aid in rapid response to potential breaches.
  • Implement Secure Backup Solutions: Secure, encrypted backups protect against data loss due to system failures, ransomware attacks, or other disasters. Regularly tested backups ensure that critical documents can be recovered swiftly, maintaining business continuity.

Adopting a data-centric approach to document security at rest empowers organizations to protect their most valuable assets effectively. It elevates the emphasis on the data itself, ensuring comprehensive protection that aligns with the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

3.3 Securing Document Access and Sharing

Ensuring secure access and sharing of documents is crucial to maintaining productivity while safeguarding sensitive information. Effective security strategies should enhance, not hinder, the ability of team members to collaborate and perform their tasks efficiently. Here are key practices to optimize both security and user experience:

  • Implement Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): Assign document access based on the roles within an organization to ensure that employees have the necessary permissions to fulfill their duties without compromising security. This proven approach minimizes risk and simplifies management.
  • Use Secure Collaboration Tools: Opt for proven, secure platforms for document sharing and collaboration. These tools should offer end-to-end encryption and compliance with data protection regulations, ensuring that information remains protected during transmission and access.
  • Educate and Train Employees: Continuously educate your workforce on the best practices for document security, including secure handling and sharing protocols. Regular training enhances awareness and adherence to security policies without impacting productivity.
  • Enable Secure Mobile Access: With the rise of remote work, providing secure mobile access to documents is essential. Use secure containers or apps that allow employees to access documents safely from any device, ensuring productivity from anywhere without compromising data integrity.
  • Monitor and Audit Document Access and Sharing: Continuous monitoring and auditing provide insights into document access and usage patterns. This helps identify potential security risks proactively and ensures compliance with internal and external regulations.

Incorporating these strategies can significantly enhance document security while supporting dynamic and efficient collaboration across your organization. This balanced approach not only protects sensitive data but also supports the natural workflow of teams, ensuring business operations are both safe and streamlined.

4. Technologies to Enhance Document Security in Repositories

Implementing robust security technologies within document repositories is essential for safeguarding sensitive data. These technologies must enhance security without compromising user productivity, ensuring seamless access and collaboration. Below, we outline key technologies:

  • Traditional Encryption: Ensures that data is only readable by authorized users who own the key, even in a breach. Provides a foundational layer of security for documents stored in repositories, maintaining confidentiality and integrity.
  • Identity and Access Management (IAM): Controls who has access to your organization’s documents, ensuring only authorized individuals can view or edit. Streamlines user access enhances security through multi-factor authentication (MFA) and reduces the risk of unauthorized access.
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP): Monitors and controls data transfers, preventing sensitive information from leaving the secure environment. Offers proactive security by identifying and blocking potential breaches or data loss incidents, ensuring compliance with regulations.
  • Enterprise Digital Rights Management (EDRM): Secures documents throughout their lifecycle, even beyond the repository after they’ve been downloaded or shared. Allows control over who can view, edit, copy, or print documents, enforcing security policies directly on the document itself. It also enables you to access traceability, alerts of attempts, and auditing capabilities. It combines the best of Identity and access management + encryption + permissions management + Monitoring. Here we developed a complete guide on how to deploy an EDRM successfully.
  • Anomaly Detection Systems: Uses machine learning to detect unusual access patterns or modifications to documents that may signify a security threat. Provides early warning of potential security incidents, allowing for rapid response to mitigate risks.

Choosing the right technology requires a balance between security, effectiveness, and usability. By carefully considering the value and benefits of each option, organizations can implement effective security measures that protect sensitive documents in repositories without obstructing users’ access or their ability to collaborate.

5. Implementing a Secure Document Storage Strategy

Establishing a secure document storage strategy is vital for shielding sensitive company data from cyber threats and compliance violations. Below are some valuable, practical recommendations that companies can implement to ensure robust document security:

  • Develop a Comprehensive Security Policy: Creates a solid foundation for all security measures. Clearly articulates expectations and responsibilities for document handling, storage, and access controls to all stakeholders, reducing the likelihood of security mishaps.
  • Classify Data Based on Sensitivity: Efficiently allocates resources to protect data depending on its criticality. Ensures that highly sensitive documents receive the highest level of security, optimizing both cost-effectiveness and protection detail.
  • Implement Strong Access Controls: Restricts document access to authorized personnel only. Minimizes the risk of data exposure or alteration from both internal and external threats, ensuring that integrity and confidentiality are maintained.
  • Use Encryption Solutions: Protect the confidentiality and integrity of documents, and take care of the CIA Triad. Even if data is intercepted or accessed improperly, encryption renders the information unreadable and unusable to unauthorized individuals.
  • Regularly Update and Patch Systems: Keeps security systems up to date with the latest protections. Reduces vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cyber attackers, maintaining a fortified defense against emerging threats.
  • Educated and trained employees: Enhances the human element of your security defenses. Reduces risks associated with human error, which remains a leading cause of security breaches, by ensuring all employees understand and comply with your organization’s security protocols.
  • Monitor and Audit Access and Usage: Provides ongoing visibility into the security status of document storage systems. Identifies potentially malicious activity early, allowing for immediate corrective actions, thus maintaining continuous protection of sensitive documents.
  • Implement a Reliable Disaster Recovery Plan: Ensures business continuity in the event of data loss. Quick and efficient restoration of data backups minimizes downtime and operational disruptions, safeguarding your organization’s productivity and reputation.

5.1 Steps to Create and Implement a Secure Document Storage Plan

Here’s a practical step-by-step guide that any organization can follow to enhance its document security measures:

  1. Assess Current Security Posture: Identifies existing vulnerabilities and strengths. Provides a clear starting point and prioritizes areas needing immediate attention, ensuring resources are allocated effectively. Identify and classify your most sensitive data with a Data Security Posture Management.
  2. Define Security Objectives: Align security initiatives with business goals. Ensures that the security strategy supports overall business objectives and drives value, fostering organizational alignment.
  3. Classify and Prioritize Documents: Differentiates documents based on sensitivity and importance. Allows for tailored security measures that provide appropriate protection levels for different types of documents, optimizing both security and resource use.
  4. Select Appropriate Security Technologies: Utilizes proven technology solutions for document protection. Enhances document safety through advanced security tools like encryption and access controls, reducing the risk of unauthorized access or data breaches. Take into account your budget and prioritize ones that give you more security with less investment, ones that give you security for all threats and use cases.
  5. Develop Policy and Procedures: Establishes clear guidelines for document handling. Ensures consistent and effective implementation of security practices, minimizing risks associated with human error.
  6. Train and Educate Staff: Boosts data security awareness across the organization. Empowers employees to act securely and responsibly, significantly strengthening the human aspect of document security.
  7. Implement and Integrate Solutions: Seamlessly introduces security measures into existing systems. Maintains operational continuity while enhancing document security, ensuring that new security measures do not impede business performance. Be sure that new implementations don´t disrupt the operativity or present issues with current systems.
  8. Monitor and Audit Compliance: Provides ongoing oversight of security practices. Detects and addresses non-compliance or security gaps promptly, ensuring continuous improvement and adaptation of the security strategy.
  9. Review and Update Regularly: Keeps the document storage plan current with evolving threats. Adapts to new threats and changing business conditions, ensuring that the organization’s documents remain secure against emerging challenges.

6. Introducing SealPath AutoVault Protection for Storage Systems

In the blog, we mentioned EDRM technology as a good choice to elevate the security of your data stored in repositories, so here we will delve into its power, specifically into the solution we have been developing for the last 10 years, SealPath.

In simple terms, SealPath is a combination of identity and access management and encryption but with greater flexibility. It offers advanced protection that travels with the files wherever it goes. Data remains encrypted in 3 states: at rest, in transit, and use. It’s known for its granular permissions, blocking unauthorized users or actions.

Specifically, we have developed a product for storage systems that works automatically, AutoVault. Without user intervention you choose the folders you want to protect and with which restrictions so that every time a document is uploaded it is protected.

Here is how our solution stands out:

  • Permanent Access Control: Restrict access to files by controlling which users can access, what they can do, and When and from where.
  • Automatic and Transparent Protection: Enable a protection applied to files every time they are copied, moved, or uploaded to folders, without requiring continuous manual actions.
  • Threat Detection and Identification: View which users access information and their activity for full traceability. Receive alerts with suspicious accesses and analyze detailed reports.
  • Immediate Response and Remediation: Revoke access to users at any time or block a specific document in the event of suspicious actions. Change permissions on the fly.
  • Synchronized Folder Protection: SealPath can read the permissions of the folders and detect changes in real-time, to automatically update the protection settings applied to that folder.
  • Web or local native access: Facilitate access to protected documents via the web without requiring additional agents or on-premises with usual tools.

→ Learn more about SealPath Solutions here

→ Check the record of our webinar introducing AutoVault for Document Storage Systems.

7. Recommendations and Closing Thoughts

A comprehensive approach to safeguarding sensitive information requires not just protection within a central repository but security that travels with the data, irrespective of its location. The key to an effective document storage system lies in its ability to seamlessly integrate encryption and access controls, ensuring that documents are readable only by those with explicit permissions. The primary objective is to guard against unauthorized access, even if documents leave the secure perimeter of the corporate network. It reflects an understanding that in the flexible work environments of today, data mobility is a necessary given, rather than an exception.

In summarizing our discussions on advancing document security, it’s imperative to incorporate encryption, identity, and access management, consistent monitoring, and remediation capabilities. These methods ensure the safeguarding of sensitive information, both within and beyond organizational boundaries.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you need advice on the protection of your organization’s information, our team of experts will help you as soon as possible. Access our contact form here.