Controlling Important Documents Online Is Crucial To Secure Enterprise Collaboration

Secure Enterprise Collaboration

It’s inevitable – at some point in their professional lifetime, everyone will experience that gut-wrenching moment when they realise that a document or email has been sent to the wrong person. It is during moments like these that one wishes that an “unshare” button existed to destroy all trace of the email.

But what if it was a more serious error? Suppose the email contained confidential information, financial details, or personal data. What if there was a business contract attached that, if read by the wrong individual, could not just be detrimental to the deal but even lead to the collapse of negotiations altogether?

As an example, imagine there is a critical document concerning the company which also contains personal information and financial details about every member of staff. It’s important that various external parties are sent this file, including the board and the company’s accountancy firm but, a week after this document is sent, it is identified as including several errors.

Even after such a short amount of time, it is impossible to trace the whereabouts of the document. What is possible is that it’s been downloaded, saved and duplicated on an indeterminate number of devices, perhaps even sent to additional interested parties like financial regulators or HM Revenues and Customs. Added to this is the possibility that the file has accidentally been sent to an ex-employee who’s moved on to work for a competitor.

In the wrong hands, this confidential information becomes a serious violation of company data or worse.

Islington Borough Council, for example, was last year forced to provide extra police patrols on a council estate after sending the details of residents who had complained about anti-social behaviour to the perpetrators. And in the US, a Utah county official who requested his employment record from his previous employer was also sent the names and social security numbers of 200 of his ex-colleagues.

Deliberate theft of sensitive business information accounted for 22 per cent of enterprise data breaches, according to a report by Forrester Research, while 62 per cent of data breaches involved “inadvertent misuse by insiders”;

80 per cent of participants in a recent study published by Hurwitz & Associates reported receiving an email that wasn’t intended for them. 53 per cent confessed to having sent an email to the wrong recipient with an astonishing 43 per cent say that these errors occurred on a monthly basis. These are significant – and worrying – figures which reveal the importance of protecting information once it has left the company’s network.

But, although it is possible to encrypt confidential data, there is very little that businesses can do to stop an email or other communication from being forwarded or downloaded to undetermined devices, and the use within companies of consumer synch-and-share applications like DropBox is only exacerbating the problem. Indeed, the same study revealed that approximately 60 per cent of employees are using these synch-and-share applications for business purposes, and 49 per cent of organisations making attempts to block them – with greater or lesser degrees of success.

It’s human nature to want to share information and it often makes good business sense: being able to collaborate with partners, suppliers and customers openly and easily has significant competitive advantages. But the ability to share information online means that it is now more critical than ever for business professionals and CIOs to maintain absolute control of where a document is sent and who it is read by while also ensuring that it can be shared effortlessly.

The demand for secure online collaboration needs to be met by enterprise collaboration solutions, who should offer businesses the opportunity to “un-share” a file. In order to minimise any potential harm, it would be ideal if every copy of a file has the potential to be “remotely shredded” from the moment it’s sent out, no matter how many times it has been downloaded or shared.

To avoid such mistakes as in the example above, it should be ensured that a document cannot be copied or printed, even before it is sent. In addition to this, the availability of a file could be regulated so that it can only be viewed for a specific amount of time; a suitable approach if the file were part of an ongoing deal or conversation.

Fundamentally, it’s vital to protect against human error and to safeguard corporate information – therefore the ideal would be to manage not only who shares a document, but who views it, and when and where they view it. After all if we can “unfriend” people on Facebook and unsubscribe from that annoying newsletter, shouldn’t we be able to unshare a file we’ve sent to the wrong people?

Despite the sheer enormity and complexity of the web, the cloud and even computers themselves, it is now possible to successfully implement these policies, which are collectively being labelled as the ability to “un-share”. It may not be possible to “un-press” send, but as the cloud continues to grow and more information goes beyond the firewall, the possibility of “un-sharing” is certainly good news and is becoming ever more crucial to enterprise collaboration.

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Ron Hovsepian

Ronald W. Hovsepian was appointed president, chief executive officer and director of Intralinks in December 2011. Previously, Ron served as president and chief executive officer of Novell, from 2005 to 2011. He joined Novell in 2003 as executive vice president and president, worldwide field operations. Before that, Hovsepian held management and executive positions at IBM Corporation over a 17-year period, including worldwide general manager of IBM's distribution industries, manager of global hardware and software development, sales, marketing and services. Hovsepian currently serves as a non-executive chairman of the board of directors of the Ann Taylor Corporation. In addition, Ron served as managing director with Bear Stearns Asset Management, a technology venture capital fund, and managing director of Internet Capital Group, a venture capital firm, during his 28-year career. Hovsepian received a Bachelor of Science degree from Boston College.