November 15, 2022

Start Sending Links: Attachments Are a Security Risk

The ramifications of an email attachment gone wrong encompasses many unpleasant potential outcomes. A single error can cause a butterfly effect no one anticipated nor desired.

News of a data breach often sparks images of hackers shrouded in darkness, furiously typing away and trying to use brute force to break into secure systems or planting footholds that silently funnel data to the bad guys. While protecting against these types of attacks is table stakes for any organization’s cybersecurity strategy, far more incidents arise from less exciting measures.

In fact, sending or opening an email with an attachment can just as easily be the precipitating event for creating a cascade of legal, financial, regulatory, and reputational risk. Unfortunately, many employees don’t realize the consequences of these seemingly innocent actions, which puts the onus on senior leadership to institute policies and training that educates staff and minimizes the chances of these poor outcomes.

Minor mistakes, major consequences

An Excel spreadsheet with your company financials, a PDF of a confidential contract, a PowerPoint containing your product roadmap, an unapproved draft of the price list… any of these sensitive items falling into the wrong hands could prove costly to your business’s reputation, partnerships, and market share.

Yet knowledge workers keep clicking the paperclip icon and firing sensitive materials off into the ether every hour, adding up to thousands and thousands of attachments sent annually, increasing the odds of an errant attachment spawning trouble in its wake. Like a sleeping dragon, those attachments populate inboxes with little fanfare but threaten to cause major calamities if viewed or used improperly.

Even attachments sent to the right people can cause problems. They themselves may inadvertently pass it along to entities and individuals who shouldn’t have access, plus they might open or save the file onto an unsecured device that others can access.

And with no version control, attachment recipients could continue referring to extremely outdated information, leading to unwanted outcomes that would easily be avoided if they’re always looking at the latest-and-greatest version of the file. A single, obsolete product and pricing list could lead to companies making promises they can’t keep or selling goods at a loss.

A better way awaits

Solutions for this dilemma have existed for decades thanks to cloud-based storage and collaboration services. Not only do these services solve version control issues by having everyone work on and reference the same, hosted version of each file, but they eliminate the need to email them around altogether.

The best defense against all those bad, unintentional outcomes that might result from emailing around attachments is transitioning everyone to using links instead. Rather than double-clicking on each attachment, launching it in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, and saving it locally, recipients simply click on a link and view the file from within their web browser.

Only those with the proper permissions will be able to edit those files, ensuring unauthorized folks don’t muck things up, plus everyone will always be viewing the same, most recent version. This also eliminates the need to keep emailing updates, cutting down on inbox clutter and the need for additional file storage capacity.

Making it happen

Most Microsoft 365 enterprises either already have a SharePoint license or can add one for a minimal fee, so financial considerations shouldn’t hold your business back. But having the tools in place only solves part of the problem; you also need corresponding behavior changes to spur widespread usage.

Removing friction and streamlining the process are instrumental to fostering uptake and adoption, and transitioning to using links in emails can avoid a cascade of misery. However, SharePoint isn’t always the most intuitive product for casual users, and asking them to switch between applications every time they want to share a file may limit adoption of this best practice… even when it’s the company’s official policy.

One way organizations of all shapes and sizes are changing the dynamic is using the’ 365 Suite. This add-on to Microsoft 365 simplifies how employees interact with SharePoint from Outlook, removing many obstacles to a broader embrace of swapping file attachments for links.

With this plug-in, employees receiving attachments can easily tag and save them to SharePoint, preventing further proliferation. Additionally, when they need to give someone access to a file, they can quickly find it on SharePoint and include a secure link right from their Outlook interface, making it just as easy—and WAY more secure—as attaching a file.

Find out if is the right solution to help your organization keep things safe and secure and begin your free trial today!

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