No matter your profession, it’s likely that you store sensitive information on your computer, whether that be tax forms, legal documents, or customer information. If these files are not properly secured, they won’t stay private for long. Believe it or not, you may be unknowingly taking actions that will put your files at risk. We’ll tell you what you might be doing wrong, the proper workarounds, and some extra steps that you can take to make sure that you remain in control of who views your files.

Common Mistakes

It’s only natural that file security isn’t always the first thing on your mind, and even more difficulty is introduced when you’re running a business with multiple employees. In an effort to work quickly and efficiently, employees often disregard security. The most basic solution to this problem is to educate your employees about file security, but there are more specific solutions that you can apply to particular situations.

Sending Information in an Email

Sharing files in clear text through email is quite a common practice, and it’s not a problem until confidential information is included on such an easily exploitable email. In fact, 54% of employees use a personal, Web-based email to transfer sensitive files.

While it’s important to be able to share files with clients and collaborators, you can do this without compromising security by using a file sharing service. File sharing allows you to store your files in a network while controlling who accesses the file and their level of accessibility. Some services also allow you to control how long the person will be able to access the file with expiring, password-protected links.

Transferring Information to a USB

Secure USB Drives
These little devices are a convenient way to carry files, but they also carry a potential for security issues

USBs can be great for temporarily storing and transferring information, but when clear text documents are transferred onto a generic USB, this can create vulnerability. The flash drive can be corrupted by malware, causing loss and possible theft of files. Worse, the USB may transmit a virus to other computers, allowing the hacker to steal and modify files. USBs are also physically small, making them easy to lose or steal.

To negate the need to transfer files using a flash drive, use a cloud service like Dropbox. These allow you to access your files from any device while keeping them secure for you. However, this doesn’t mean you can relax — you should still follow the best practices for passwords and set up two-factor authentication for any cloud service account. For extra-sensitive files, you should also encrypt them before storing them on the cloud, just to provide an extra layer of protection.

Downloading Information to a Public Drive

Downloading Data to Public Drive
Public drives help improve your employee’s productivity.

This is a common way to allow employees to view files from their own devices, it creates several issues in terms of organization and security. Being organized, as we’ll discuss later, is an essential part of keeping documents secure, but when many employees are using the same drive, things can get messy quickly. Although there is some security in the form of restricted access, these services are wide open to viruses and user error.

With cloud services, there is a much higher level of security and control when it comes to file sharing. Some cloud services will encrypt your files for you, while also running regular sweeping security checks. Plus, it’s still easy to share documents and access them on different devices.

General Tips

The security issues above can all be remedied with the cautious use of a cloud service, but even with such a service, there are some extra steps that you should take to ensure that your security is as close to impenetrable as possible.

Be Organized

File Organization
Digital files need to be organized and labeled just like physical files

How are you going to make sure that your documents are secure without even knowing where those documents are stored? Organization and efficiency are key, so the first step you take when securing files should be to identify what information actually needs to be protected. That way, all your time, energy, and other resources can go toward protecting and maintaining full control over those files.

Create a Secure Password

If you use a cloud service, you’ll need to create an account with a password. Your enemy here is a computer, not a human — and computers are very, very good at guessing passwords that humans can memorize. For this reason, do yourself a favor and use a password manager. The most secure passwords are long and random, with plenty of special characters, and it’s a pretty safe bet that you won’t be able to memorize them — especially if you use a different password for everything, which you should. When you use a password service, all you’ll have to memorize is your master password, which should also be difficult to crack and should exist only in your mind.

Encrypt Your Data

Encrypt Your Data
Encryption turns your data into a random string of numbers and letters

If all else fails and a hacker manages to get ahold of your sensitive information, encryption ensures that they won’t be able to make sense of a single word. Best of all, encryption services like VeraCrypt and Bitlocker (which is actually built into Windows) are absolutely free. This, like all the tips on this list, won’t guarantee the safety of your files, but it will add an extra layer of protection that potential invaders will have to work to peel away.

Unfortunately, there is no one blanket cybersecurity solution, and the field is ever-changing as technology grows and develops. Although the complete safety of your sensitive files is not always guaranteed, cloud services can address many potential problems. Still, you should be aware of possible issues, layer up your protections, and treat information like the precious cargo that it is.

This is a sponsored post for Dropbox. All opinions are my own. Dropbox is not affiliated with nor endorses any other products or services mentioned.