The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a standard network protocol that is used to transfer files and data between a client and a server on the same network. Once a standard protocol but now considered outdated due to improved and updated versions, FTP has inherent weaknesses that prevent it from being used as a reliable form of data transfer, especially when there are more secure alternatives available.  

FTP is still popular among many organizations because it easily facilitates large file transfers as well as data exchanges. FTP that is not encrypted, however, leaves your data open to hackers and other security breaches.

FTP Was Not Originally Designed To Be Secure 

… and comes with many security weaknesses including:

  • Packet Capture/Sniffing – FTP is plain which means all transmissions, logins, passwords and data are readable by anyone on the network 
  • Brute Force Attack – FTP is susceptible to hackers systematically checking frequently used and repeated passwords until they find the correct one
  • Port Stealing – a hacker can guess the next open port or use a PORT command to gain access as a middleman (learn more about FTP ports here) 
  • Anonymous Vulnerability – older/anonymous FTP servers can be accessed without a username or password 

Ultimately, FTP alone does not provide any safety features that can prevent or stop even an inexperienced hacker. FTP cannot be used by any organizations or networks that need to be federally compliant because the protocol is so easy to hack and intercept. As recently as 2017, the FBI issued a notice and warning about potential data breaches in the healthcare sector for organizations using unsecure FTP. 

How To Keep Your Data Secure with FTP

  • Keep protocols updated – common attacks over protocols occur when systems are outdated  
  • Use correct configurations – prevent anonymous mode hackers by using the most secure configurations for that protocol 
  • Don’t use standard FTP – use more secure alternatives like FTPS, HTTP or SFTP 
  • Install an SSL certificate – adding an SSL certificate will keep personal information safe 
  • Use two-factor authentication – minimize the chances of a hacker successfully breaching the server 
  • Other Cerberus FTP Best Practices

Learn which protocols Cerberus FTP supports to keep your data and files secure at