For many administrators looking to save time by automating critical recurring data tasks, a Managed File Transfer (or MFT) software is their solution of choice. These file transfer solutions typically replace a large number of single-purpose data transfer tools with a centralized MFT server. Multiple distributed users can configure and control that server via a web-based interface. Most often, these file transfer solutions are protocol- and platform-neutral, and they offer a user-friendly client interface that doesn’t require user handholding.
In this post, we’ll provide an overview of managed file transfer and discuss how to optimize your managed file transfer security.
What Are the Benefits of Managed File Transfer?
MFT solutions offer several advantages to legacy file transfer software:
- Compliance and Governance: MFT servers typically provide automated tools to support data retention policies (and deletion requirements) while enabling fine-grained access controls to ensure only those authorized to view your data can see it.
- Cost Control: Organizations looking to monitor storage and bandwidth costs closely will find that MFT solutions’ event-based triggers can help limit overages related to file size or transfer volume.
- Mitigate Risk & Improve Resilience: MFT server automation is ideal for replicating configurations and triggering data backups on a recurring or event-triggered schedule.
- Software Standardization: Organizations seeking to streamline their software installations can standardize operations by using a single integrated file transfer solution for internal and external data exchanges that supports multiple protocols, platforms, and applications.
- Real-Time Visibility: MFT solutions generally include real-time reporting and alert functionality that provides fine-grained visibility into all file movements as they happen.
- Access Control: Administrators supporting larger numbers of security groups requiring different file directory access levels often find that MFT servers provide more robust access controls and user management features.
- Retain (and Transfer) Legacy Data: MFT solutions’ ability to handle a variety of file transfer protocols ensures that these file transfer servers can support (or replace) legacy infrastructure components.
- Network Optimization: Scriptable and event-triggered file transfer actions allow administrators to optimize data transfer based on network loads, including scheduling large data transfers for off-hours or adjusting file transfer protocols based on observed transfer speeds.
How Can You Secure Your Managed File Transfer Solution?
While MFT servers provide an excellent suite of “set-and-forget” management tools, they will still need active security monitoring to ensure that they are serving your organization the best data transfer security possible. Below, we list a number of areas to consider when optimizing your MFT server’s security.
Encryption, Tokenization, and Key Management
Strong encryption has been the traditional security data model, but tokenization offers new capabilities. Unlike traditional encryption methods, where the encrypted data or ciphertext is stored in databases and applications throughout the enterprise, tokenization substitutes a token, or surrogate value, in place of the original data. Tokens can then be safely passed around the network between applications, databases, and business processes while leaving the encrypted data it represents securely stored in a central data vault.
By storing public metadata like key expiration in the database, keys should be centrally managed in an encrypted state of the file system. You can use either store keys on the same main server that houses your MFT components or another server depending on preference.
Tokenization allows you to protect entire document files along with sensitive data like payment card information, personal identifying information, and intellectual business property stored in databases. An additional yet sometimes overlooked benefit is that since tokenization removes systems and applications from the audit scope for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance, tokenization streamlines compliance management for any privacy laws or compliance standards.
Ad Hoc File Transfers
On-demand file transfer is a standard tool for most enterprises but carries risks when senders leave open-ended security measures. Because public file transfer often lies outside the parameters set for event-driven and scheduled transactions, you should ensure your MFT server secures these transfers as best as possible by enabling link- and password-expiration requirements.
An enterprise will rarely run entirely on a single operating system or software version, and your MFT solution should provide protection across the variety of software and hardware that support your organization. Sometimes these solutions may only be built for Windows or only support Active Directory security groups and thus protect only those users. By having cross-platform protection, system administrators can have peace of mind that wherever users log in from whatever device, there will be protected encryption.
Compliance and Auditability
To support data security regulation compliance, MFT solutions need to be able to track all file access and server actions so that data transfers can be audited at any time. Ideally, the database should be searchable for a specific desired transaction from as detailed criteria as possible, with detailed business-activity tracking from journaling systems recording multi-step activities. MFT server log files support this auditing by detailing information on when each file was sent, where it was sent, which clients were involved.
MFT solutions provide greater visibility and control over user file transfer security groups, along with the ability for users to self-provision where required. Generally, these tools allow individual specification of access privileges, user roles, security requirements, protocol preferences, and more synced with the organization’s directory service. Where MFT servers shine is providing a visual interface that helps identify any potential access issues.
We hope that the above information on improving your MFT server security has proven helpful. Cerberus FTP server supports Managed File Transfer through our Enterprise Edition, which you can view at this link.