How to Make Collaboration Both Easy and Secure

A Three-Pronged Approach to Increasing Collaboration While Reducing Security Risk

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It’s far too common today for employees to unintentionally create a security or data leakage risk when simply trying to get work done.  Seemingly small actions, like sending an email with sensitive information via unencrypted email or uploading a confidential spreadsheet to a file-sharing site, can create significant risk of inappropriate information exposure, intellectual property theft, or even attacks on corporate systems.

Additionally, unintended security risks can be invited in when users sign up for online collaboration tools without IT authorization or security vetting of the tools.

IT professionals  are well aware of the challenges inherent to the BYOA phenomenon, yet the security risks associated with new or unauthorized use of collaboration tools remains a big concern: In a recent survey, two-thirds of IT decision makers fear that employee use of non-IT supported collaboration tools make their networks vulnerable to outside intrusion.

Luckily, enabling secure collaboration without increasing risks to data security is possible if pursued correctly.  It involves three practices: Making collaboration easy and effective, opting for tools with multiple levels of control, and fostering employee ownership and accountability for upholding security policies.

Make Collaboration Easy and Effective

Sometimes a collaboration tool itself is secure, but employees won’t use it because it isn’t effective, or it’s too difficult to use. This is especially true if they use the tool infrequently or only for small tasks. People want to spend their time getting work done, not learning new tools.

Technology leaders must remember that a safe collaboration tool is only effective if their organization adopts and embraces it. The end user's primary concern isn’t security, it’s whether the tool helps them do their job, and is easy to use. Tools must meet user needs in the context of completing their assigned tasks.  With the increasing use of cloud-based tools in companies, technology leaders must take into account ease of use when selecting enterprise-wide collaboration tools.

Opt for Tools With Multiple Levels of Control

Most users are aware of their organization’s data security policies and appropriate practices for data sharing. But it’s safe to say that practices don’t always follow policy.

Look for collaboration tools with functionality to define granular access controls based on user role or type. An effective collaboration tool should also make it easy for users to share data appropriately, in accordance with policy. Of course, there will always be a need to grant exceptions to policies, so collaboration tools must be able to accommodate such requests or users will look for ways around them.

Foster Employee Ownership and Accountability

A full audit trail log of all user actions in the collaboration tool is essential for detecting inappropriate activity. It’s also a deterrent for risky sharing; allowing users to see the audit trail data increases their awareness of the implications of sharing information improperly. With a digital record in front of them, users are more likely to consider whether someone really needs access to a document.  

When evaluating collaboration tools, look at the strength and granularity of the audit trail and how that information is presented to users. For example, can users easily see the logs of their own activity? Features that provide end user visibility into use and accountability encourage ownership of processes and work by employees.

For Security, Think Ease Over Barriers

Collaboration tools are gaining fast adoption in the enterprise, but without proper controls and checks they can expose an organization to serious risks. Controlling the risk today is best accomplished by making  secure collaboration easier for users, rather than by erecting barriers that users try to circumvent in an effort to get their jobs done. A collaboration solution that is designed with robust protection and accountability features will make security easier for users, in turn increasing protections for the enterprise.

Read more about secure online collaboration solutions.