NewsMay 9, 2017 @ 1:31 PM

SharePoint Users Worry That Poor Usage Puts Sensitive Data at Risk

The majority of Microsoft SharePoint users believe the sensitive data the program stores is at risk. They also think it needs better controls and safeguards, according to research from Metalogix and the Ponemon Institute. This recent report, which looked at sensitive data collection in SharePoint as well as Dropbox and other file sharing services, included more than 1,400 responses from the U.S., Germany and the U.K.

Forty-nine percent of survey respondents said their organization had experienced a SharePoint breach in the past two years. Meanwhile, 79 percent noted that existing security tools were inadequate. Worst of all, 63 percent of respondents said that data is at risk because users are unsure where the sensitive information resides within SharePoint.

Vulnerability Due to Lack of Understanding

Part of the problem could be that companies don’t really understand how various Microsoft applications are being accessed on a day-to-day basis. SharePoint is just one of the channels for sharing data in OneDrive, for example, but research firm Netskope revealed that 57 percent of employees are using Microsoft Office applications other than OneDrive for Business to handle sensitive data.

Microsoft’s most recent security updates, meanwhile, included a fix for a vulnerability involving specially crafted Office files that could lead to a remote code execution. SuperSite for Windows reported that the hole could have allowed someone to steal a SharePoint user’s identity and then not only access sensitive data, but also change passwords and even inject malware in the victim’s browser.

That fix is just one example of how Microsoft is trying to make SharePoint more secure. Last year, the company unveiled a slew of improvements. According to Network World, these fixes include the ability to differentiate access policies based on devices, location or user, as well as site classification tools to prevent sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.

A Sensitive Data Hotspot

Of course, it doesn’t help that cybercriminals are actively targeting tools such as SharePoint. Just last month, CRN Australia reported a phishing scheme that used the MYOB accounting software to send emails directing potential victims to a phony SharePoint site. Anyone who clicked on the embedded JavaScript would launch a Trojan that attempted to steal sensitive browser data.

The more employees work with legitimate SharePoint sites, the less likely they’ll be to let decoys pull the wool over their eyes. Simple best practices include not clicking on emails from unrecognized sources, ensuring that antivirus systems and software are up to date, and deploying firewalls.

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Shane Schick

Writer & Editor

Shane Schick is a writer, editor and speaker who focuses on how information technology creates business value. He lives in Toronto.