While OneDrive does provide cloud storage, it doesn’t have cloud backup functionality, a critical distinction that must be made when choosing which information to upload and share. The data is accessible, but not protected. How can businesses ensure they’re mitigating security risks, while also enabling employee access? Below we’ll discuss some of the most significant security gaps associated with OneDrive and highlight the steps organizations can take to better protect their data.
One area that often breeds confusion for OneDrive users is who can access company files once they’re uploaded in the cloud. For employees saving documents on their personal accounts, all the files created or added outside of a “Shared with Me” folder are private until the user decides otherwise. At this point, files are encrypted for anyone but the creator and Microsoft personnel with administrative rights. For someone else to see your data, you have to share the folder or a separate file.
The same rule holds for files shared on a OneDrive for Business account, with one exception: a policy set by an administrator determines the visibility of the data you create in the “Shared” folder.
Are sensitive documents safe in OneDrive?
For purposes of this article, sensitive documents refer to materials that contain either personally identifiable information (PII), personal health information (PHI), financial information, or data covered under FISMA and GLBA compliance requirements. As we established above, these types of documents can be saved one of two ways – by an individual under a personal OneDrive account or uploaded under a Business account. Even if your business does not subscribe to a OneDrive business account, organizations should be aware that employees may be emailing themselves documents or sharing them to their personal OneDrive folders for easy access, especially over the past several months with most employees working from home.
For personal users, OneDrive has a feature called Personal Vault (PV). How secure is the OneDrive Personal Vault? It is a safe located in your Files folder explicitly designed for sensitive information.
When using PV, your files are encrypted until your identity is verified. It has several different verification methods that users can set up, whether it’s a fingerprint, a face ID, or a one-time code sent via email or SMS. The PV folder also has an idle-time screensaver that locks if you are inactive for 3 minutes on the mobile app, and 20 minutes on the web. To regain access, you need to verify yourself again.
Interestingly, the PV function isn’t available in the OneDrive for Business package. Therefore, if your organization has no other way to store sensitive data than on OneDrive, additional security measures must be taken.
OneDrive is not a backup solution
OneDrive is not a backup tool. OneDrive provides cloud storage, and there is a massive difference between cloud backup and cloud storage. They have a few things in common, like storing your files on remote hardware. But it’s not enough to make them interchangeable.
In short, cloud storage is a place in the cloud where you upload (manually or automatically) and keep all your files. Cloud storage allows you to reach files from any device at any time, making it an attractive option for workers on the go and those that work from different locations. It also allows you to manually restore files from storage in case of unwanted deletion and scale storage for your needs. While “restoring files” sounds eerily similar to backup protection, it has some fundamental faults. For example, if you accidentally delete a file in storage, or it was hit by ransomware and encrypted, you can consider the file lost. This makes OneDrive storage alone a weak solution for businesses. If disaster strikes and information is compromised, the organization will have no way to restore high volumes of data.
Cloud backup, on the other hand, is a service that uses cloud storage to save files, but its functionality doesn’t end there. Cloud backup services automatically copy your data to the storage area and restore your data relatively quickly after a disaster. You can also restore multiple versions of a backed-up file, search for specific files, and it protects data from most of the widespread threats, including accidental deletion, brute-force attacks, and ransomware. (source)
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