Zero Trust Data Access as a Managed File Transfer Alternative

Recent breaches in managed file transfer services reinforce the need for a more robust alternative based on a zero-trust data access architecture.

Why Organizations Need Zero Trust Data Access as a Managed File Transfer Alternative

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Table of Contents

    1. Breaches in GoAnywhere and MOVEit Highlight Critical Risks in MFT Services
    2. What is Managed File Transfer Technology (MFT)?
    3. What are the Challenges and Issues of Using a Managed File Transfer Service?
    4. A Better MFT Alternative – Zero Trust Data Access
    5. What is Zero Trust Data Access?
    6. 19 Reasons Why Organizations Need Zero Trust Data Access as a Managed File Transfer Alternative
    7. Conclusion – Zero Trust Data Access (ZTDA): A Modern Alternative to Managed File Transfer (MFT) for Enhanced Security and Efficiency


Breaches in GoAnywhere and MOVEit Highlight Critical Risks in MFT Services

The managed transfer file market size was valued at USD 1 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach USD 1.5 billion by 2029, with a CAGR of 11.1% Progress Software, the owner of GoAnywhere and MOVEit, suffered a significant breach affecting over 130 companies. Exploited by the Cl0p ransomware group, zero-day vulnerabilities in both services were utilized to pilfer data from organizations like Shell, British Airways, and the US Department of Energy. Despite vendor-patched vulnerabilities, delayed updates left many susceptible. These breaches underscore the urgent need for regular software updates, robust security measures, and vigilant monitoring to safeguard against potential exploits in Managed File Transfer (MFT) solutions, emphasizing the criticality of user actions in fortifying against such cyber threats.

What is Managed File Transfer Technology (MFT)?

Managed File Transfer or MFT is a fundamental component of modern data exchange systems, enabling the seamless movement of digital files between various devices, networks, or locations over the Internet and are used for transmitting files of different sizes and formats, such as documents, images, videos, and more.

What are the Challenges and Issues of Using a Managed File Transfer Service?

Managing file transfer technology comes with a set of challenges and issues that organizations need to address effectively:

      1. Real Security Concerns:

        • There have been serious breaches of managed File Transfer Services. Anonymous use, data breaches and unauthorized access are significant concerns.
      2. Inadequate Scalability:

        • As organizations grow, their file transfer needs also expand. Managing scalability to accommodate increased data volumes and user demands can be challenging, requiring regular infrastructure upgrades.
      3. Difficult Integration:

        • Managed file transfer solutions often need to integrate with various systems, applications, and protocols. Compatibility and seamless integration can be complex, especially in heterogeneous IT environments.
      4. Compliance and Regulatory Challenges:

        • Many industries have strict compliance requirements governing data transfers. Ensuring that file transfers adhere to these regulations, such as GDPR or HIPAA, is a constant challenge.
      5. Poor Monitoring and Reporting:

        • MFT services either lack or have ineffective management tools for real-time tracking, logging, and monitoring of file transfers needed for troubleshooting issues, forensic investigation, malicious activity detection and mitigation of ransomware attacks.
      6. Dependance on User Training and Adoption:

        • Ensuring that employees understand and adopt secure file transfer practices is essential. Inadequate training can lead to inadvertent security breaches.
      7. Continual Management of Performance Optimization:

        • Optimizing file transfer speeds, especially for large files or over long distances, can be a constant concern. This requires bandwidth management and optimization strategies.
      8. Expensive:

        • Managing the cost of file transfer solutions, including licensing, infrastructure, and ongoing maintenance, is essential to ensure efficient resource allocation.
      9. Unfamiliar User Experience:

        • A poor user experience can lead to frustration and decreased productivity. File transfer technology is not always user-friendly and efficient and new workflow needs to be learned.
      10. Often are Legacy Systems:

        • Many organizations still rely on legacy file transfer solutions that may not meet modern security or scalability standards. Transitioning away from these systems can be challenging.

      11. Produce Data Redundancy and Lack Version Control:

        • Keeping track of multiple versions of files and preventing data redundancy can be tricky, especially in collaborative environments.

To effectively manage file transfer technology, organizations must adopt a zero trust-based approach.

15% of organizations have moved to a zero trust file transfer alternative and another 59% plan to do so within 12 months A Better MFT Alternative – Zero Trust Data Access

Due in part to the issues and compromises of Managed File Transfer, 15% of organizations have already moved to a zero trust-based MFT alternative, and another 59% plan to do so in the next 12 months.

What is Zero Trust Data Access?

Zero Trust Data Access (ZTDA) as implemented by FileFlex Enterprise, is an MFT alternative that provides secure access to files and folders for authorized users in a zero-trust environment. The fundamental principle of Zero Trust Data Access is that access to data should be granted only on a need-to-know basis, and every access request should be authenticated and authorized against policy before granting access. Under the Zero Trust Data Access model, every data access request is verified against a set of rules that dictate what data can be accessed, and by whom.

A zero-trust data access architecture is designed to:

      • Protect access to a network segment, application, or data without providing access to the organization’s network infrastructure
      • Provide IT the tools they need to control that access
      • Protect the transfer of information and communications
      • Allow for only authorized access and,
      • Protect user credentials.

a zero trust architecture

Diagram 1
Simplified Zero Trust Architecture

Zero trust data access establishes encrypted connections between remote employees’ devices and a centralized corporate network over the Network or the Internet, however, the connection is made through a zero-trust architecture that does not allow direct access to resources.  It goes beyond an MFT in that it also provides access to cloud-hosted repositories, FTP repositories, SharePoint repositories, and on-premises storage over multiple domains.  Employees can connect to their corporate resources from anywhere with internet access, however, their access can be controlled and restricted by management according to Least Privilege Principles and IT chain of command.  It also provides file-sharing capability and because all actions are controlled by a zero trust server, all actions are recorded for forensic investigation and for output to the SIEM to detect ransomware attacks in process.

19 Reasons Why Organizations Need Zero Trust Data Access as a Managed File Transfer Alternative

Transitioning to Zero Trust Data Access (ZTDA) as implemented by FileFlex Enterprise is an excellent alternative to traditional Managed File Transfer (MFT) services and offers several key advantages for organizations as follows:

  1. Brings Cutting-Edge Security:

    • ZTDA provides a more comprehensive and adaptive security approach compared to traditional MFT services by continuously verifying and authorizing every access request, reducing the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks.
  2. Reduces the Risk of Ransomware:

    • By limiting access to sensitive data, monitoring user activity, and restricting lateral movement, ZTDA can help prevent ransomware attacks and minimize their impact on data integrity.
  3. Offers Superior Regulatory Compliance:

    • ZTDA facilitates compliance with data privacy regulations like HIPAA, GDPR, CIRCI, CMMC, ISO 27001, DORA and ENISA, ensuring that only authorized users can access sensitive data, a challenge often faced by MFT.
  4. Brings Exceptional Insider Threat Mitigation:

    • ZTDA effectively mitigates insider threats, such as unauthorized access by employees or contractors, by strictly controlling access based on user roles and responsibilities.
  5. Simplifies Management:

    • ZTDA simplifies security management with a unified approach applicable to all users, reducing complexity in managing diverse access methods—a contrast to the complexities often associated with MFT.
  6. Enhances User Experience:

    • While prioritizing security, ZTDA integrates seamlessly into established workflows, providing a user-friendly experience and improving access to data.
  7. Includes Excellent Data Governance:

    • ZTDA enforces granular access controls and policies consistently across various data sources, promoting effective data governance, a challenge often faced with decentralized MFT solutions.
  8. Has Unique Federated Storage Management:

    • ZTDA streamlines access and sharing management across diverse data repositories, allowing central access control, reducing administrative burdens, and enhancing operational efficiency compared to MFT.
  9. Improves Data Visibility and Control:

    • ZTDA provides detailed activity logs for data access and sharing, enabling IT managers to monitor user behavior, detect anomalies, and identify potential security threats, offering greater insights than typical MFT solutions.
  10. Reduces Complexity:

    • ZTDA simplifies access management by unifying authentication, authorization, and access control, reducing complexity in managing access, unlike complex MFT setups.
  11. Improves Secure Collaboration:

    • ZTDA enables secure data sharing and collaboration with access controls aligned to user roles and needs, promoting teamwork while ensuring data security—a capability not inherent in many MFT systems.
  12. Reduces Infrastructure Load and Scalability:

    • ZTDA can scale to handle growing data volumes and storage locations, reducing infrastructure requirements and the need for data duplication, a common concern with MFT.
  13. Encompasses Distinctive Granular Contractor Access:

    • Organizations can grant contractors access to specific resources based on micro-segmentation and least privilege principles, reducing the risk associated with providing MFT access to external parties.
  14. Extends Centralized Control with Decentralized Administration:

    • ZTDA allows decentralized administration for subsidiaries and partners while maintaining centralized IT control and visibility, a feature that MFT might struggle to provide.
  15. Is Built with Granular File and Folder Micro-Segmentation:

    • ZTDA offers micro-segmentation down to the file and folder level, enhancing network security, compliance, and incident response, capabilities not typically associated with MFT.
  16. Does Not Allow Direct Access to Infrastructure:

    • Users and recipients cannot directly access the storage infrastructure, enhancing security by abstracting users from the infrastructure, an advantage over some MFT configurations.
  17. Adds Secure File Sharing:

    • ZTDA includes secure file-sharing capabilities, eliminating the need for additional file-sharing platforms and enhancing security by aligning file-sharing activities with Zero Trust principles, a feature not inherently present in traditional MFT.
  18. Brings an IT-Controlled Chain of Command:

    • The management console provides granular control over permission levels down to the file level, protecting sensitive data with a level of control that can be challenging for MFT to match.
  19. Is a Low-Cost Model:

    • ZTDA operates on a cost-effective subscription model, offering savings compared to the maintenance, upgrading, patching, and infrastructure costs often associated with MFT.

Conclusion – Zero Trust Data Access (ZTDA): A Modern Alternative to Managed File Transfer (MFT) for Enhanced Security and Efficiency

The early 2023 security breaches in Managed File Transfer (MFT) services, exemplified by GoAnywhere and MOVEit, revealed the vulnerabilities of traditional file transfer methods. These incidents emphasized the need for a more robust data transfer approach. Zero Trust Data Access (ZTDA) as implemented by FileFlex Enterprise emerges as a modern alternative to MFT, offering cutting-edge security, ransomware prevention, regulatory compliance, simplified management, enhanced user experiences, and more. Transitioning to ZTDA provides organizations with a comprehensive solution to address the challenges and complexities associated with MFT while delivering superior security and efficiency.

*Straits Research

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Tom Ward is the VP of Marketing for Qnext Corp. He is an expert in the technology industry with a history of achievement. Tom holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University.