As organisations increasingly rely on digital platforms to manage their data, Microsoft SharePoint has emerged as a popular choice for collaboration and content management. However, the ease of use and flexibility offered by SharePoint can sometimes lead to uncontrolled storage practices by staff members. This article explores the risks associated with uncontrolled storage on Microsoft SharePoint, specifically focusing on challenges in identifying access to data, external sharing, and the potential exposure of sensitive information.

Understanding Microsoft SharePoint

Microsoft SharePoint is a web-based platform that enables organisations to create, share, and manage documents and other content. It offers a wide range of features, including document libraries, lists, workflows, and collaboration tools, making it a powerful tool for team collaboration and information management. However, this flexibility can also result in potential risks when not properly managed.

Identifying Access to Data

One of the key challenges of uncontrolled storage on Microsoft SharePoint is the difficulty in identifying who has access to specific data. SharePoint provides various permission levels, such as read, write, and full control, which can be assigned to individual users or groups. When staff members store data without proper oversight, access permissions may not be appropriately configured, leading to data being accessible to unintended individuals.

The lack of visibility into access permissions can have serious consequences. It can enable unauthorised users to view, modify, or delete sensitive information, resulting in data breaches, intellectual property theft, or regulatory compliance violations. Additionally, uncontrolled access can hinder effective auditing and accountability, making it challenging to trace actions and address any security incidents that occur.

External Sharing Risks

Microsoft SharePoint offers features that facilitate collaboration beyond an organisation's boundaries. Users can share documents and folders with external parties, including clients, partners, or contractors. While external sharing can enhance collaboration, uncontrolled storage practices may lead to unintentional or unauthorised sharing of sensitive information.

Without proper oversight, staff members may inadvertently share confidential or classified data with unauthorised individuals or external entities. This poses significant risks to an organisation's reputation, legal compliance, and client trust. It also increases the likelihood of data leakage, where sensitive information falls into the wrong hands, potentially resulting in financial losses or legal consequences.

Sensitive Information Exposure

Uncontrolled storage on Microsoft SharePoint can pose a particular risk when it comes to handling sensitive information. Sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information (PII), financial records, or trade secrets, require strict access controls and protection measures. However, if staff members store such information without appropriate safeguards, it can lead to severe consequences.

Sensitive data stored without encryption or access restrictions on Microsoft SharePoint is vulnerable to unauthorised access, both internally and externally. This can result in data breaches, identity theft, or fraud. Furthermore, the lack of proper controls makes it challenging to identify and mitigate risks associated with sensitive information, potentially exposing organisations to regulatory penalties and legal liabilities.

Mitigating the Risks

To mitigate the risks of uncontrolled storage on Microsoft SharePoint, organisations should implement robust governance and security practices. Here are some essential steps to consider:

Data Classification

Establish a data classification framework that categorises information based on its sensitivity and importance. This classification will help determine access controls, retention policies, and encryption requirements.

Access Controls

Regularly review and enforce access controls to ensure that only authorised personnel have appropriate permissions to access, modify, or share data. Implement role-based access controls and principle of least privilege principles to limit access to sensitive information.

User Training and Awareness

Provide comprehensive training to staff members on the proper use of Microsoft SharePoint and data security best practices. Educate employees about the risks associated with uncontrolled storage, external sharing, and handling sensitive information.

Monitoring and Auditing

Implement monitoring and auditing mechanisms to track data access, modifications, and sharing activities. Regularly review logs and reports to identify any unauthorised or suspicious activities and take appropriate action.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

Leverage DLP solutions to prevent sensitive information from being unintentionally or maliciously shared. Configure DLP policies that can identify and block the transmission of sensitive data, such as credit card numbers or other personally identifiable information.

Regular Assessments

Conduct regular security assessments and penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities and gaps in the SharePoint environment. Address any identified issues promptly to minimise the risk of data breaches or unauthorised access. While Microsoft SharePoint offers numerous benefits for collaboration and content management, uncontrolled storage practices can expose organisations to various risks. Identifying access to data, external sharing, and the presence of sensitive information are crucial aspects that need to be carefully managed. By implementing proper governance, security measures, and user awareness programs, organisations can mitigate these risks and ensure the safe and responsible use of Microsoft SharePoint, safeguarding their valuable data and maintaining the trust of stakeholders.

Christopher McNaughton

Strategic Advisor, ShadowSight

Who is Christopher McNaughton

Chris is a proficient problem solver with a strategic aptitude for anticipating and addressing potential business issues, particularly in areas such as Insider Threat, Data Governance, Digital Forensics, Workplace Investigations, and Cyber Security. He thrives on turning intricate challenges into opportunities for increased efficiency, offering pragmatic solutions derived from a practical and realistic approach.

Starting his career as a law enforcement Detective, Chris transitioned to multinational organisations where he specialised and excelled in Cyber Security, proving his authority in the field. Even under demanding circumstances, his commitment to delivering exceptional results remains unwavering, underpinned by his extraordinary ability to understand both cyber and business problems swiftly, along with a deep emphasis on active listening.

What is ShadowSight

ShadowSight is an innovative insider risk staff monitoring tool that proactively guards your business against internal threats and safeguards vital data from unauthorised access and malicious activities. We offer a seamless integration with your current systems, boosting regulatory compliance while providing unparalleled visibility into non-compliant activities to reinforce a secure digital environment. By prioritising actionable intelligence, ShadowSight not only mitigates insider threats but also fosters a culture of proactive risk management, significantly simplifying your compliance process without the overwhelming burden of false positives.