11 Tips for File Security in Google Drive 2024

stock image: google drive data security

Table of Contents

Introduction

In today’s digital age, businesses are increasingly reliant on cloud-based solutions like Google Drive to facilitate collaboration and streamline operations. However, this also means that businesses must be vigilant in protecting the company’s sensitive files from security threats and ensure compliance with various data privacy regulations.

A recent study by IBM Corporation revealed that as many as 82% of data breaches in the past year involved data stored in the cloud. The research found that breaches in the public cloud incurred a higher-than-average cost of USD 4.75 million. Customer PII was the most common (and costliest) data leaked, followed by employee PII and intellectual property. 

IBM Corporation’s recommendations to businesses to help minimize financial impacts of a data breach include utilizing access management products and services to help provide security teams with deeper visibility into suspicious activity.

Best practices for file security in Google Drive

1. Measure the scope of the challenge

Florbs Google Drive Audit Overview screenshot

To effectively tackle the file access management issue in your organization, it’s crucial to first gauge the scope of the problem. Once you have a full picture of file exposure in your company, you can start implementing new policies to address your organization’s specific needs.

While Google Workspace provides some visibility into file access and sharing, it lacks a comprehensive view of all files in your domain. That’s where Florbs comes in – this tool can provide you with a clear understanding of the extent of the problem. Request the complimentary Google Drive file security report to assess your organization’s security status and uncover potential vulnerabilities.


Florbs is an official Google Cloud Partner based in the Netherlands. Our mission is to help organizations protect their files in Google Drive from unauthorized access.

2. Follow the principle of least privilege

high risk files in Google Drive - Florbs screenshot

If employees have access to files they shouldn’t, whether intentionally or unintentionally, they could accidentally delete or modify important data. Furthermore, they may be able to intentionally make unauthorized changes to important documents or leak confidential information.

Restricting file sharing altogether is counterproductive to data security, as it may force employees to find other ways to collaborate or share information. This could result in information existing in multiple versions, making it more difficult to track and manage security. Instead, it is recommended to follow the principle of least privilege and only share information with specific people on a need-to-know basis.

By implementing the principle of least privilege, you can help prevent unauthorized access to confidential information and ensure that only those who need it have access.

3. Implement data classification

google drive labels for data security and compliance

Use Drive labels to categorize files based on sensitivity to ensure proper protection, compliance with regulations, and effective risk management. Use a label to identify sensitive content or content that requires special handling.

With Florbs, you can create workflows to automatically classify files when certain criteria are met, saving time and effort on data classification. For example, you could create a workflow that automatically labels any file with “CV” in its title as “Contains PII”.

google drive labels access permissions overview florbs screenshot

4. Create security workflows to take human errors out of security processes

automated security policies

We’re all human, and we all make mistakes. That’s why in the world of cybersecurity, it’s crucial to automate as many processes as possible. With Florbs, many file security tasks can be automated so you never have to worry about forgetting something important. You could create workflows that automatically unshare files that meet specific criteria: for example, remove all sharing with personal accounts (e.g. john@gmail.com) from files in a shared drive that contains confidential project information.

5. Remove outdated access in time

Google Drive remove outdated access Florbs screenshot

Most data security guidelines require that information must be available only for the duration it is required (Just In Time access). Florbs ensures compliance by enabling you to set expiration dates on access and automatically unshare files that have not been accessed for a specified duration of time. That ensures that once information is no longer in use, access to it is restricted.

6. Keep ex-employee access in check

Google Drive access with personal accounts screenshot Florbs

Former employees may feel that they own the project they have been working on, and retain access to it even after they leave the organization by sharing files with their personal Gmail account. In some cases former employees go as far as to alter, delete or sell company data to competitors, or make confidential information public.

According to a study by Osterman Research, 89% of employees continue to have access to at least one application from their former employer now that they are working for someone else, with 76% of former employees retaining access to the company’s Google Drive.

The research also found that as much as 20% of the data to which employees have access from their previous employment is either confidential or sensitive.

With Florbs, you can automate offboarding employees, making your file security airtight. In addition, Florbs provides a clear overview of all access rights for all files in Google Drive, simplifying the review process, and offers the ability to instantly modify or revoke access.

7. Manage shared drives members

Google Drive shared drives manage access Florbs screenshot

If someone is added on a shared drive level, they automatically get access to every folder and file in that shared drive. That is why it is crucial to ensure that only authorized employees have access to the shared drives.

8. Remove external party access when it's no longer needed

Google Drive top access contributors Florbs screenshot

Freelancers or partners that your company collaborated with often retain access after the project they’d been working on has ended.

That is why it is crucial to adopt a way to monitor file sharing, such as Florbs. According to data obtained from over 300,000 Florbs users, an average of 23% of all company files are shared with external domains. Almost half of all externally shared files (47%) are shared with personal email domains. Based on our observations, companies that first utilize Florbs cut down the number of files shared with “Anyone with the link” by 50% in the first days of using the solution.

9. Centralized control of file sharing is key

florbs app screenshot user roles

It is common for files to be shared publicly due to urgency or a lack of attention. But while productivity is important, it should not come at the expense of security. And while it is important to educate your employees on security practices, expecting them to prioritize security as highly as their daily tasks is unrealistic. Florbs allows your IT team or Data protection team to manage access to your company’s data centrally, saving time and minimizing risks for your employees.

10. Regularly monitor and update file access permissions

audit google drive files florbs screenshot

Files are created and shared with the outside world daily, that is why it is important to perform regular checks to avert any potential risks before they become an issue. Monitoring and updating access permissions manually in Google Drive is a menial, time-consuming process, with limited visibility and control.

Florbs provides you with an easy-to-understand dashboard, giving you instant insights into file security and ability to act quickly. Predefined filters will help you find high-risk files even quicker. You can easily review any potential threats on a regular basis, making it easier to maintain the highest level of data security.

With Florbs, you can efficiently manage access and permissions for many files at once based on various criteria. For example, you can remove sharing with a specific domain or user that should no longer have access.

11. Update default sharing settings for your domain

google admin console default sharing settings screenshot

As companies grow, default settings that were once sufficient may no longer meet security requirements. For example, a small family company may have default settings that share all files created in the organization with the entire domain. However, as the company grows, access to confidential information needs to be limited, such as intellectual property or personal information of employees.

Summary

While Google Workspace provides robust security and compliance features, businesses must also take their own measures to ensure the security and compliance of their data. This includes implementing their own policies and controls, training employees on best practices, and regularly reviewing and updating their security measures. By taking a proactive approach to security and compliance, businesses can ensure that their data is protected.

About the author

About Florbs

Florbs is an official Google Cloud Partner based in the Netherlands. Our mission is to help businesses protect their data in Google Drive from unauthorized access, because we know first-hand that it is a challenge for many companies.

Niek Waarbroek, the founder of Florbs and a Google Developer Expert, has been helping businesses in Google Workspace since 2011 as a consultant and developer. Having seen many organizations struggle with achieving a centralized, organization-wide view and control of file sharing in Google Drive, Niek took it upon himself to create Florbs.

Since its inception, Florbs has helped more than 300,000 users in companies spanning across 25 countries worldwide to protect their files in Google Drive from unauthorized access, improve compliance, eliminate human errors and prevent data loss.

Ease of use is our guiding principle, and our solutions can be used by teams with no technical IT knowledge, such as data security professionals and privacy officers.Visit our website at www.florbs.io to learn more about our services and how we can help your business succeed.

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