Secure File Transfer (SFT)

What is Secure File Transfer (SFT)?

Secure File Transfer (SFT) refers to the process of transmitting digital files between two or more parties in a manner that guarantees the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of the data being transferred. At a time when data breaches and cyber threats are rife, secure file transfer solutions play a key role in safeguarding sensitive information from unauthorized access and interception.

At its heart, secure file transfer involves encrypting the data before transmission and employing a range of authentication mechanisms to verify the identity of the sender as well as the recipient. This prevents unauthorized actors from intercepting or tampering with the files during transit, ensuring that the confidentiality and integrity of the information being transferred are maintained.

Use Cases

One of the main use cases for SFT is in business environments, where exchanging sensitive documents is a core function of daily operations. This includes files shared with employees, customers, internal departments, and third-party partners.

For instance, financial firms often use SFT protocols to transmit customer data – including account information and transaction records – between branches or to external service providers. Similarly, healthcare businesses rely on secure file transfer solutions to exchange patient records, medical reports, and other confidential information with healthcare practitioners and insurance providers while adhering to strict privacy regulations such as GDPR and HIPAA.

Secure file transfer is also commonly used by government and military entities to securely exchange classified or sensitive information between agencies or allied nations. These bodies have stringent security requirements and protocols in place to protect sensitive data from prying eyes or interception by adversaries.

SFT Technologies and Protocols

There are several technologies and protocols that are commonly employed for SFT, each offering its own set of features and capabilities tailored to different use cases and security needs. Some of the commonly used protocols include:

  • FTP Secure (FTPS): FTPS is an extension of the traditional FTP protocol that adds support for Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. It encrypts both the control and data channels, providing a secure means of transferring files over the internet.
  • SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP): SFTP is another secure file transfer protocol that offers secure file access, transfer, and management over a reliable data stream. It employs encryption to secure the data in transit and provides authentication mechanisms for verifying the identities of both the client and the server.
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS): HTTPS is a secure extension of the HTTP protocol used for secure communication over a computer network. It encrypts the data using SSL/TLS encryption, making it suitable for secure file transfers over the web.
  • Applicability Statement 2 (AS2): AS2 is a widely adopted protocol used for secure and reliable data interchange between businesses. It employs digital certificates and encryption to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of the transmitted data.

Over and above these protocols, many secure file transfer software products are available on the market, offering features like centralized management, audit trails, and integration with existing systems. They are designed to help companies streamline their file transfer processes while maintaining compliance with regulatory requirements and industry standards for data security and privacy.

SFT is an important link in the cybersecurity chain, playing a crucial role in modern digital communications by enabling organizations to exchange sensitive information securely across networks and platforms.

Find more cybersecurity terms and definitions here.

Return to Cybersecurity Glossary

Secure File Transfer (SFT)
Scroll to top