Is Google Drive secure for business? – 5 ways to reduce vulnerabilities

Is Google Drive secure for business? – 5 ways to reduce vulnerabilities

Is Google drive secure for business purposes? If your company is one of many who’s ignored the question of Google Drive’s security in recent years, it may be time to reconsider. Despite its size with over 6 million business users and 1,8 billion standard Gmail accounts, Google’s security, and GDPR compliance are far from perfect. Some vulnerabilities, as with all systems, are born from human error. Others are inherent to the way it handles your uploaded files.

It’s vital for businesses to know which features or security settings can lead to trouble. To help prevent financial damage caused by data leaks, join us as we dive into Google Drive security and its limitations. We’ll also show you some of the ready-to-use solutions which can provide an extra layer of protection for your corporate files in the cloud.

Is Google drive a security risk?

Google offers an extensive set of intelligent collaboration tools with convenient, easy-to-use interfaces that can be used to read, edit, download and share all kinds of business-related documents. The Google ecosystem, which is based on Google Drive and its alternative for the Microsoft Office software suite, is undoubtedly popular around the world. With its cloud-based storage (Google Drive), and applications such as Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Gmail, it is the embodiment of what could be the motto of the decade “Work smarter, not harder.”

But what about companies wanting to work safely as well? Most systems that offer flexibility and convenience will come with some compromise on security. And while being a viable option for individual users and companies in less regulated industries, it still might not be the ideal choice if you consider privacy a central part of security.

To decide whether Google’s cloud-based storage is secure and private enough for your company, consider the questions below.

Is Google Drive secure for businesses?
First of all, let's start with the basics. Any security measure is only as strong as its weakest link. Sadly, in many cases, that’s its human users. Almost 90% percent of all cyberattacks and nearly 50% of all data breaches are directly related to human error. Make sure to educate your workforce properly on cybersecurity risks and best practices. Several digital tools provide ways of mitigating the risk of users cutting security corners, but no solutions will offer 100% safety against the threat they pose.

Similarly to many other services, the greatest Google Drive security issues are tied to weak passwords. Naturally, Google Workspace allows admins to set up and enforce password requirements automatically. Turning this feature on should be automatic if you want to improve the security of your Google Drive.

Files downloaded to mobile devices are another general risk. Make sure all company devices are password or passcode-protected, and familiarize yourself with Google's remote wipe options to make sure you know what do to in the event you have to act quickly.

Google Workspace add-ons – A hidden security risk
Besides Google’s most known applications – Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Docs, Gmail, etc. – users can install so-called add-ons to Google workspace. These help teams with document approval-related tasks or with project management matters. But as third-party software, they are developed by independent teams, not Google. Therefore, when you grant access to your files for an add-on, you rely on the security solutions they applied to their product. Make sure your IT teams review any add-ons your team wants to use.

A weak case for data integrity – inadequate separation of duties and user hierarchy
If a company doesn’t have the means to track changes made to its corporate files, its credibility can be lost in an instance. Companies are expected, or even required by law, to log all access to given files and monitor any changes made to them. These robust access logging and data integrity requirements cannot be met using Google’s track changes feature, and version management is not particularly robust either. This means Google Drive is best for personal use or in industries where regulatory requirements are less strict.

Controlling access to files is also vital. Setting up user roles based on employee responsibilities and ensuring everyone only has access to the files they absolutely need for their work is vital. A common mistake is providing access alongside role seniority, with C-level managers having access to almost all files in an organization. This both makes them highly valuable targets and poses a massive security risk to any enterprise. The best collaboration tools will support their users in setting up role-based access rights based on templates or integrating with Access Directories. While Google Workspace does offer such features, they will only be as strong as the policies that control data access.

Access to your files can be limited at any time
Changes made to Google's Terms of Use in December 2021 mean the company may block the sharing of files that are in breach of its policies. Such topics include but are not limited to, dangerous and illegal activities, hate speech, malware, sexually explicit material and misleading content.

While the move is intended to protect individual users, its can be problematic for business users on at least two counts. First, some companies or NGOs may have legitimate reasons for storing such files, connected to legal proceedings or the protection of rights. Of course, it's better to not store legal documents in Google Drive altogether. Second, the move highlights how deeply Google scans the files uploaded to Google Drive, which raises several privacy concerns.

If your organization handles any files that could be the target of Google's new policy, those you share them with may loose access to them without notice, which could damage business efficiency, or even risk business continuity.

Has Google Drive ever been hacked?

Simply put, no. Google Drive has never fallen victim to a major cyberattack. But the big picture is not so calming. A Google Drive security flaw flagged by a system administrator in 2020 shows that it may be possible. The error could have allowed hackers, in theory, to trick users into downloading malware or ransomware, but there was no reported incident of it being actively targeted.

Naturally, whatever Google does to protect its systems, new threats are continuously emerging in today's cybersecurity environment. Don't forget, their safeguards mean little if a user’s credentials are compromised or an attacker has physical access to a computer. So, while Google drive is safe from hackers for the moment, you can never let your guard down.

Is Google Drive GDPR compliant?

Google Workspace is not made for GDPR compliance. The General Data Protection Regulation says no personal data can ever leave the European Union. But Google’s servers are in the US, and their users usually upload names, addresses, etc., as part of orders, contracts into their Google Drive folders. In these cases, the data is encrypted in transit, then decrypted in the US, and encrypted by Google when at rest. As a result, Google can access the data on its servers whenever it wants to, or hand these over to US authorities following lawful access requests based on the CLOUD Act or Patriot Act. In these cases, Google or US law enforcement could access EU citizens’ personal data.

Companies can opt to pay for Google's Enterprise-tier workspace, which has data residency options. Encrypting files before upload could be another solution, as the GDPR highlight end-to-end encryption as a viable safeguard against data leaks. Nevertheless, per-file encryption makes working with individual files clunky and can come with a hefty price tag. Not to mention that Google’s terms of service limit the storage of encrypted files on their servers.

Is Google Drive end-to-end encrypted?

No. While your uploaded files will remain your intellectual property, using Google services, you consent to the provider being able to scan all your files to maintain service quality in search indexes, for example. Also, they use the metadata of files for ad targeting. Learn more about the privacy concerns of using Google Drive from our previous blog post.

All in all, if your business aims for long-term growth and success, you need to improve Google Drive security and focus on Google Drive encryption. If you work in a less-regulated industry and want to improve the security of your Google Drive use our tips below.

1. Enforce strong passwords on Google accounts
This would be our number one advice for securing any platform and Google gives you tools to do this. If this isn’t already company policy, it should be your highest priority. Also force users to set up multi-factor verification, and passcodes and passwords for remote revices.

2. Familiarize yourself with remote wipe tools
Being able to remove files from lost or stolen devices quickly is a big step towards better security if an incident is unfolding. Make sure employees are educated about the importance of reporting any loss or theft as soon as possible. Storage on any movable device should be encrypted, and the device protected with a password.

3. Set up recovery for your Google account
Ensure account recovery is set up for all company users, especially admin accounts, so no one is ever locked out entirely, and access to company data is not lost.

4. Encrypt Google Drive with a software solution
While your data is safe with encryption at rest and in transit on Google’s servers, there are still lots of possibilities for malicious actors to access your files. So, to mitigate the impact of a breach, you can encrypt your files on your own system before uploading. It could be a bit complex, but you will have more robust security and privacy in the end. So, it is worth the effort to learn about encryption software providers on the market.

+1 Switch to an end-to-end encrypted solution
For companies working in security-centric industries, Google drive simply won't cut it. They will need a set of purpose-built cloud services to make the most of the cloud safely. That's where we come in, Tresorit’s mission is to ensure everyone can take back control of their digital valuables. We make security simple by offering end-to-end encryption with an easy-to-use interface and a suite of collaboration, access control, and compliance tools.

When using Tresorit, no data ever leaves your device without being encrypted, and as a result, no one, not even Tresorit, can access your files if they are not given access. Remain compliant with regulations that recommend or require encryption, and decide where your data is stored from among our Data Residency options in 12 regions. Use role-based templates to quickly set up user access rights and activity logs to monitor access to sensitive files.

Learn more about how we can help make your digital workspace more secure with Tresorit Secure Cloud.