Managed File Transfer Features Designed to Protect the Payload

Don Miller

Secure file transfer is vital.  We doubt that anyone would disagree with this statement.  But many people would probably ask the following question: How do we achieve secure file transfers?  That’s a good question.

As a managed file transfer software company, bTrade can answer this question, and any other questions you may have related to safeguarding your digital assets during every transfer.  But for purposes of this post, we will focus on one essential aspect of secure file transfer—protecting the payload (i.e., the data being transferred). Enhanced security features are available to protect the payload while itis being shared, as discussed below.

1.    End-to-End Encryption: The First Line of Defense for the Payload

End-to-end encryption is a fundamental technique for ensuring the security of data during file transfers.  It’s a process that scrambles data in a way that only the intended recipient can unscramble and read it.  This means that even if a malicious actor intercepts the data in transit, they won't be able to decipher it without the encryption keys.  From the moment data leaves its source to its arrival at the destination, it remains under the protection of this encryption shield.

     a.    How It Works  

When you initiate a file transfer with end-to-end encryption, the data is encrypted at the source using a unique encryption key. This encrypted data is then sent across the network to the recipient. The recipient, in possession of the corresponding decryption key, is the only one capable of unlocking and accessing the original data. 

When we say end-to-end encryption, that means that data is encrypted even when it’s not actively being transferred.  So, even if an attacker manages to access the system, the retrieved data from the managed file transfer environment will remain encrypted, significantly limiting its exploitation.

     b.    Encryption Keys

Encryption keys are at the heart of end-to-end encryption.  There are two types of keys: public and private.  The public key is used for encryption, while the private key is kept secret and used for decryption. These keys ensure that only the intended recipient can decrypt the data.

     c.    Encryption Algorithms

The security of end-to-end encryption also relies on robust encryption algorithms. Modern encryption algorithms are highly sophisticated and designed to resist various forms of attacks. Examples include AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman).

     d.    Hypothetical Example

Imagine you have a message that you want to send to someone, but you want to make sure that nobody can eavesdrop on it or tamper with it while it’s on its way. Using encryption is like putting your message in a locked, secret box for safe transit.  When your message, now with encryption, reaches its destination, the recipient can decrypt the message, which is the reverse process of encrypting.  It uses the decryption key to convert it back into plaintext, making it readable once again.

2.    Digital Signatures:  The Second Line of Defense for the Payload  

Every file transferred can be digitally signed, confirming the sender’s identity and assuring the receiver that the file has not been tampered with during transit.  Digital signatures are therefore a critical component of secure file transfers, providing a means to verify the authenticity of files and maintain data integrity.

     a.    What Are Digital Signatures?

Digital signatures are electronic signatures that are unique to each user or entity.  They are created using a combination of a user’s private key and the data being signed. When a file is digitally signed, it generates a unique fingerprint of that file, which can be used to verify its authenticity.

     b.    Data Integrity with Digital Signatures  

Digital signatures ensure data integrity by allowing recipients to confirm that the file they received is identical to the one that was sent.  Even minor alterations to the file will result in a mismatch when compared to the digital signature.

     c.    Authentication  

Digital signatures also serve as a means of authentication. They prove that the file came from a legitimate source and has not been tampered with during transit.

     d.    Hypothetical Example - Continued

Now go back to that hypothetical message that you want to send to someone and make sure that nobody can eavesdrop on it or tamper with it while it’s on its way. Before your message enters the secure tunnel, you also attach a digital signature to it. Think of this digital signature as a unique seal that only you can create using your private key.  It’s like sealing your locked box with a special stamp that proves it's really from you. When your message, now with the digital signature, reaches its destination, the recipient receives not only the encrypted message but also your digital signature.  To ensure that the message hasn’t been tampered with along the way and that it indeed came from you, the recipient uses your public key to verify the digital signature. If the signature matches, it’s like confirming that the special stamp on your sealed box is genuine.

3.    Secure Protocols: The Third Line of Defense for the Payload

End-to-end encryption and digital signatures are essential, but they’re not the only layers of security required during file transfers.  The protocols used to transfer the data also play a crucial role in ensuring its safety.  

     a.    Types

SFTP(SSH File Transfer Protocol) is a secure file transfer protocol that uses the SSH (Secure Shell) protocol to encrypt data during transit. It provides strong authentication and encryption, making it a preferred choice for secure file transfers.

HTTPS(Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is widely used for secure web-based file transfers. It uses the SSL/TLS protocols to encrypt data between the client and the server.  This ensures that sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial data, is protected during transmission.

FTPS(FTP Secure) is a secure extension of the traditional File Transfer Protocol(FTP). It adds a layer of security by using encryption, typically either SSL(Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security), to protect data during transit.  FTPS provides authentication and data encryption, making it a secure choice for file transfers.

AS2(Applicability Statement 2) is a widely used secure protocol for B2B(business-to-business) data exchanges.  It ensures secure and encrypted data transfer, digital signatures for authenticity, and non-repudiation features, making it a preferred choice for secure payload protection in electronic data interchange (EDI) transactions.

     b.    Advantages of Secure Protocols

Secure protocols offer several advantages.  They provide data integrity, meaning that the transferred data remains unchanged during transit.   Additionally, they ensure data confidentiality by encrypting it, making it unreadable to unauthorized parties. 

     c.    Hypothetical Example - Continued

Let’s again go back to that hypothetical message that you want to send to someone and make sure that nobody can eavesdrop on it or tamper with it while it’s on its way. By using a secure protocol, your encrypted message is put into a virtual, secure tunnel.  This tunnel wraps your message in a protective layer, like a strong, invisible shield.  Inside this tunnel, your message is encrypted again, which means it’s transformed into a secret code that only the intended recipient can decode.  Your message then travels through this secure tunnel until it reaches its destination, at which time the secure protocol unlocks the protective shield and decrypts the message so that the recipient can read it.

4.    Conclusion:  Implementing a Comprehensive Security Strategy

While each of these security techniques provides a valuable layer of protection, the most robust security strategy involves using them together. By combining end-to-end encryption, digital signatures, and secure protocols, you create a comprehensive defense against unauthorized access of sensitive payloads.  This combination ensures that your data is secure from the moment it leaves your system until it reaches its destination.  It remains confidential, unaltered, and is only accessible to authorized parties.

Our Managed File Transfer solutions streamline the implementation of these security measures.  Our solutions come equipped with built-in encryption, support for secure protocols, and digital signature capabilities. This makes it easier for organizations to adopt a comprehensive security strategy.

If you want to discuss how to either start or fix a managed file transfer system, please contact us at