What is Secure File Transfer Protocol?

Secure File Transfer Protocol
Image source: Vianalabs.com

Secure File Transfer Protocol is a computing term that every business owner using the internet should become familiar with. It builds on the File Transfer Protocol, which was first invented long before the launch of the World Wide Web. As the name suggests, File Transfer Protocol is a series of protocols that computers must adhere to when exchanging files between computers and servers. It was developed in order to provide a guarantee of safety for files exchanged over networks. Unfortunately, File Transfer Protocol is a rather updated set of precautionary rules. Secure File Transfer Protocol has been developed in order to plug some of the exploitable gaps left by the original protocols.

Secure Shell

One of the main ways in which Secure File Transfer Protocol improves on FTP is the integration of Secure Cell – or SSH for short. Secure Shell is a cryptographic component developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force. A good SFTP provider always meets Internet Engineering Taskforce standards. Companies like Go Anywhere display their Secure Shell accreditation on their websites. You can find an example of a fully accredited SFTP company here: https://www.goanywhere.com/managed-file-transfer/file-server/sftp-server.

Cryptography is extremely important for ensuring that files are secure when they are transferred. If a file is not encrypted during transit, then it is vulnerable to ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks. These attacks involve hackers compromising networks and stealing data when it is in transit. They are one of the oldest and most effective forms of data theft and make use of poorly encrypted files. If that data is correctly encrypted, then it will be useless to thieves.

Secure Shell protocols effectively create an encrypted ‘tunnel’ through which data is sent. It is an essential improvement on the encryption employed by legacy File Transfer Protocols.


Authentication is critical to communications security. Secure File Transfer Protocols require both parties (the receiving and the sending) to authenticate themselves before files can be decrypted. On half of the decryption key is stored on the computers involved. The other half is stored on a server. Both the sender and the recipient have to sign into a password-protected area in order to receive a key. Many businesses are also adding dual-factor authentication protocols to their file transfer policies. In order to send or receive files, a person needs to authenticate themselves with either biometric or hardware data as well as a username and password. Biometric data is much harder to forge. Fingerprints, facial shape, and eye markings are all completely unique to each human being.

Who Uses SFTP?

Secure File Transfer Protocol is used in almost every field where information needs to be kept secure while being shared around a network. Businesses looking to protect intellectual property, healthcare providers seeking to maintain patient confidentiality, government organizations dealing with sensitive data, and all sorts of other users have switched from FTP to SFTP. Many users also combine their SFTP with Virtual Private Networks for an extra layer of security, although this is unsuitable for public organizations.