Technology Advice by Ryan Taylor Adams

Make Sure Your Computer Isn’t Exposing Sensitive Files

February 19th, 2008 · No Comments · Printer Friendly Version


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All versions of Windows allow for the sharing of folders and printers over a network. This feature is useful if you want to be able to access files stored on one computer while using a second computer. There are plenty of guides availible that explain how to set up secure file sharing (that is, assigning permissions so only preselected people can access the shares). However, sometimes a user’s computer will have a shared folder they aren’t even aware is being shared. If this folder happens to contain sensitive files, a major security risk is present. Also, it is important to realize that when a folder is shared, so are all sub-folders inside of it. That means if your “C:” drive is shared, a remote user can access EVERYTHING on your computer. So how do you know what files and folders your computer is sharing?

The easiest way is to use a small program called “Share Watch” (download link below). When run, ShareWatch will list all the folders and printers your computer is currently sharing. It will also list what files are currently being access remotely, and by who. To see if you are sharing unknown folders:

  1. Download ShareWatch and run the program.
  2. In the window that opens, you will see a directory tree. Your computer’s name will be at the top and all the shared folders and printers will be listed below it.
  3. Any share name that is followed by a dollar sign ($) is a default Windows share and does not present a problem. If you see any folders listed without a dollar sign after them, you should right-click on the share name (in the example above I right clicked on “Example”) and select “Properties” from the menu that appears.
  4. You will be presented with a window similar to this:
    The “Path:” value is the location of the shared folder on your computer. If you want to continue sharing the folder just press “OK.” If the folder is one that should not be shared, press “Stop Sharing” and then “OK.”
  5. Repeat steps four and five until you have examined all of the shared folders.

If you decide to leave any folders as active shares, be sure you have the proper permissions set for them. It is generally a bad idea to allow unrestricted access to any shared folder or printer.