Most Windows operating systems have a commanding file sharing system that are both secure and remotely accessible, and Windows XP is not an exception. Computers are usually expected to be networked and be equipped with file sharing features across users locally as well as by remote access. Because the sole of computers are the files and folders within, how the users share the files and folders is of high importance. Badly executed file sharing configuration can expose classified content to an unexpected audience. Its all about controlling who can access what from where…

File sharing locally

If a PC is having more than one user, the files and folders intended for sharing by all the users may be placed within “shared documents” folders so that even a guest account is allowed access to the particular files. This is a level three file sharing configuration as the accessibility is not being affected even when changes are made to the file sharing user interface within folder properties.

Remotely accessible files

Files and folders can be configured for remote access with different permissions. For example, ‘read only’ and ‘read and write’ permissions. The remote user permissions are also handled by local NTFS file permissions. Nevertheless sharing files and making them available through a network is prone to security issues. The read only permissions being more secure, remotely accessible file sharing is least advised unless within a trusted local network.

User permissions

User permissions are also an important aspect of file sharing. Only difference is that accessibility is handled by controlling user permissions instead of changing file sharing options. Although User permissions and file sharing are two different operations, both the operations unite in a single purpose; ‘controlling accessibility’. NTFS user permissions are a deeply technical area in user management. But having a basic understanding of what certain permissions mean and how they are configured helps a lot in managing PC’s and networks with many users better.

File sharing levels

There are 5 levels of file sharing permissions. Levels 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are all slightly different levels of accessibility. Level one being the most secure, the security of the files shared decreases gradually through to the level 5, which is the least secure file sharing level. Users do not need to be concerned of the number or the file sharing level but the user permissions and accessibility issues related to the sharing.

User interface for file sharing options can be accessed by selecting the properties for the folder that needs to be changed, and selecting the ‘sharing’ tab. The options are given there in two sections to share the folder locally or remotely. Simple file sharing is turned on in Windows XP systems by default and turning off the same is subject to requiring further configuration in relation to file system and permissions. However turning off ‘simple file sharing’ does not disable shared documents folders in XP.