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Online Translation Services: Top 10 Security Risks


Want top online translation services that translate documents with a fast turnaround for free or an affordable price? Before you use an online language service or translator tool, know that it might just be the best way to put your company at risk of phishing or a security breach.

There are significant cybersecurity risks involved with online translation services. This applies whether you use an online translator tool, professional human translator or virtual translation agency that provides certified translations. Not convinced? Read about Statoil’s breach caused by their employees’ use of a free online translation tool.

Security likely isn’t top of mind as you scramble to turn around a translated document as quickly as possible for your company. However, you certainly don’t want to be the cause of a leak or cybersecurity breach. In a hurry? Skip to the bottom of this post to get web-based translation software with enterprise level security AND fast document translation results. 

Before you paste text or upload company files into an online translator service, we highly recommend you read these top 10 security risks of online translation services.

Top 10 ways online translation services can pose security risks

1. Online translation tools that return data to machine translation engines

Online translation services exist in various forms. Perhaps the most widely used are “machine translation” tools. Search engines such as Google and Microsoft supply these tools for both public use and for software developers to use their framework to develop their own products. 

When you use free online translation tools, you oftentimes give those companies the right to repurpose, share or index your inputted data. The name for this is “data return.” 

If you want to translate with software products that use machine translation, then verify the software developers have a clear policy to never “return data to machine translation engines.” Otherwise, this could be the most widespread security threat within your company’s translation process. It’s what caused Statoil’s confidential data to be publicly discoverable in search engine results.

2. Translation agencies with subpar security practices

What time-strapped worker can resist translation services online that offer high-quality results with “fast turnaround” — sometimes within 24 hours? It’s a tempting offer. However, you should always fully vet a translation agency before you send them your documents and data. 

When you send your data to an agency, you subject your data to their security practices (or lack thereof). Translation agencies are rarely HIPAA compliant or have undergone 3rd party security audits. Oftentimes, they use low-cost hosting providers to store data. Few have compliance officers to ensure employee online security training. 

As a result, your translation agency may be sharing user IDs and passwords. If this is the case, then they are more at risk of phishing schemes. This could compromise your data.

3. Freelance human translators without security training

If your online translation service of choice is a freelance human translator, then make sure these professional translators are working within the parameters of your company’s data security policies. Otherwise, this method of translation sourcing can backfire. 

Freelance translators add another layer of risk and usually are the least trained and prepared to adopt adequate security policies. Like translation agencies, they are also rarely third-party audited or certified for compliance with important mandates.

4. Online translation services that lack permission controls

At this point, you might ask yourself, “what’s the best alternative to the above online translation services?” The answer is this: opt for a secure translation solution that employs enterprise level security AND includes a suite of tools that help you keep all translation activities within its highly secure environment. This will help you mitigate risk. 

Therefore, your translation solution should include roles and permission controls. If your software solution doesn’t allow your company to control who can and can’t access certain translation data and assets, then it will pose a security threat.

5. No encryption or outdated encryption protocol

A lack of permission controls isn’t the only security measure lacking in many online translation services and solutions. In particular, free translator tools often do not offer the latest encryption protocols and/or encrypted file storage at rest, in use and in transit. This poses a risk because your file uploads and text input could possibly be exposed while you’re using the tool or afterward. In other words, you compromise your company’s data.

6. No 2FA (2-Factor Authentication)

If you opt for a cloud-based translation service or app, then make sure your application supports 2FA. Software that provides users with 2FA are significantly safer to use than those that don’t. 

With 2FA, codes are sent to your email or cell phone via sms or an authenticator app. Authentication apps are the safest choice. When codes are sent to an authentication app on your phone, there’s no way for anyone to intercept those codes and are safe from phishing. Unlike SMS (Short Message Service), authentication apps don’t require cell service to work. As a result, more and more companies are moving away from email authentication. 

Your software should always provide 2FA authentication. 

7. Lack of identity and access management (IAM)

If your enterprise has a cyber risk management strategy, then they likely have a preference for applications that are compatible with identity management tools. An example of this is single sign-on (SSO) and multi-factor authentication (MFA). The benefits of identity access management include:

  • Helps protect against compromised user credentials
  • Gives an organization centralized control over who has access
  • Eliminates unsafe password management
  • Makes password expiration unnecessary
  • Reduces IT support requests
  • Moves authentication data off premises

If you don’t use a translation application that suits your company’s risk mitigation strategy, then you could be going against company policies.

8. Non-compliance with mandates

Compliance with strict privacy mandates is of critical importance for companies within highly-regulated sectors. For instance, if a healthcare provider were to use non-HIPAA compliant online translation services for sensitive medical translations. Patient information needs to be protected by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Otherwise, it would pose a serious legal risk. 

Even companies outside of that category can jeopardize their good standing by using an online translation service that is not compliant with everyday mandates. This includes GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) or PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard).

9. No third-party audits

When an enterprise evaluates new online translation services, proof of penetration test assessment and compliance audits are common requirements. Ask the translation company for proof of these. Translation companies’ audits should always be performed by independent third parties. If the company can’t supply you with these records, then you have no genuine proof of enterprise-level security or compliance.

10.  No activity log

Choose an online translation solution that includes an activity log. This way, your company can see who is active in your translation software, the actions they take and when they perform them. This transparency can help pinpoint unauthorized user access.

Secure Online Translation Service: Best Alternative

At Pairaphrase, we developed the all-around best premium online translation software tool available on the market today. It is the best alternative to online translation services or tools without enterprise security. This is because we’re focused on ease-of-use combined with powerful professional tools and enterprise level security. 

Not to mention Pairaphrase helps protect your company from all of the top 10 security risks we list above, plus more.

Protect Your Career and Your Company

You can actually earn points for yourself at work by having a talk with your manager or IT department about adopting a secure web-based translation solution. In effect, you will display proactivity, innovation, and keeping the company’s best interests in mind.

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