Quick Step-by-Step Instructions for Tracking Externally Shared Files

Tracking Externally Shared Files

  1. Navigate to the SharePoint document library you want to audit for externally shared files.
  2. Click the gear icon in the top right corner and select site usage.
  3. Scroll down to the Shared with External Users section to view files that have been shared AND accessed externally.
  4. To see which files in the library have an associated sharing link, click Run report to get a report on all the files in your document library.
  5. Once the report populates, you will receive an email and you can access it in the document library.
  6. View the report.
    • If you see the word external in the User Group of Type column, the file has been accessed by an external user.
    • Under the Username column, if you see Sharing Link, a sharing link has been created for that file. To see if a sharing link was created for a specific person, look for Specific People in the Link Type column.
  7. If you want to manage the access options for any files, navigate back to the document library, find the file, and use the manage access option.

With phishing and malware attacks on the rise, cybersecurity has become a very popular topic. There’s a lot organizations and individual users can do to help protect themselves from cybersecurity threats.

One thing you can do to protect yourself and your organization is to make sure important files never end up in the wrong hands. Now, there are settings that can disable users from being able to share OneDrive or Outlook files with external users, which is a good best practice for your organization if applicable. However, there are a lot of times when users might need to share files or documents externally, but it’s important to be able to track which files are shared externally to make sure your data isn’t compromised.

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how you, as a Team or SharePoint site owner, can track which SharePoint files have been shared with users outside of your organization.

Tracking Externally Shared Files

To track files and documents that have been shared externally, you’ll want to start in a SharePoint document library. To access a document library from SharePoint, you’ll navigate to the site and then click Documents.

Access your SharePoint Document Library

To get to a SharePoint document library from Teams, click into the Team and Channel you’d like to access, then head into the files tab.

From there, you may need to click the three dots for more options to find Open in SharePoint.

Once you click that, you’ll be in that channel’s document library.

Open a Teams Channel document library in SharePoint.

Once you’ve made it to the SharePoint document library you’d like to audit for externally shared files, you’ll want to open your settings menu by clicking the gear icon in the top right corner and click on Site usage.

This will take you to an interesting page where you can explore site traffic, popular content and more analytics related to your SharePoint site. But if you scroll down, you should see a section titled Shared with External Users.

SharePoint Tracking Files

As you can see here, it looks like we have one file that has been shared externally. You can click on the file to open it or use the location to find the file in SharePoint to manage its permissions. While this looks like it might provide a list of externally shared files, that is a bit misleading. What this is actually showing is files that have been shared AND accessed externally. For a file or document to show up on this list, not only does an external sharing link need to be created, but that external user needs to open and access the file. Unfortunately, if a sharing link is created for a file but no external user has accessed the file, that file will not show up in this list.

However, there is a small work around you can do to get a better understanding of which files in your document library have sharing links associated with them. If you click to Run report, this will run a report on all the files in your document library and populate a report in Excel that can show you more details about each file, including which files have sharing links created.

Once you run a report on the select document library, it may take a few minutes to populate that report. The amount of time it takes will vary on how many files are stored in the selected document library.

You will get an email notification letting you know the report is ready and it will be available to you in the document library.

Viewing the Report

When you view the report in Excel, you’ll have a lot of different columns with different information that isn’t the easiest to read or make sense of, but there are a few column you can focus your attention in on that might make it easier for you to see what has been shared.

If a file has been accessed by an external user, in the column titled User or Group Type, you will see the word external. You can even see the external user or users’ email address who accessed that shared file. However, if a file has been shared externally but never accessed, you still will not have access to that information using the Use of Group Type column.

However, if you look at the user name column, you can search for when the term SharingLink is used. This will show you all the files in which a user has created a sharing link for. Once you’ve located those files, you can pan across to the Link Type column. In this column, you’ll want to look for the phrase Specific People. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that those specific people are external to your organization, it will at least provide you with the knowledge that this document has been shared with someone specific, and then you can head back to the document library, find that file, and use the manage access option to determine who those specific people are and if they are external to your organization.

So, while this isn’t the perfect solution, this is a good solution for managers and Team owners who might not have administrative rights in Teams or SharePoint to access information about which of their files have been shared externally.

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