Shadow IT: The Risks, How it Gets Exploited, Its Mitigation Steps

Shadow IT The Risks, How it Gets Exploited, Its Mitigation Steps

Shadow IT refers to the use of IT applications, software, and hardware without the corporate IT department’s approval and knowledge. The phenomenon is taking IT experts unaware since shadow IT has already become prevalent in the shape of cloud applications. On average, a company employs 1,083 cloud services, and the IT department is aware of only about 108 of them.

According to a McAfee survey, 80% of workers admit using SaaS applications at work without obtaining IT approval. It is happening because of the increasing number of productivity applications available and the ease of downloading them conveniently.

For enterprises, the unauthorized and ad hoc use of IT services for work develops significant potential risks. An analyst firm Gartner estimated one-third of all cybersecurity attacks might come from their shadow IT resources by 2020. Such estimates indicate only an increase of shadow IT in the future…!


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Let’s go through some of the more common risks surrounding shadow IT:

1. Data Security

The unevenly managed or even non-existent security controls can occur due to the uncontrolled use of unauthorized apps, services, and devices. Such a scenario increases the chance of costly and damaging data breaches and losses. Security lapses or inadequate data controls can lead to hefty fines, especially in highly regulated industries like pharmaceuticals or finance. More so, it can cause even criminal penalties.

Imagine a scenario when a former employee or external service provider still has access to your organization’s data. Now, your organization has no overview or tracking of which accounts have data access. It is even unthinkable to imagine what they can do with the data, especially when the data is everything nowadays.

2. Inefficiencies

One of the reasons many people start using shadow IT is boosting efficiency. In reality, it results in the complete opposite most of the time. It is possible that some products or solutions are not compatible with the main components of the IT framework, prompting performance issues.

New technology can cause business processes to stall, assuming it might not undergo any testing. It is essential to ensure that new software works correctly, especially when it can meddle with business-critical IT resources.

3. Cyber Security

Shadow IT does not go through the same security procedures as other supported technologies. It might have no firewall, accompanying with no installation of new software updates. Therefore, shadow IT set forth security gaps to an organization.

4. Compliance and Regulations

Governmental organizations have created standards and regulations to protect consumers and other businesses. ISO/IEC 20000, Software Asset Management (SAM), and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are also included in those regulations. For a company, it is mandatory to ensure compliance of them.

The presence and use of shadow IT is already a violation of conventional company compliance rules. Breaching of compliance rules can threaten the existence of many companies.

How Shadow IT Gets Exploited

Many employees do not intend to endanger their employers by using shadow IT apps. In fact, they are not conscious of the significant risks.

For instance, employees might choose personal Dropbox to store work-related files, lacking security settings, unlike approved apps. In case of a breach, the full potential scope of the threat might get missed by security administrators. As a result, the company may compromise its data without knowing the quantum and exactness of loss data.

How to Mitigate Shadow IT Risks?

  • Try to build a more brilliant corporate policy (useful guidelines for utilizing personal devices, third-party applications, and cloud services). Knowing that nearly 21% of organizations do not have a policy about the use of new technology.
  • Provide your workers with the tools they need.
  • Use tools for the discovery of shadow IT.
  • Educate your employees.
  • Monitor your workers’ activities (monitoring the use of software, internet use, USB devices, and so forth).

Final Words

Without question, shadow IT is a security risk for each enterprise. However, you can eliminate it and increase your employees’ productivity by providing them with more effective tools.



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