Shadow IT - is it the Biggest Cyber security Risk?

Shadow IT - is it the Biggest Cyber security Risk?

The popularity of cloud computing is driving rapid evolution of software application use within the workplace. It is quite easy today for employees to download cloud applications which will help them be more productive and efficient. Unfortunately, some of these applications operate as shadow IT.

What Is Shadow IT?
Shadow IT is the use of information technology systems, devices, software, applications and services without the explicit approval of a firm’s IT department. It has grown exponentially in recent years with the adoption of cloud-based applications and services. While shadow IT can improve employee productivity and drive innovation, it can also introduce serious security risks through data leaks, potential compliance violations and more.

Why Employees Use Shadow IT
One of the biggest reasons employees engage in shadow IT is simply to work more efficiently. Employees feel they need to get the work done quickly and efficiently and hence they work around their company's security environment and policies. For example, an employee may discover a better file-sharing application than the one officially permitted. Once they begin using it, this could spread to other members within the organisation.

Shadow IT Security Risks and Challenges
When the IT department doesn’t have visibility into the SaaS apps that employees and departments are using, security and compliance risks arise. Shadow IT features like file sharing/storage and collaboration (e.g., Google Docs) can result in sensitive data leaks. And this risk extends beyond just applications. For example, an employee can send work documents to their personal email to work from home, exposing data to networks that can’t be monitored by IT. Beyond security risks, shadow IT can also waste money if different departments are unknowingly purchasing duplicate solutions.
Examples:

  • Applications: Dropbox, Google Docs, Slack, Skype, Excel Macros, Microsoft Office 365
  • Hardware: Personal laptops, tablets, and smartphones

Risks Related to Shadow IT:

  • Security Gaps:- Shadow IT introduces security gaps into an organization. Because it hasn’t been vetted by the IT department, shadow IT doesn’t undergo the same security procedures as other supported technologies.
  • Compliance and Regulations:- To protect consumers and other businesses, governmental organizations have created regulations and Acts, such as Software Asset Management (SAM) and Information Technology Act 2000. Discovery of unapproved software can force government entities to audit a company’s infrastructure, leading to hefty fines or even jail time.
  • Collaboration Inefficiencies:- When employees rely on different applications from department to department, collaboration becomes inefficient. For example, if one department uses Google Drive for file sharing while another uses Box, what happens when the two teams need to work together on a project? How many times will one document get uploaded, edited and downloaded between the two services?
  • Poor IT Visibility:- If one team relies on a shadow IT application that breaks down, the IT department won’t have the knowledge or documentation to fix it. Think about the chaos it will cause in completing a time-sensitive project.

How to Manage Shadow IT

  • The best strategies for managing shadow IT include creating policies to oversee and monitor new applications.
  • Establish policies that encourage employees to go to IT when they want to request for a new application. It is imperative that you keep the relationship between IT and the rest of the company open and honest.

Creating this open relationship between your IT department and your company isn’t the easiest thing. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it alone. ANA Cyber Forensic Pvt. Ltd. offers a host of customised cybersecurity solutions to help businesses gain control over their shadow IT.

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