As cyber threats and remote work challenges linked to COVID-19 continue to rise, IT teams are increasingly under pressure to keep the security of organizations intact. One of the biggest problems companies face when it comes to remote work is shadow IT.

IT is the key component to every lock of the IT security. If users want to access a new product or tool, they have to file an application and wait for it to be approved by the IT team.

There has been some tremendous evolution in the styles of working lately. Work flexibility is all about how an employee wants to work and what kind of tools he intends to use.

What is shadow IT?

What is Shadow IT?

The term shadow IT refers to the usage of information, technology systems, devices, software, applications, or services without the knowledge and approval of the corporate IT department.

The SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) products and cloud services like Salesforce and Dropbox are amongst the most common examples of shadow IT. Following examples will give a more accurate view of shadow IT:

  • USB flash drives or other personal data storage devices
  • Unapproved productivity apps like Trello, Slack, or Asana
  • Unapproved cloud storage like Google Drive
  • Unapproved messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, or WhatsApp

Security breaches associated with shadow IT

End users who are willing to embrace the newest cloud applications to support their remote work ignore IT administrators, and therefore, unknowingly open up new risks to both themselves and their companies.

Making use of only those apps that have been thoroughly checked, reviewed, and approved from the IT department of the organization is one of the top solutions to deal with the risk associated with shadow IT. Nonetheless, this solution is often not feasible when non-IT professionals, who have little or no knowledge of the standardization of applications, obtain shadow apps.

Furthermore, when workers or companies use shadow SaaS (Service-as-a-Software) software, the field of attack increases tremendously as many are not secure or patched. If IT departments are not aware of the presence of an app, they would not be able to take appropriate action to protect data for firms or their users.

Other measures that an organization can take is to block or restrict the access to cloud services that do not abide by the security and compliance standards. In this context, there is a vast discrepancy in the intended block rate and the actual block rate, which Skyhigh Networks calls the “cloud enforcement gap” and represents shadow IT acquisition and usage.

Following are three major cybersecurity risks of using shadow IT:
  • Loss of data
  • Unpatched vulnerabilities and errors
  • Compliance issues

Ways to mitigate shadow IT

The following policies will give a brief view of how problems of shadow IT can be dealt with,

Creating a more robust organization policy

A document that holds all the necessary suggestions for the business is a must. For example, create appropriate and coherent guidelines regarding the use of personal devices and the use of cloud services and third-party applications. By doing so, you can prevent unauthorized enterprise network access.

The best method to minimize the risk of data leaks is by restricting access to third-party applications; also exchange of data between internal applications and cloud products should take place under IT department surveillance.

Use of shadow IT discovery tools

Identifying those applications that are unapproved can help to take necessary steps at the right point of time, thus minimizing possible consequences. Keep an eye on the network to see what’s working and how resources are being used—making use of some special techniques to figure out if any of the employees are using unapproved SaaS applications and cloud solutions.

Making employees aware

Creating awareness amongst employees about the real dangers of unapproved software is one of the most effective ways to mitigate shadow IT risks. It is very rare that employees think about the possible consequences of their activities and think about what potential risks could be. So letting employees know the actual reason for shadow IT prohibitions can reduce the installation of unsanctioned software significantly.

Make tools readily available for employees

The reason behind employees turning to shadow IT in the first place is mostly because of the standard corporate tools that don’t allow employees to work efficiently or comfortably. So giving them an open platform, knowing what their actual needs are, can turn out to be a better solution.

Monitor employee activity

An effective tool can be designed through which information about the software, applications, and web resources of employees’ work can be collected. A study conducted recently can help to understand why people in any corporate organization have moved to use unapproved IT solutions.

Shadow IT as a growing phase

“Shadow IT,” an unauthorized tool, is looked upon as a risk by many IT managers, as they are trying to control the data flow and connection between the system as it can lead to security breaches and data loss.

Nonetheless, IT could take on a new position in the company, embracing and empowering workers to support the emerging software-defined technology environment with a value-added service, rather than being defensive about controlling IT. I don’t think it’s good enough only to be there to help them, but IT needs to work side by side with the employees to create value and influence and allow the organization to work together.

Frequent use of shadow IT in any organization reflects that some services aren’t being fulfilled, and thus employees are trying to meet it through other means. This can be an excellent opportunity to help them. Successful IT departments understand that their function does sometimes shift from application development and writing to governance and orchestration. This requires much greater understanding and priority, and those who have adjusted accordingly ensure business operations are as streamlined and efficient as possible.