Cisco reports that over 80% of employees in organisations use Shadow IT. Although it sounds like the protagonist in a cyber spy thriller, Shadow IT is actually more than likely surrounding you every day you’re at work. What is this mysteriously cryptic force? And why is it such a pervasive threat to organisations in Australia and around the world? Read on as we throw light onto the murkiness surrounding Shadow IT!
What is Shadow IT?
Shadow IT is the use of IT hardware or software by a person or department within an organisation, without the knowledge of their IT department or security management. Most organisations have whitelisted apps, cloud services, software that employees are permitted to use. Shadow IT is when employees use anything IT related that falls outside of what is permitted by the IT department.
Basically, if an employee is using something for company tasks that management or the IT department isn’t aware of, it’s Shadow IT. As the ease and accessibility of programs and apps has spread, so too has the reach of Shadow IT into an organisation. Often, the employee isn’t even aware of the danger they’re creating!
Let’s take a look at a few examples of ways in which Shadow IT can enter your workplace.
Shadow IT Examples
Third party apps, software and services are the biggest culprits when it comes to Shadow It entering your company. Here are a few examples:
Cloud Services: An employee might start using a personal Dropbox or Google Drive account for sharing and editing company documents.
Communication Tools: Communicating company information or data using unsanctioned messaging apps like Skype, Whatsapp, Zoom or Slack is an example of Shadow IT.
Software Downloads: A team member may opt for downloading and using software they’re familiar with rather than using the programs sanctioned by your business.
Personal Devices: Connecting personal smartphones and laptops to the company network without having them vetted is a definite threat to organisational security.
What often happens is that employees use applications in their personal lives, and inadvertently bring them into the workplace. It’s difficult for IT departments to monitor this and manage those devices, especially considering the ready availability and ease-of-use of things like productivity apps and the various social media or communication platforms.
What Are the Risks of Shadow IT?
The ironic thing is employees will be using Shadow IT for the benefits it provides, without thinking about potential security risks to the company. Some of those risks could include:
Security Vulnerabilities and Loss of IT Control: Unauthorized apps and services may not meet the standard security protocols of your company. Plus, if the IT department isn’t aware of their existence, security vulnerabilities won’t be addressed and fixed.
Data Insecurity: If employees use non-sanctioned platforms to store and transmit data, the company is at risk of data breaches. Also, data stored in the Shadow IT apps and devices won’t be backed up with data on official IT infrastructure.
Compliance Problems: There are numerous sets of standards and regulations relating to cybersecurity, data breaches and the processing of personal information. There’s a good chance Shadow IT won’t comply with them, which could lead to fines or legal action.
Integration Challenges: The primary IT systems haven’t been tried and tested with the Shadow IT that finds its way into your business, which will lead to integration issues. This can cause disrupted functionality, obstructed workflows and business inefficiencies.
Are There any Benefits to Shadow IT?
Although it poses risks, Shadow IT hasn’t emerged out of a malicious place. It shows that end users want to be more agile and efficient and are willing and able to take matters into their own hands to achieve that. Banning it entirely is extremely difficult, so many business leaders chose to work with it and try and embrace the benefits it offers. These include:
Innovation: Employees and their businesses will improve capabilities with the adoption of new technology on a regular basis.
Agility: Teams can respond more readily to changes in the business landscape. You don’t want to get left behind using outdated tech.
Efficiency: IT functionality can become a whole lot more streamlined when team members self-identify what tech works for them in their role.
By implementing an effective hybrid strategy of Shadow IT and sanctioned software and hardware, businesses can maintain control whilst enjoying the above efficiencies. The trick lies in doing that strategy the right way! That’s where a managed service provider like Smile IT comes in.
Contact Smile IT, the Cybersecurity Experts
You want to maintain your company’s data and security, yet also be open to the innovative solutions Shadow IT offers. We get that, and we’re here to help you safely walk the line walk the line between innovation and cybersecurity. Smile IT will reduce risks and ensure security while fostering an environment where your IT infrastructure grows in the right direction!
Smile IT ‘Shield Plan’ holders can request a complete inventory of application used within their network. This inventory also identifies the risk rating of each application and the frequency of its use, providing complete visibility around the application risks within your organisation.
Come out of the shadows and into the light of solid, progressive and secure managed IT services… speak to a cybersecurity expert at Smile IT today!
When he’s not writing tech articles or turning IT startups into established and consistent managed service providers, Peter Drummond can be found kitesurfing on the Gold Coast or hanging out with his family!