In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, technology plays a pivotal role in the success of organizations. While the IT department strives to maintain control over the technological infrastructure, a parallel phenomenon known as Shadow IT has emerged.
Shadow IT not only has the potential to expose an enterprise to significant risk but also can drive disruption and disasters.
What is Shadow IT?
Shadow IT refers to the use of unauthorized hardware, software, applications, or technology solutions by employees without the explicit knowledge or approval of the IT department. This can be for use within the organizations or outside and include activities right from communication to software development.
Shadow IT typically arises from employees’ (mostly remote workers) desire for increased autonomy and productivity. It has been observed that in many enterprises, users are configuring their personal Dropbox accounts, USB drives, meeting apps, or project management software, without formal IT department approval.
In short, an unsanctioned asset gets installed & used by the authorized users in corporate network.
There may be many reasons! maybe a slower response time from the IT department to resolve the problem or a lengthy process of approvals that affects their project timelines, to implement productivity tools or applications, or weak authentications on their devices mainly BYOD. Let’s understand that such technological practices that occur are mostly outside the purview of the IT department & often driven by a lack of awareness about the potential risks associated with unofficial technology adoption.
Risk of Shadow IT
Shadow IT introduces vulnerabilities in the organization’s security framework. Unofficial software may lack necessary security measures, increasing the likelihood of data breaches or Unauthorized access to sensitive information. shadow IT activities could even compromise existing security software antivirus software & intrusion detection systems.
When Shadow IT activities are occurring, (accidentally or intentionally) there are major chances to introduce malicious code into your production systems.
Data tampering: With Shadow IT, unauthorized, malicious access to the production system may arise the risk of data loss, information theft & modification of your critical data, which leads to data disasters.
Compliance violations: Industries such as governments, healthcare, BFSI, telecom, etc have stringent regulatory requirements regarding data privacy, storage, and usage.
Shadow IT often operates outside these regulations, exposing the organization to legal consequences. Shadow IT activities could create major problems such as system failures which result in out-of-compliance conditions.
Controlling Shadow IT Risks
The requirement for employee-appropriate controls is very essential and applying controls is not a one-time activity, it’s a continuous process of making policies, and building healthy support culture within the organization followed by effective monitoring, regular assessment & audit.
You can adapt several strategies & implement certain controls to address the threat related to Shadow IT within their environment like;
Shadow IT policy: Create a shadow IT policy that aligns with business objectives and supports security requirements.
IT Service Delivery – Management ensures to have a culture of a strong and supportive relationship between the IT team and end users.
Administration: Explicitly assign User and data access control. Users must not be able to freely install or adopt new applications, tools, or software on their own. This control implementation must be followed by a systematic assessment to ensure their existence in the system.
Monitoring: Employ user behavior analytics tools to analyze network traffic and identify patterns that indicate the presence of unauthorized software or applications. DLP solutions can help monitor network traffic, detect anomalies, and identify potential instances of Shadow IT.
Data control: Establishing strong end-point controls to monitor and restrict data sharing by end users. You can use solutions that monitor communication channels, such as email and instant messaging platforms, which can help identify the usage of unapproved collaboration tools.
Education: Create awareness campaigns to educate employees about the potential risks of using unauthorized technology. Encourage them to seek IT department approval before adopting new tools or software.
Regular Assessment: Conduct periodic assessments & audits of software and applications used within the organization to identify any unsanctioned or unapproved technology solutions.
Shadow IT is a growing problem for organizations. While the intentions behind Shadow IT often revolve around improving productivity and efficiency, it introduces serious threats and numerous risks to organizations.
By nurturing open communication culture, end users’ education about the risks & providing them a secure yet easy way to get the required IT resources, organizations can mitigate the Shadow IT risks & ensure a secure and controlled technology landscape.