You’ll be pleased to know that Shadow IT isn’t as shadowy as it sounds. Simply put, it refers to any IT system, application, or device used within an organization without the formal knowledge or approval of the IT department. While it may sound innocuous, it harbors underlying risks that can affect an organization’s security, compliance, and governance.
Shadow IT refers to the use of software, hardware, or IT resources within an organization that operate without the knowledge or approval of the IT team. This could be as simple as employees using personal Dropbox accounts or thumb drives for file sharing, or as complex as using personal mobile and laptop devices on the enterprise network.
What makes up Shadow IT?
- Unsanctioned Software: Employees downloading and using software without approval.
- Personal Devices: Use of personal smartphones, tablets, or laptops for work purposes.
- Cloud Services: Unauthorized use of cloud storage or services.
- External Collaboration Tools: Sharing of company data through non-approved channels.
Shadow IT operates outside the awareness and protection of the IT team, leaving any vulnerabilities unaddressed and making it a prime target for adversaries.
What is Shadow IT and why should businesses care
The risks associated with Shadow IT are not to be taken lightly. It increases the likelihood of a data breach, with the average cost of a data breach in a U.S company being around $9.4 million. Furthermore, Shadow IT can lead to increased exposure, data insecurity, non-compliance with regulations such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR, and can even hinder business efficiencies. It’s a sobering fact that eight in ten organizations have fallen victim to a Shadow IT compromise within the last year.
Despite these risks, the usage of Shadow IT has been on the rise, fueled by easy access to SaaS-based platforms and the shift to remote work. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Shadow IT also brings with it certain benefits, including increased agility, flexibility, and streamlining of IT assets.
The foremost concern with Shadow IT is its ability to expose the organization to a myriad of security threats. When employees use unsanctioned applications, they bypass the company’s security protocols, potentially leading to breaches or malware infections.
To enhance your experience with this concept, consider that most organizations need to follow specific regulatory guidelines. Shadow IT can inadvertently lead to non-compliance, resulting in fines or legal actions.
Shadow IT also interferes with an organization’s ability to budget and plan for IT expenditures. Lack of visibility can lead to duplicate spending or inefficiencies that hurt the bottom line.
Navigating through the Shadows: Solutions and Strategies
To mitigate the risks associated with Shadow IT, organizations can implement strategies such as aligning identified Shadow IT with standard IT security protocols, implementing attack surface management solutions, and using cloud access security brokers. By understanding the risks and benefits of Shadow IT and implementing appropriate security measures, organizations can harness the advantages while mitigating the vulnerabilities.
- Identify the Existence: Utilize technology to discover unsanctioned devices and software.
- Educate the Users: Create awareness about the potential risks and provide guidelines.
- Create Approval Mechanisms: Set up a streamlined process for approving and monitoring software or devices.
- Implement Security Measures: Make sure all devices comply with the organization’s security protocols, even if they’re personal.
A major corporation that faces challenges with Shadow IT needs to recognize the phenomenon within its ranks, and implement strong measures to curtail unsanctioned technology use, thereby strengthening its security posture.
Shadow IT is not something to be ignored or overlooked. Its presence within an organization can lead to various risks that affect not only the security but also the integrity and financial health of the enterprise. By being vigilant and proactive, it’s possible to navigate these murky waters.
Understanding Shadow IT is vital for modern businesses. By acknowledging its presence and taking decisive steps, organizations can not only mitigate risks but also capitalize on the innovative spirit that often drives employees to utilize these unsanctioned tools. Remember, awareness is the first step towards control, so equip yourself with the knowledge and take action today.
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