When employees use unapproved devices and software, they create information security vulnerabilities. Here’s a look at some of the biggest shadow IT problems and how to overcome them.
Unveiling the Shadow IT Problems Enterprises Try to Hide
Shadow IT, using technology solutions not approved by the enterprise IT department, may seem convenient, but it can bring serious security, compliance, and operational issues to the forefront. The following are some of the shadow IT problems that enterprises need to address:
- Increased likelihood of vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and policy violations going undetected.
- Data stored in personal accounts may become lost or inaccessible. If an employee resigns or is fired, they could still have access to the cloud assets, whereas the organization may lose access to those assets.
- Data theft may happen as shadow IT increases the likelihood of an attack surface. Shadow IT assets are not protected by the organization’s cybersecurity solutions, because they are not visible to the IT or cybersecurity teams.
- Organizations often lose money through Shadow IT’s indirect costs, such as noncompliance fines and penalties, reputational damage in the case of a breach, or timely IT support if and when the service needs to be migrated or de-provisioned.
Shadow IT Problems Enterprises Need to Solve
- Visibility and Control: Shadow IT, by definition, exists outside the scope of IT security, increasing the likelihood that vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and policy violations will go undetected.
- Data Loss: Another issue with shadow IT is that data or other assets stored in personal accounts are inaccessible to others in the organization. If an employee resigns or is fired, they could still have access to the cloud assets, whereas the organization may lose access to those assets.
- Data Theft: While data loss is a major concern for businesses, data theft may pose an even greater risk. Every case of shadow IT increases the organization’s attack surface. Shadow IT assets are not protected by the organization’s cybersecurity solutions, such as endpoint detection and response (EDR), next-generation antivirus (NGAV), or threat intelligence services, because they are not visible to the IT or cybersecurity teams. Furthermore, shadow IT services are typically created with weak or default credentials or are misconfigured, all of which can be exploited by cybercriminals and used as a gateway into the organization’s larger corporate network.
Shadow IT may violate various regulations, standards, and laws, resulting in fines, lawsuits, and reputational damage. For example, organizations are required by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to process users’ personal data lawfully, fairly, and transparently. Companies, however, cannot ensure that only authorized employees have access to sensitive data unless they are aware of all of the software used by their employees.
Even though increasing efficiency is one of the reasons many people begin using shadow IT, the chances are that the outcome will be the exact opposite. Before being implemented in the corporate infrastructure, any new technology must be checked and tested by the IT team. This is required to ensure that new software functions properly and that there are no software and hardware conflicts or major failures. The lack of checking and testing of Shadow IT often results in eventual hardware malfunction.
Shadow IT software puts data at risk if any part of the integration is compromised. The severity of this breach increases significantly if users do not install critical software upgrades. With shadow IT, employees are more likely to be unaware of how to upgrade their tools.
When an integrated system is upgraded by IT, a previously unknown application or software may provide a backdoor for an attacker to access the entire database. A breach could result in anything from major disruption to criminal charges for the chief information officer.
Monitoring and Management Difficulties:
Although not straightforward, monitoring and managing difficulties associated with shadow IT can be implemented. First, enterprise needs to establish the right policies and protocols for managing shadow IT activities, such as;
- with HR and legal department assistance, establishing penalties for employees who engage in shadow IT activities;
- updating the existing BYOD (bring your own device) policy to address shadow IT;
- establishing and maintaining a file of evidence on shadow IT activities for future audits and management review; and
- considering deploying shadow IT detection tools.
Enterprises can also mitigate shadow IT problems by:
- Communicate and collaborate: Find out what IT users need. To better understand the actual needs, experiences, and feedback of end users regarding current and required new technologies, make it simple, convenient, and effective for IT departments and IT users to communicate with one another.
- Educate and train: Educate and train users about the dangers of shadow IT and how the organization can help them meet their technology needs without having to stray from the established governance procedures. Employees who are security-conscious and who share the organization’s vision for IT security are more likely to comprehend the dangers of shadow IT and will be encouraged to find suitable solutions to meet their technological needs.
- Streamline governance: Create an IT governance structure that encourages innovation through the application of novel technologies that are swiftly identified, examined, and provisioned for IT users. Maintain a balance between the need to enforce policies and the freedom to develop and adapt to end users’ changing IT needs.
Examples of Shadow IT Problems Unaddressed
Shadow IT Security Threats
Perhaps the most important IT operations issue today is dealing with cybersecurity breaches. As shadow IT activities may involve using unauthorized systems, security gaps such as breaks in firewalls could occur. Internal shadow IT activities could compromise existing security software such as virus detection or security equipment such as intrusion detection systems.
Shadow IT Tech Threats
A number of IT tech threats can emerge, such as anomalous network activities, unexpected purchases, data and workload migrations, IT usage patterns, and other indicators of shadow IT practices. To overcome such threats, enterprises can deploy technology solutions to monitor IT tech threats:
- Review on-premises web filtering logs and configuration management databases to unearth shadow IT instances.
- Partner with Accounting to flag suspicious IT-related purchases.
How to Avoid Shadow IT Problems and Tech Threats
If constantly monitoring and managing shadow IT problems and tech threats is beyond your enterprise’s capacity, learn how Olive can help streamline the process:
1. Step out of the shadow — Get Full Visibility:
Shadow IT is becoming more common. It’s a remote employee using a free cloud tool to complete a one-time task, or it’s onboarding contractors and vendors because your roadmap’s demands are outpacing security procedures. Shadow IT is pervasive, but it is essentially invisible to IT. To enable secure digital transformation, your organization requires full visibility into sanctioned and unsanctioned cloud activity, app and vendor details, usage trends, and risk profiles. Olive prevents shadow IT by allowing for everyone to have visibility and provide input on vendor evaluations. Our user-friendly platform ensures all departments’ needs are considered by utilizing easy-to-build surveys and inviting key stakeholders to collaborate in the platform.
2. Analyze the Risk
Gaining visibility isn’t enough; the real value is in your ability to analyze risk factors and trends in your organization’s Shadow IT:
- Identify high-risk apps and app categories used within your organization.
- Obtain vendor compliance and certification status.
- Monitor the volume of requests to existing and new apps to manage app sprawl.
- Use a combination of vendor- and app-specific attributes to evaluate app risk levels.
- Utilize category-based reports, user data, and risk scores to improve optimization and enhance decision-making processes.
Olive reduces the risks of shadow IT by allowing everyone to see and provide feedback on vendor evaluations, enhancing the decision-making process. Our platform also aligns with department needs by using simple surveys and inviting key stakeholders to collaborate on the platform.
3. Optimize and Secure
While Shadow IT makes your employees’ jobs easier, it also makes it easier for attackers to do theirs. Using shadow IT resources such as cloud storage applications can increase the risk of malware infections. Furthermore, insufficient security, combined with a lack of legal and regulatory compliance, makes sensitive data more susceptible to theft.
If you’re looking for ways to enhance your cloud malware detection but don’t know which software vendors to try, let Olive help you out. Olive helps teams collaborate on requirements management, vendor comparison, due diligence and solution selection. It’s more innovative, collaborative, and accurate than RFI/RFQ (asking questions or asking for information) or RFP (identifying use cases and asking for a proposal on how to solve them). Find the right vendor and improve your data protection when Shadow IT concerns are causing you to lose sleep.