There are multiple external threats when it comes to your network security. These include things like ransomware attacks, phishing, and credential theft. But there are other threats that come from innocent mistakes that can be just as dangerous.
One of these is Shadow IT. This is the use of applications for business processes without going through regular approval channels. For example, a new remote employee may be using their home computer for work and decide to use a task management app on their PC, but that the company is not using.
They may not realize that this use of an unauthorized app for company data is putting their organization’s cybersecurity at risk.
It’s estimated that 1/3 of all successful data breaches are due to use of Shadow IT.
Why do unauthorized applications get used? Here are a few common reasons:
- Employees don’t realize the harm in using an unauthorized app for work
- There is no clear application use policy at a company
- The existing app is too hard to use, so employees find another to use
- There is no company program to suggest applications for approval
- The organization lacks an app a user needs for a task, so they find one on their own
Use of shadow IT can be costly as well as a security risk. It’s estimated that between 20% to 40% of all technology spending happens outside the purview of an enterprise company’s oversight.
Why You Should Get a Handle on Shadow IT
Shadow IT is a Security Breach Risk
Shadow IT is “in the shadows” and out of the view of a company and their IT team or partner. This makes it particularly risky when it comes to cybersecurity. You can have the best managed IT services in Tipton, IN and be monitoring cloud access, but if you don’t know your business data is being used in an unauthorized application, then you don’t know how to protect it there.
Business data could be breached for any number of reasons in shadow IT, including:
- An employee doesn’t set proper security (MFA, etc.)
- Application has poor security to begin with
- The employee isn’t applying software patches to the app
- Employee abandons the app, but doesn’t remove sensitive company data
Data Loss With No Backup
It’s important to back up all your business data, including data that is in cloud platforms. If an employee is entering business data in an application without your knowledge, then it’s not being included in any business backup plan.
Say that your network gets infected with ransomware. All connected computers, including that employee’s, have their data scrambled. Because that employee was syncing with a shadow IT app in the cloud, the data in that application gets infected and scrambled as well.
Luckily, you have a full backup copy of your business data to restore… that is except for the data the employee stored in the unapproved cloud application. That data is now lost for good, or its loss may cause you to have to pay an expensive ransom if it’s important enough.
You Can End Up with Compliance Penalties
If you have to adhere to any data privacy regulations, like GDPR or HIPAA, then having sensitive customer or employee data stored in an unauthorized app can cause big problems.
You can work hard to ensure all your systems are compliant with pertinent regulations, but if there’s app use that you don’t even know about, it’s going to be completely outside your compliance program, and you could potentially suffer a breach of information and high penalties as a result.
What’s the Best Way to Address Shadow IT?
When you address the use of shadow IT at your company, it’s important to remember that it’s usually not done maliciously. Employees may just be trying to be more productive. So, approach it as a security concern that you need everyone’s help to solve.
Here are some steps to take to root out shadow IT and stop its use in the future:
- Send employees a survey about app usage (what they use, what they like, what they don’t like, what they need).
- Review surveys to find uses of shadow IT and also to find authorized apps that you might need to replace if employees are consistently giving them bad reviews.
- If you can, use a cloud app security broker (like Microsoft Cloud App Security) to locate uses of shadow IT not listed in the surveys.
- Update your application use as needed based upon employee input (replacing unpopular apps, etc.).
- Create a cloud use policy that lets employees know they can’t use apps that are unapproved, so no one makes an innocent mistake because they didn’t know better.
- Create a way for employees to suggest applications they’d like to use. This gives them a voice in their work tools. Even if the app isn’t approved for use, at least they’ll know it was considered.
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