Unknown software used by workers presents a security hurdle
Do you remember when you were on your school computer and the network put up blocks on websites that weren’t education related? And to get around them you’d look for workarounds, be it different websites or, by today’s standards, certain apps? Funny as it is, that’s a juvenile example of Shadow IT, a problem creating numerous safety issues within an IT network.
Shadow IT is when non-authorized and/or third-party programs are implemented as workarounds to policy. Or, sometimes, they’re used to address tasks but not originally permitted by the business. While at first glance it doesn’t seem like a problem, Shadow IT can build up fast and create layers upon layers of cybersecurity issues.
Why does Shadow IT happen?
Primarily, Shadow IT appears out of a desire for convenience. If users work remotely and like to conduct work operations with the use of phones, mobile devices, and personal laptops, they likely will. They’re not trying to make a business unsafe, but it’s inherent to using apps and devices which aren’t originally approved for company use.
The rise and implementation of remote work also created more Shadow IT “infrastructure,” since those working from home were likelier to use devices they were familiar with.
Shadow IT isn’t happening in my neck of the woods, is it?
Realistically, yes, Shadow IT is occurring within your own infrastructure and network. Whether it’s out of convenience or to circumvent approval permissions, those in IT will take advantage of what’s familiar, or, seek to make their workflow easier. And, while it’s understandable to look for efficient new ways of handling tasks, the issue is about risk, and how multiple unknown software platforms create a web of attack surfaces and other potential problems.
Risks of Shadow IT
It isn’t just speculative, Shadow IT creates real, problematic risk factors to the table.
Problem resolution complications
IT teams and cybersecurity experts seek to resolve problems when they crop up. But, they perform this on a knowledge basis – in other words, running on the assumption the business is using registered software. With Shadow IT, if there are problems, IT staff either won’t know about it, or can’t resolve it since it’s unverified.
Massive increase to security risk factors
When you don’t know about software used to perform business operations, it’s a security variable. An unknown adding another attack surface. As mentioned, an unknown is something that can’t be addressed or resolved, not until it’s too late.
Also, Shadow IT means users are potentially risking business sensitive data on the job, whether they intended to or not.
Solving the Shadow IT problem
Easier said than done, right? Realistically, it’s challenging to totally prevent the growth of Shadow IT. The best thing enterprises can do is educate their staff on the dangers involved with Shadow IT, while also introducing ways to integrate their preferred software into business platforms. Shadow IT is the result of looking for workarounds, and that will always be the case. Even if you stop the use of some programs, that doesn’t address the root issue.
Trying to figure out the Shadow IT issue isn’t easy, though it’s not impossible.