What is shadow IT and how does it put your business at risk?

What is shadow IT and how does it put your business at risk?

Shadow IT is the use of non-sanctioned IT-related hardware or software by employees without the knowledge of the IT department or security group within an organization. Shadow IT can encompass cloud services, software, and/or hardware that is intended to circumvent real or perceived shortcomings of centralized information systems.

The main area of risk today results from the rapid adoption of cloud-based services. Users have become comfortable downloading Cloud apps that expand employee capabilities and improve efficiency. However, when a user utilizes shadow IT, significant liability can be created for the company in terms of network control, management and security.
The risks of shadow IT

1. Increased exposure to cyberattacks

Since shadow IT has not been through the usual vetting and security procedures that known IT would encounter prior to approval, it can serve as a possible entry point for malware and other cybersecurity threats. Hackers and other cybercriminals can use shadow IT as a gateway into a network by compromising data and applications thought to be secure. Even when no explicitly nefarious threat is present, seemingly harmless pieces of shadow IT could unknowingly be sharing data or recorded voice calls with external parties, which would infringe upon company privacy policies.

2. Noncompliance

Shadow IT also can violate the standards and regulations for a business and its established network infrastructure. To protect consumers and fair business practices, companies are often subject to more restrictive data privacy rules than private citizens. Often, regulation stipulates that businesses track and manage all pieces of software utilized. Shadow IT has the potential to inadvertently position an organization in violation of regulations, which can result in severe financial penalties and even criminal charges.

3. Complex configuration management

An IT network is like an ecosystem with different entities and processes interacting and affecting one another in numerous, sometimes unexpected ways. To manage and maintain the complex system of connectivity, IT departments often create configuration management databases (CMDBs), encompassing various applications, software and platforms within the network. Because it exists outside known CMDBs, shadow IT can unexpectedly upset the IT ecosystem.

4. Inefficient collaboration

Shadow IT can also obstruct collaboration. Businesses often choose specific platforms for enterprise-wide use to facilitate easy collaboration among team members. For example, file sharing and instant messaging communication can be simplified across departments when a common platform is utilized. If individual users or select teams deploy a different software platform, collaboration can become unnecessarily complex.

5. Poor IT visibility

As shadow IT exists outside the IT network ecosystem, users are unable to benefit from existing IT support. When an issue arises with shadow IT functionality, technical staff will be ill-equipped to diagnose and address a root cause of the problem. Updates that make software incompatible cannot be predicted or managed appropriately.
Dealing with shadow IT

To limit the consequences of having team members utilize shadow IT, Roebuck Technologies recommends the following steps:

1. Establish clear policies and a baseline of acceptable applications

Clearly communicate company-sanctioned applications, systems and platforms, the purposes being served, and how employees can gain access for use. Clear guidelines eliminate the need for employees to seek alternate solutions to problems through shadow IT.

2. Manage unacceptable risks

While shadow IT is likely to exist in most company networks, a detailed risk analysis of the tangible risks posed by existing shadow IT in a network will enable technical resources to take action. Understanding what threats to protect against enables network managers to install defenses and establish a strategy to prevent shadow IT from becoming more prevalent.

3. Develop a plan to fill functionality gaps

When employees turn to unsanctioned software, there is usually a reason. If there is a function performed by shadow IT that cannot be performed by company-approved software, addressing the gap is the best course of action. Employees may identify a superior solution that could improve business processes. What had previously been shadow IT can be adopted and properly integrated into the corporate infrastructure.

4. Partner with a trustworthy MSP

The best way to solve many shadow IT problems is by partnering with a trustworthy managed services provider (MSP). An MSP can efficiently implement solutions, ensuring that teams are fully equipped to perform duties without running the risks posed by shadow IT.

Shadow IT can be an invisible enemy that strikes when your business least expects it. Call Roebuck Technologies now for expert network management and increased security.

Doug Coleman

Doug Coleman

Chief Operating Officer

Doug possesses over 20 years of expertise in corporate finance, information systems, logistics, supply chain management and competitive strategies. He has served in executive management not only for The Roebuck Group, but also Commercial Carrier Corporation, a nationwide transportation and logistics provider. Additionally, he served in senior management at Vology, a global value-added reseller of technology solutions. Doug earned his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Master of Business Administration degrees from the University of Florida as well as a Juris Doctorate degree from Stetson University College of Law.