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An Overview Of Shadow IT In Cybersecurity

By Tom Seest

What Is Shadow IT In Cybersecurity?

Shadow IT refers to any software or service utilized by employees that aren’t authorized by an organization’s IT department. This could include cloud storage services, software as a service (SaaS), and file-sharing apps.
Shadow IT is often employed to spur innovation, cut costs, or meet business requirements that cannot be satisfied by current IT solutions. Unfortunately, shadow IT also presents numerous security risks which should never be overlooked.

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What Is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT refers to any technical solutions or applications employed by employees of an organization that is not under the control or oversight of an IT department. While these tools may be seen as shortcuts that make jobs faster and simpler for employees, they can pose major security, compliance, and data privacy risks for organizations.
Cloud-based services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive are attractive to many employees due to their ability to share files conveniently from anywhere and on any device. Plus, some even provide free tiers which make them ideal for users who require on-the-go access to files.
These services are often utilized with the best of intentions by employees, yet it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks. Not only can these apps compromise sensitive corporate data, but they could also serve as a gateway for cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to a company’s network and systems.
To avoid these issues, it’s essential to create a comprehensive policy regarding Shadow IT within your company. This should include informing all employees about both the risks and advantages associated with using these technologies. Furthermore, ensure that any new apps requested by employees or departments must go through approval first.
Another way to prevent shadow IT is to have a list of approved vendors accessible to employees and departments. This will make it simpler for them to select apps that adhere to your company’s policies while being risk-free to use.
Your IT department will benefit from being less overburdened with requests each day, and employees won’t feel the need to circumvent security controls in order to access the technology necessary for their job.
Finally, creating an IT governance structure that promotes innovation through the rapid adoption of new technologies can help mitigate the risks associated with shadow IT. This approach requires user-centric policies that balance security requirements while providing flexibility to grow with your business.

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What Are the Risks Of Shadow IT In Cybersecurity?

Shadow IT refers to software, devices, and applications used without explicit approval from the company IT department. This practice violates many compliance guidelines and poses a major security threat to an organization’s IT infrastructure.
Employees may opt for shadow IT for various reasons. One of them is to work faster and achieve better results using their preferred tools. Another motivation may be the desire to remove obstacles that might impede getting their tasks done.
While these solutions may enable employees to work faster and more efficiently, they also pose security risks. Particularly, they could present significant data security concerns.
One common example is when employees use personal cloud storage services and file-sharing apps without adequate security to protect sensitive information, leading to unintentional data leaks.
Other examples of shadow IT include using personal messengers or email accounts to share files and communicate with colleagues. This practice poses a risk, as it could lead to data breaches, mishandling, and other violations of cybersecurity regulations.
Furthermore, these accounts can serve as a potential entry point for hackers looking to infiltrate company networks. Therefore, having an effective password reset process in place is critical in order to prevent this from occurring.
Some companies can eliminate this risk by implementing Secure Service Desk, which makes it impossible for helpdesk technicians to reset passwords until users have been verified as who they say they are. This zero-trust model helps mitigate employee misuse, including shadow IT.
In some instances, employees may resort to shadow IT in order to bypass the approval process and save time. This may be due to budget restrictions or other issues.
Education employees on the potential risks associated with shadow IT and potential solutions is a wise idea. Doing so will enable them to avoid making costly errors that lead to data leaks and other security breaches.
Another essential consideration is ensuring your IT department has visibility into all applications used at your company. Without this, they cannot support or monitor them effectively, and track which employees are using which solutions making it difficult for them to identify which ones could potentially pose risks and need further investigation or oversight.

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How Can You Manage Shadow IT In Cybersecurity?

Shadow IT refers to software, devices, and services that an organization does not control or have permission for. This type of IT poses a growing concern for businesses due to potential data breaches and other cybersecurity threats.
Employees may feel compelled to use shadow IT when the standard corporate tools do not satisfy their requirements. Furthermore, some solutions provide greater ease of use than others for certain tasks.
Shadow IT can improve productivity, but it also poses certain risks to an organization. The most prominent danger is the potential loss of sensitive data by an employee on a device not managed by IT. Restoring such information from non-IT-managed devices may prove challenging if any security breach has taken place.
If your employees are using unapproved apps and services, it’s essential that they become aware of the potential risks. Doing this can reduce instances of unauthorized usage and raise their awareness of how to keep their devices and data secure.
Another way to manage shadow IT is by creating a policy that clarifies the acceptable uses of personal devices, third-party applications, and cloud services for employees. Doing this helps them become aware of the risks associated with using these resources without authorization and provides them with viable alternatives.
In addition to a policy, IT departments should educate employees on the potential consequences of using unsanctioned technology. Doing this helps them avoid various security issues, such as data loss and non-compliance violations.
IT pros should consider implementing user activity monitoring to monitor employee behavior and determine the extent of shadow IT usage within their company. This will enable them to establish continuous monitoring, identify insecure software, and guarantee employees receive education on cybersecurity best practices.
Monitoring user behavior allows you to detect any potentially malicious activities and prevent the spread of malware or spyware. Furthermore, you may detect shadow IT tools and applications being utilized by your employees and plan for their removal.
Management of shadow IT can be a complex undertaking, yet it’s essential for the security of your company. By setting policies, assessing each instance of usage, and employing automated detection and mitigation techniques, you can reduce your company’s vulnerability to cyberattacks and enhance IT and cybersecurity operations.

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What Can You Do to Manage Shadow IT In Cybersecurity?

Managing Shadow IT requires aligning shadow assets with standard security procedures in order to reduce risks, but it also requires business efficiency. This can often be accomplished through the use of cybersecurity technologies that continuously monitor internet-facing IT assets within an organization and detect, assess, and remediate shadow IT as it is adopted.
The initial step to managing shadow IT is identifying its source, so you can understand why and how it persists. To do this, conduct an extensive review of software usage, including what devices and applications employees are utilizing.
Another way to reduce shadow IT is by streamlining the approval process for new devices and technologies. This could involve implementing an expeditious submission system that enables workers to quickly and easily establish a business case for their use.
IT staff can make an informed decision quickly about whether to adopt a product. Furthermore, this guarantees the tool meets both the business and user requirements.
Organizations can also utilize data security measures to reduce the risks of data breaches, which are a major concern for businesses. Companies can utilize tools that safeguard sensitive information on personal cloud accounts and devices used for transmitting company files.
For instance, a cloud access security broker (CASB) can be utilized to regulate cloud usage within an organization and bind third-party cloud services to security measures like encryption and access control policies.
These technologies offer insight into employee activity and enable IT teams to detect when and how shadow IT is impacting business processes and performance.
Furthermore, a comprehensive security posture management (SPM) program can assist IT teams in detecting and eliminating shadow IT, keeping it under control. The SPM system gives an organization an overview of its IT infrastructure and security posture as well as alerts when critical vulnerabilities are discovered.
To further strengthen their ability to manage shadow IT, organizations can consider deploying cybersecurity technologies like next-generation firewalls (NGFWs), which are capable of detecting and analyzing unauthorized applications. Doing so gives IT and security teams greater insight into the workplace environment, allowing them to better manage risks before they become major issues for the business.

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