Beware of Shadow IT

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Are you familiar with shadow IT? If not, it’s an important aspect of cybersecurity to be aware of. Shadow IT refers to the applications, systems, software, and other technology tools that your business uses without official approval from your organization’s IT department. Because businesses cannot protect technology they are not aware of, business are more exposed to cybersecurity threats.

As you can imagine, cybercriminals love shadow IT — it makes accessing and compromising business data even easier. This is because shadow IT is often not adequately protected, if at all. Plus, with more organizations allowing their teams to work remotely, use cloud-based applications, and use their own devices for work, this puts them even more at risk. Don’t believe us? Here’s a statistic that might surprise you: the average company uses 1,083 cloud services, but the IT department only knows about 108 of them. Now is the time to get serious about shadow IT.

What can you do to control shadow IT within your organization and prevent potential cybersecurity risks from occurring? Continue reading to learn more.

Examples of Shadow IT

To understand where shadow IT may be hiding in your organization, let’s discuss common examples of shadow IT that are often overlooked within many organizations:

  • File Sharing Applications: With common examples such as Google Drive and Dropbox, free cloud-based file sharing applications can pose security risks if not properly protected.
  • Hardware: The use of personal laptops, mobile phones, and other smart devices exposes organizations to more cybersecurity threats.
  • Communication Systems: Many organizations utilize a variety of chat systems to communicate effectively. How do you know if those applications are secure – especially if they’re free? These become easy targets for determined hackers.

Shadow IT Risks and Challenges

With Gartner finding that one third of successful cyber attacks experienced by enterprises were due to their shadow IT, it’s important to understand the challenges and risks shadow IT brings. While risks will vary depending on your organization and industry, some common ones include:

  • Security Issues: Because shadow IT hasn’t been properly vetted by an experienced IT department, it leaves gaps in your security posture. This leaves your organization more exposed to data breaches and other liabilities, particularly when it comes to unprotected file sharing applications.
  • Compliance Problems: Many organizations must follow proper regulations and standards to protect themselves and the communities they serve. However, shadow IT prevents organizations from properly documenting the software they use. Undocumented software can lead to serious consequences such as expensive fines or jail time.
  • Inefficient Workflows: If software usage varies from department to department, collaboration becomes inefficient and challenging. For example, one team may be using Google Drive for file sharing, while the other uses Dropbox. Think of how much time (and money!) you could save by streamlining your file sharing services.

Ways to Reduce Shadow IT Risks

While it may seem like a daunting task to completely reduce your organization’s use of shadow IT, there are a few key ways to reduce your risk and properly manage shadow IT:

  • Know Where Your Data Is Stored: Conduct a review of your data storage to properly determine what you need to stay protected. This is also an important time to consider back-up and recovery services in the event a breach does occur.
  • Establish Clear Policies: While overseeing and monitoring new applications takes time, it’s important to establish clear policies within your organization so your team feels comfortable seeking out and requesting new technologies from your IT department.
  • Develop a Multi-Layered Security Posture: While no defense is 100% guaranteed, having multiple layers of security in place is the best way to protect your organization from any shadow IT threats.

Establishing proper data protection, creating an open relationship with your IT department, and developing the right security approach are not easy things to do. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it alone — with Varsity, you’ll have a team of IT experts by your side every step of the way. Varsity offers a host of security solutions, managed IT services, and managed cloud services to gain control over your shadow IT. Read more about us or contact us today. We look forward to customizing the best security solution for your organization.