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What is Shadow IT and What Can You Do to Prevent It?


Some organizations have a strict policy against the use of shadow IT, while others take a more relaxed stance. Either way, it's important to be aware of the risks associated with shadow IT and take steps to prevent its use in your organization.

What Is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT refers to any software or hardware that is not approved by the organization's IT department. It can include everything from unauthorized applications and devices to cloud services and storage.

Shadow IT can pose a number of risks to an organization, including security vulnerabilities, data breaches, and compliance issues. Additionally, shadow IT can make it difficult for the IT department to manage and support the organization's technology infrastructure.

Why is Shadow IT a Common Practice?

While shadow IT is risky, there are many reasons why it may be allowed. Here are a few:

To increase productivity

Employees often regard an organization's IT solutions to be ineffective. Workers adopt new technology that makes their tasks more manageable and produces better results. Another factor is that each employee has their own favoured programs and services, which they may prefer over the solutions offered by their IT department.

To carry out malicious activities

Some employees use unauthorized software to steal data, access private information, or pose threats to the company.

Examples of Shadow IT

Employees are experimenting with online services to manage teamwork better, collaborate with co-workers, and increase productivity. Here are some common examples of shadow IT practices:

  1. Employees exchange work-related information using tools like Trello, Asana, and Zoom

  2. Employees exchange files, folders, and screenshots via individual Dropbox and Google Drive accounts.

  3. Employees share company documents, information, and login passwords on unsafe messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, or Telegram.

How Can Shadow IT Pose a Threat to Your Organization?

Every company has data that need to be protected. This is especially important for regulated industries like healthcare, law, or finance. When data is mishandled or falls into the wrong hands, it can lead to compliance issues and hefty fines. For example, if an employee stores confidential client information on an unapproved cloud service and it's accessed by a third party, the company could be fined for violating data privacy laws. Similarly, if IT teams don't know where all the data is stored, they won't be able to determine whether client data is in danger.

Another factor to consider is data loss. If an employee who has used shadow IT methods leaves an organization that information may be lost for good.

IT teams may not know the applications or login information they used and won't be able to access the data.

Minimizing Shadow IT Risk

Here are four strategies you can employ to mitigate the risk of shadow IT: 

  1. Open communication channels:

    Make it easy, practical, and efficient for IT departments and users to communicate with one another to learn more about the needs of your employees.

  2. Educate your employees:

    Users should be made aware of the dangers posed by shadow IT and how the company may help them meet their technological needs without circumventing established governance procedures. In organizations with a strong IT security vision, employees who understand the dangers of shadow IT are more likely to find suitable solutions.

  3. Offer alternatives:

    Employees want to do their tasks in the best and simplest way possible. Therefore, businesses must look toward safe alternatives that give workers "anytime, anywhere access." 

  4. Monitor your network:

    Organizations must understand where their data is located. Through continuous system monitoring, IT staff can locate new and unidentified devices in their network. The IT teams must maintain a list of devices and software to monitor new installations regularly. 

Wrapping Up

Shadow IT is a constant risk for all organizations. Using unverified and unauthorized tools may open the company up to data breaches, resulting in financial and reputational losses.  By taking the necessary steps to understand the risks and dangers involved, you can protect your business from data breaches, compliance issues, and other problems.

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