What is shadow IT and how can you manage it?

What is shadow IT and how can you manage it?

The term “shadow IT” may not sound out of place in a spy movie, but it refers to a very real issue that poses actual risks to your company. If you want to protect your data from cyberthreats, it is critical that you identify and limit the prevalence of shadow IT within your organization.

What is shadow IT?

Shadow IT pertains to IT systems, software, hardware, and services being used within your organization that were not vetted or approved by your company. An example of this is an instant messaging app your employees installed on their computers without your consent and use to exchange work-related data.

The intent behind shadow IT isn’t necessarily malicious. It could be that your employees merely prefer a better or more familiar alternative to the solutions currently implemented by your company. In fact, some studies argue that using tools your employees like and are familiar with can help boost their productivity and performance.

But these benefits come with major drawbacks. First, having your staff use disparate IT solutions can lead to disorganization and create compatibility issues. Moreover, different tools have different vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit to steal crucial business information. These different vulnerabilities can leave many gaps in your company’s cybersecurity strategy, increasing your business’s risk of suffering a data breach or cyberattack.

Different tools have different vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit to steal crucial business information.

How can you effectively manage shadow IT?

The internet and the cloud have made it easier for your employees to obtain the tools they need without your knowledge. You can manage this practice and the risks that come with it by following these tips:

1. Investigate the issue

The first thing you need to do is find out if shadow IT exists in your organization and how prevalent the issue is. Determine all the possible solutions and hardware that house business data, including your employees’ personal devices if they use their gadgets to perform their tasks. Monitor any unknown devices connected to your network. Additionally, examine log data from proxies, firewalls, and other sources to keep track of cloud solutions being used in your organization without your approval.

Do not stop with just uncovering the issue, however — understand the reasons behind it. Inquire about the factors that make shadow IT solutions and services better than the ones your company has.

2. Classify the risks

Some of the tools and solutions used in shadow IT aren’t as dangerous as others. Create a list of all unvetted solutions and classify them by risk level, dealing with the most dangerous ones first. For instance, an unsanctioned third-party cloud storage platform is likely more dangerous than memo apps, so it needs to be addressed prior to the latter.

3. Develop bring your own device (BYOD) guidelines

You should establish BYOD guidelines that include some of the shadow IT solutions your employees are already using. For example, you can allow your staff to use their personal smartphones or productivity apps of choice. This is especially crucial if you have remote workers in your team, many of whom use their own laptop and internet connection to do their jobs.

Needless to say, ensure that these devices and tools are secure and compatible with your current IT solutions. You must also have measures in place to ensure that your data remains secure. In the case of personal laptops, for instance, you can require their owners to create a separate user account for work-related tasks. You can then install additional security measures, such as endpoint protection software and role-based access controls, on these work accounts.

4. Educate your employees

If you uncovered shadow IT in your organization or you're implementing a BYOD setup, you have to educate your employees on cybersecurity best practices and the dangers of shadow IT. It's best that they undergo training under experts like Quicktech's cybersecurity specialists. Just get in touch with Quicktech to inquire about security and awareness training to get started.

Finally, make sure your employees know the process they need to follow to have their devices vetted by your IT department.

Shadow IT is dangerous and must be managed effectively. At Quicktech, we can offer recommendations on how to address the issue and keep your data — and your company — secure.

Learn what solutions you need to protect your data by downloading this free eBook today.

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