Man working on laptop against sunny window showing shadow IT

Emerging From the Shadows With Good Shadow IT

Before the cloud, enterprise employees could only use systems or applications sourced and maintained by the designated IT department alongside any licensing, software updates and access rights. These days, unofficial applications and devices can be hidden away from IT professionals by users looking to use these tools to optimize and maximize the output of their operations, and this controversial phenomenon is known as Shadow IT.

Operating without unnecessary oversight

This is not as nefarious as it may initially sound – one of the main reasons an employee may leverage Shadow IT is due to its ability to improve on efficiency. For example, an employee may discover a better marketing tool which helps to streamline existing processes and increase productivity. Such software may then spread to other departments, increasing results across the board. Shadow IT can be beneficial in bypassing approval processes for software and applications which can be a time-consuming venture and allowing employees to quickly get on with the job in hand.

With cloud computing coming to the fore, Shadow IT has become increasingly popular, due to the ease of access to these applications. These are usually much easier to use than traditionally packaged software and can often be extended to employee’s personal devices such as smartphones and laptops. As more and more people bring these to work, and with 25% of all professional workers expected to be working remotely by the end of 2023, Shadow IT makes it easy to maintain high levels of performance no matter where you’re based.

Many IT professionals are also starting to recognise the ability of Shadow IT to maximise operations; IT departments now set aside 40% of its enterprise budget for Shadow IT and this is only going to increase. Yet it’s vital that employees are aware of the potential pitfalls that come with leveraging this growing phenomenon and make sure it remains aligned with the greater goals of the business. As such, there is now a new dimension to the role of an IT professional – identifying and embracing ‘good’ Shadow IT and mitigating the associated risks.

Reducing the risk of Bad Shadow IT

There are some considerations that need to be made in order to do this. Backup and recovery procedures must receive the same attention whether inside or outside the IT department’s control, and as such the employee or department leveraging Shadow IT must ensure enough resources are allocated to carrying out this purpose. If not, businesses run the risk of losing essential data should there be an incident or malicious attack. Not only will this cause financial repercussions to the company, but they may also suffer significant reputational damages as a result.

The levels of control over who is also able to access a resource is another concern. Contractors or employees with privileged access may be able to see, modify or copy specific data which shouldn’t be available to them, whilst employees who have left the business may still have access. This may lead to a rise in credential theft, and with no one monitoring access logs, this may make it easier for hackers to successfully breach a system.

All too often hackers can take advantage of vulnerabilities prevalent in software, and traditionally IT security teams are responsible for the patching of systems, ensuring the testing and application of these to match the seriousness of the threat they face.

Adopting a ‘next generation’ approach

What IT departments must ensure to fully embrace the benefits of Shadow IT is a platform which discovers unsanctioned systems and applications running throughout the organization, and this is where asset management tools prove invaluable. Nothing can fully secure a system, but platforms like the one offered by Holm Security can identify potential risks to help organizations prioritize the assets considered the most vulnerable, down to the individual user level, to provide guidance on the appropriate steps to take.

Many IT professionals are also starting to recognise the ability of #ShadowIT to maximise operations; IT departments now set aside 40% of its enterprise budget for Shadow IT and this is only going to increase. #cybersecurity #respectdataClick to Tweet

Adopting this approach means organizations can leverage Shadow IT without restrictive measures such as ‘Zero Trust’, giving employees the freedom to choose the software their department feels can lead to optimal productivity with minimal risk.