The risks of shadow IT

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2023
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The risks of shadow IT
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Definition of Shadow IT

Shadow IT refers to the use of computer systems, software, applications and services without the approval or control of an organization's IT department. This practice has become commonplace in many companies, as it can often bridge the gap between employees' operational needs and available technological solutions. Shadow IT offers employees the opportunity to adopt tools that meet their specific needs, even outside the framework established by the organization. This flexibility can improve efficiency and productivity within the company, but it can also present risks in terms of security and compliance.

Origin of the term and evolution of the concept

The term "Shadow IT" emerged in the early 2000s when IT departments began to notice that employees were using non-compliant software to perform their tasks more efficiently. This trend accelerated with the arrival of cloud computing and mobile technologies, which made many technological tools accessible without the direct intervention of the company's IT department. The concept has evolved to include not only software and applications, but also the use of any technology, infrastructure or service that escapes the control of traditional IT processes.

How does Shadow IT emerge in companies?

Factors favoring Shadow IT

Factors include the slowness of IT approval processes, the lack of solutions tailored to employees' specific needs, or the ease of access to technologies. These technologies include software such as communication applications, project management platforms, or clouds. Slow bureaucratic processes and the unavailability of agile solutions can drive employees to seek faster, more flexible alternatives to meet their immediate needs. In this quest for fast solutions, employees may resort to shadow IT and external cloud services to bypass bureaucratic hurdles and get the tools they need quickly.

Examples of Shadow IT within an organization

Examples of Shadow IT include the use of instant messaging services such as WhatsApp for team communication, or the adoption of Google Drive for sharing sensitive files without the necessary protections, thus bypassing official solutions such as secure corporate networks or company-approved VPNs. Other examples include personal data processing software, such as spreadsheets to manage sensitive customer information, without appropriate backups. These circumvention practices, including the use of unauthorized cloud services, expose the company to security and compliance risks.

What are the risks of shadow IT for businesses?

Shadow IT can offer advantages in terms of flexibility and efficiency, but it also entails significant risks that can compromise a company's integrity and security. Users may be tempted to use unauthorized applications as part of Shadow IT, which can lead to fragmentation of data and resources, as well as security vulnerabilities.

Shadow IT security risks

Vulnerabilities and potential threats

Shadow IT's main risk is security. Applications and services used without official approval are generally not subject to the same security and compliance tests as authorized tools. This creates gaps in the company's security architecture, which can lead to data breaches. Unmonitored systems can also be vulnerable to external attacks, as they do not benefit from the same security updates and defense protocols as IT-managed systems. This uncontrolled use can lead to a loss of control over sensitive corporate data, compromising the confidentiality and integrity of user data.

Our solutions to overcome these risks

Impact of security breaches on the company

The consequences of such breaches can be disastrous, including loss of sensitive data, damage to corporate reputation, financial costs associated with data breaches and fines for non-compliance. Security incidents can also lead to a loss of confidence on the part of customers and partners, as well as potential disruption to business operations. It is therefore essential for IT departments to put in place robust measures to monitor and control the use of applications and services by end-users, in order to limit the risks associated with Shadow IT.

Impact on IT governance and compliance

Regulatory compliance issues

Using unapproved solutions can lead to violations of various regulations, such as the RGPD, which imposes strict rules on the management and protection of personal data. These violations can not only result in heavy fines, but also costly litigation and increased regulatory scrutiny. It is therefore essential for the IT department to use monitoring and control measures to prevent unauthorized use of IT applications and services.

Difficulties in managing data and IT resources

Shadow IT makes it difficult for IT departments to maintain an accurate inventory of technology resources in use, complicating the management of software licenses, system maintenance and the enforcement of security policies. Technology fragmentation can also lead to operational inefficiencies and increase overall IT costs. What's more, the proliferation of unapproved applications can create additional security risks by introducing unmonitored access points into the corporate network.

How do you combat Shadow IT?

To combat Shadow IT, it's essential to adopt a proactive approach, combining awareness, clear policies, appropriate technologies and active user involvement.

Prevention strategies

Reinforcing IT security policies

It is crucial for companies to develop and maintain clear IT security policies that are regularly communicated to all employees. These policies should include procedures for the approval and acquisition of new technologies. Creating rapid approval processes and clear request channels can help reduce the need for informal solutions.

Employee awareness and training

Educating employees about the risks associated with Shadow IT and company policies is another essential strategy. A clear understanding of the implications of using unapproved technologies can deter employees from resorting to Shadow IT. Regular awareness-raising sessions and updates on security policies can reinforce compliance.

Solutions to counter Shadow IT

When managing Shadow IT, it's crucial to have effective tools that not only detect unauthorized use of technologies, but also offer viable, secure alternatives.

Rapid mapping and risk assessment of the SaaS ecosystem

The first step in effectively combating Shadow IT is to understand the extent and nature of SaaS applications used within the organization. Our solution, rzilient, offers a technology that can map an organization's entire SaaS ecosystem in a matter of seconds, and assess the risks associated with each application. This comprehensive mapping helps companies identify non-compliant uses and potential risks, laying the foundations for secure application management.

Continuous monitoring for compliance

Once the SaaS ecosystem has been mapped, we help you maintain high compliance standards through continuous monitoring. This monitoring ensures that all external applications are used in accordance with current regulations, such as the RGPD, and internal company policies. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of data breaches and associated regulatory penalties.

Find out how to implement these actions

Cost reduction through application management

In addition to the security and compliance benefits, we identify and remove unused or at-risk SaaS applications that generate unnecessary costs. By eliminating these applications, companies can not only reduce their costs, but also focus their resources on tools that deliver real added value.

Written by

Audrey Pogu

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