What is Shadow IT and What Risk Does it Present to Your Business?

Shadow IT

While the digitisation of business operations brings plenty of advantages, it also means getting to grips with new threats. One of these is shadow IT. Essentially, shadow IT is the use of your business’s IT systems, software and applications without approval from your IT department. Here’s some insight into this issue, the risks it presents and what to do about it.

The Risks of Shadow IT

Shadow IT isn’t all bad – in fact, one of the main reasons for engaging in shadow IT by employees is to work more efficiently. This is often the case in organisations where company security policies are so convoluted and time consuming to implement that employees feel it’s simply faster to get the job done on their own, private device or through private email accounts or accounts on software applications like Dropbox or Slack. Where IT approval forms a bottleneck, shadow IT can actually support and improve productivity.

Although shadow IT is not inherently dangerous, it can open up businesses to significant risks – if your IT department isn’t aware of an application or device, it can’t be sure it’s secure. These risks include:

  • Data loss – Data on shadow IT applications and devices are not subjected to organisational data backup and recovery processes, so once this data is lost on a personal device or app, it is permanently lost. This could easily occur if a personal laptop or smartphone is stolen, lost or damaged, or an account compromised if that person does not have their own secure backup system in place.
  • Data breach – Similarly, personal accounts and devices not registered on the IT system may not have the same level of security as official devices on your network. If they are targeted by a malicious attack from a hacker, malware or a virus, the consequences can be severe. Not only can organisational data on that device be compromised, the device can be a source for a malicious attack on your entire system when it accesses your network.
  • Inefficiency –Despite often turning to shadow IT to make work more efficient, inefficiencies can easily result. In a professionally designed and maintained network, all software is selected and optimised in line with workflow to create the most efficient system possible. When using other applications and software on shadow IT, you might make your task faster, but create a bottleneck downstream or a single point of failure.
  • Security updates – As a managed IT services provider, we know that most updates and patches are critical because they fix security vulnerabilities in the system. But most people are more relaxed when it comes to their own personal devices, putting off security and software updates because they take up your time and can be frustrating. This means that the software and applications on shadow IT devices do not often have the same level of security as devices maintained on the network, creating vulnerabilities within the system when they connect.

How to Counter These Risks

Since BOYD (Bring Your Own Device) and shadow IT isn’t going to go away, it’s essential that organisations learn about the threats it presents and develops a way to mitigate them, from educating employees and formalising BYOD policies to streamlining current policies and monitoring unsanctioned applications. This is not about becoming Big Brother, but finding a middle ground where both the IT department and users win.

Strategies for countering shadow IT risks include:

  • Educating your staff – Include best practices for using personal devices and shadow IT into your training and education programs to minimise risks from human error and poor personal data security. Not only are you helping your staff better understand IT risks in the workplace, you are helping to better protect their own personal data on their devices.
  • Stay up-to-date – IT security threats and best practices are constantly evolving as the landscape changes, so it’s important to stay current with the latest security best practices and governance in order to implement effective security from the top down.
  • Find a partner – Managing an internal IT department can be overwhelming in a small or medium sized business, with the costs and the demand to stay current quickly getting out of control. It is often more cost-effective and more productive to partner with a managed IT services provider who can meet these constantly changing needs at an affordable and predictable monthly cost.

Let Our Managed It Services Team Take Care of Your IT Needs

When IT is not your core business, it shouldn’t be taking up a huge proportion of your resources, time and effort. Instead, outsource your IT needs to a partner that has the resources and expertise to deliver these services affordably. At Milan Industries, we work with small and medium sized business across Australia, delivering affordable IT services that boost efficiency, secure your data and allow you to get back to what you do best.

Contact us today for more information on our cloud computing solutions, business continuity and disaster recovery solutions, managed hosting services, and more.

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