Mitigating the Risks of Shadow IT

Nov 20, 2019

Mitigating the Risks of Shadow IT Image

Shadow IT – information technology projects that are managed outside of, and without the knowledge of, the IT department – is becoming a rising problem. As SMBs and enterprises continue to grow at a rapid pace, the convenience, flexibility, and quick-deployment of purchasing, downloading, and using software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) applications poses as a significant cyber risk for organizations.

Today’s employees and individual business units aren’t waiting for the IT department’s permission to purchase or download the technology needed for their projects, resulting in a myriad of devices being purchased and applications being used that the CIO is unaware of. This creates security risks across the entire organization, including:

  • Vulnerability to data breaches;
  • Higher costs associated with redundancy in purchased applications and technology;
  • Integration and usability challenges; and
  • Increase in network-based traffic.

In a recent study, Gartner reported by 2020, a third of successful attacks experienced by enterprises will be on their Shadow IT resources.

In the new digital economy, the reality is that most organizations will support technology devices, software and services outside the ownership or control of IT organizations,” said Donna Fitzgerald, research vice president. The only solution to this problem is to improve the ongoing collaboration and communication between IT and the business so that the possibility of a surprise is minimized.

Solutions to Manage Shadow IT

With the enhanced consumerization of IT applications – specifically file sharing and storage, and collaboration tools – and the lack of visibility from the IT department to manage them creates a security gap within the organization’s infrastructure. Fortunately, there are solutions and best practices both SMBs and enterprises could take to manage and minimize these security risks and cyber threats which include the following:

  • Enforce strong Shadow IT policies: these policies provide guidelines for appropriate applications and devices employees can and cannot use. Include governing standards around the acceptable use of both company-issued and employee-owned devices. The BYOD to work has increased at organizations across industries, creating additional risks for IT to manage. Setting strict guidelines and policies to limit Shadow IT activities will enhance your organization’s security infrastructure.
  • Implement purchasing authority controls: along with enforcing policies, comes the need for implementing controls for purchasing new applications and devices. Any manager with a corporate credit card can now implement a new IT system in minutes. Organizations should implement old-fashioned purchasing policies and purchasing authority controls to help stem the tide of Shadow IT.
  • Educate and train employees: Most employees don’t know or understand what Shadow IT is and that they should be consulting IT on every application and device being introduced to the organization’s system. Educating them on the potential risks of Shadow IT and addressing the proper policies and procedures they should take to implement new applications, will help minimize this practice and strengthen the security environment. Moreover, educating them on the process and time it takes to assess a new application or tool, will provide insight into turnaround times for new projects.
  • Increase communication and collaboration: Every project and activity is important, but it becomes difficult for IT to prioritize everyone’s request for new technology. What project managers think will take a couple of hours or a day of assessing a new tool, could take weeks. Enhancing communication and collaboration practices to keep project managers and departments informed on each stage of the process, as well as host meetings early-on to assess the needs and determine the appropriate tools, will help reduce redundancy in tools, lower costs, and eliminate integration and usability challenges.
  • SOC-As-A-Service: SOC-as-a-Service can provide a cost-effective solution to detecting, responding, and protecting your organization’s assets from a potential cyber incident. It utilizes Security Information and Event Manager (SIEM) technology where logs and events are stored and used to search for cyber threats. Machine learning provides automated protection and alerts that can help organizations identify Shadow IT practices and the use of unauthorized devices on the network.
  • Managed Detection and Response (MDR): MDR assists organizations effectively manage cyber threats, network access controls, bandwidth and application monitoring, and all network-based traffic providing real-time insight to all threats and critical security issues. Organizations should consider adding MDR services to their cyber security program to provide an additional layer of security as Shadow IT practices increase.

Secuvant’s SOC-as-a-Service encompasses MDR providing a complete security package for SMBs and MSPs who lack the expertise and man power to manage their security infrastructure in-house. Managing Shadow IT and the risks imposed to the organization begins with the identification and detection of all devices and applications being used on the network that have not been authorized by the IT department. The implementation of strict policies and BYOD guidelines, along with frequent educational trainings will decrease the cyber risk of Shadow IT and enhance your security infrastructure.

To learn more about how Secuvant’s SOC-As-A-Service or MDR services can increase your security posture, reach out to our security professional at or 855-732-8826