Shadow IT refers to any digital service used by employees without the explicit knowledge or consent of the internal IT department.

While many of these digital solutions improve communication and productivity, shadow IT can pose business security risks as it increases the chance of a cyber attack. As many employees admit to using unsanctioned applications, companies can no longer afford to overlook cyber security vulnerabilities.

Below, we provide three facts you should know about shadow IT and offer ways to protect your business from security threats presented by unauthorized apps.

1. Shadow IT is Not as Secure as It Seems

As the workplace becomes digitized, employees now have access to more applications than ever before. However, employees can inadvertently compromise sensitive data by installing and using unauthorized shadow IT.

Shadow IT includes any applications that appear in the form of social apps, mobile-friendly solutions or gamification apps to help employees streamline communication or better manage company data. However, these unregulated apps may have lax security controls that can put your entire company at risk of a data breach.

2. Shadow IT Can Lead to Detrimental Business Loss

More employees are turning to easily accessible, unsanctioned solutions to store documents and streamline internal operations. However, without knowledge of where company data is being stored, your IT department has little control over cyber security. As data breaches cost companies an average of $141 for each stolen record, small- to mid-sized businesses must be wary of shadow IT to avoid detrimental business loss.

3. Shadow IT Can Also Serve as a Valuable Asset

Companies may actually benefit from allowing employees to use shadow IT, but only in moderation. By leveraging shadow IT that enhances productivity, companies can improve flexibility, spark innovation and gain a competitive advantage.

With proper education and restrictions, shadow IT can serve as a valuable asset to your business. Companies that embrace regulated shadow IT have the ability to:

  • Develop cloud solutions, websites or product management software that better aligns with unique business needs.
  • Relieve the burden on internal IT departments.
  • Reduce wait time by using pre-built solutions versus company-controlled applications that typically take longer to develop.

Mitigate Cyber Security Risks Posed by Unauthorized Applications

A data breach could be detrimental to a business, especially if sensitive information, such as social security numbers or financial records, is accessed. Companies can limit the use of unauthorized services and mitigate their inherent risks by training employees on the potential dangers of shadow IT and enforcing strict policies.

To better regulate the use of shadow IT, companies should take the following actions:

  • Educate employees on the potential risks of shadow IT and on proper usage of unauthorized applications.
  • Encourage employees to change passwords on a regular basis to safeguard business data.
  • Find out why employees are choosing shadow IT over internal applications.
  • Install shadow IT detection software on company devices to flag suspicious applications.
  • Provide a list of pre-approved solutions employees can start using immediately.
  • Regularly update anti-virus software to patch any emerging security vulnerabilities.
  • Urge employees to read all terms and conditions thoroughly.