Tackling the threats posed by shadow IT

While remote technologies have allowed businesses to shift their workforces online, this flexibility has created a swathe of challenges for IT teams who must provide a robust security framework for their organization – encompassing all the personnel and devices within their remit. In addition to the ever-increasing number of personal devices, corporate devices and programs, more and more applications are moving to the cloud as workloads become increasingly distributed across public clouds and software-as-a-service (SaaS).

shadow IT risk

This means IT teams are even harder pressed to secure and manage the complex environments they operate in. The unsanctioned use of corporate IT systems, devices, and software – known as shadow IT – has increased significantly during the shift to remote work, and recent research found almost one in seven (68%) are concerned about information security because of employees following shadow IT practices.

Shadow IT can allow hackers to steal employee and customer identities, company intellectual property, and cause companies to fail compliance audits. It can also open the door to enterprises accidentally breaking laws and exposes organizations to data exfiltration, malware, and phishing.

Mitigating the use of unsanctioned devices

Shadow IT can be tough to mitigate, given the embedded culture of hybrid working in many organizations, in addition to a general lack of engagement from employees with their IT teams. For staff to continue accessing apps securely from anywhere, at any time, and from any device, businesses must evolve their approach to organizational security.

Given the modern-day working environment moves at such a fast pace, employees have turned en masse to shadow IT when the experience isn’t quick or accurate enough. This leads to the bypassing of secure networks and best practices and can leave IT departments out of the process.

A way of controlling this is by deploying corporate managed devices that provide remote access, giving IT teams most of the control and removing the temptation for employees to use unsanctioned hardware. Providing them with compelling apps, data, and services with a good user experience should see a reduced dependence on shadow IT, putting IT teams back in the driving seat and restoring security. This way, a zero-trust security framework can thrive as security controls enforce verification regardless of location or device.

A good example of this in action is when a desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) solution is deployed as not only does this authenticate user access into the virtual workspace, but it monitors user, network and application behavior to ensure that corporate information remains secure, regardless of location.

Communication is critical

Unfortunately, most employees don’t fully always appreciate the gravity of cyber risks around remote work, but there are some clear steps IT decision makers can take to minimize the risk posed by shadow IT:

Education on the risks: Although often the most productive people buy and use shadow IT to speed up their work, they are more likely to consider the potential implications if they understand the severity of risks that come with unsanctioned technology and how it can threaten their reputation and privacy.

Training on the latest security: To help employees understand best practice while out of office, leaders should ensure their teams are up to date with the most recent advice on security measures and schedule any training as required. This could focus on making sure their devices are patched and up to date before they set off for holidays or teaching them how to spot fraudulent invitations and phishing attempts.

Encourage a transparent culture: If employees feel like they can come forward and request the use of non-corporate devices then this will help keep IT teams in the loop and alert them against any suspicious activity. The burden on security teams can be significantly reduced if there are open lines of communication throughout a business.

The modern employee expects technology to be simple, convenient, and easy to use. However, the rise of hybrid and remote working has expanded the number of attack surfaces and ways in which an organization can be targeted. Security teams can deploy a unified, secure digital workspace service to mitigate these risks while simplifying work, and giving employees the flexibility they need to work at their best, without the need to use shadow IT.

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