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24 April 2024

What is Shadow IT and how can it be avoided?


Shadow IT is a growing phenomenon within organizations. Employees use IT solutions that are not authorized or controlled by the organization's IT department, which can lead to security risks and hidden costs. In this article, we will look at how to avoid Shadow IT by implementing appropriate prevention and management measures.

1.    Shadow IT practices in numbers

Multiple surveys have revealed that the use of Shadow IT is commonplace in many organizations around the world. According to a survey conducted in 2020, 80% of employees admitted to using cloud applications or services without authorization. Furthermore according to the CORE report, the adoption of telecommuting due to the Covid-19 pandemic led to a 59% increase in Shadow IT. This trend is only becoming more pronounced with the increasing introduction of technology into the workplace. A large proportion of employees are convinced that Shadow IT is beneficial to their productivity to some extent. However, this has a negative impact on overall productivity, particularly in the Information Systems Department (ISD). Shadow IT practices within an organization are often motivated by good intentions. However, it is essential to remain vigilant, as the consequences can be catastrophic. The main dangers associated with this phenomenon range from exposure to cyber attacks to the loss of highly confidential data.

1.    Reduced productivity: Employees using non-approved technologies may encounter technical problems that can affect their work and productivity.
2.    Weakened security: Non-approved technologies are generally not subject to corporate security standards, which can weaken an organization's IT security and leave it vulnerable to cyber attacks.
3.    Loss or leakage of sensitive data: These technologies can be poorly secured, increasing the risk of loss or leakage of sensitive data.
4.    Additional costs: The use of non-approved technologies may entail additional costs for the organization, such as the purchase of licenses, hardware or software.
5.    Non-compliance with regulations: Non-approved technologies can lead to problems of non-compliance with current regulations, which can have legal and financial consequences for the organization.

In short, Shadow IT can have catastrophic consequences for an organization, particularly in terms of cyber security, loss of sensitive data and regulatory compliance. It is therefore important to take steps to avoid or control this practice within the organization.

2.    How can you avoid Shadow IT in your organization? 

To counter these dangers, there are several measures you can implement to avoid Shadow IT within your organization.

A. Employee awareness

The first step in avoiding Shadow IT is to alert employees about the risks associated with using IT solutions that are not authorized or controlled by corporate IT. It is important to explain the security risks of using uncontrolled online services, and the hidden costs this can entail.

Employees must also be made aware of the organization's IT security policies and the consequences of non-compliance. Training on best IT security practices can also help prevent Shadow IT.

B. Cyber security policy

Implementing a clear security policy tailored to the organization's needs is a key factor in avoiding Shadow IT. This policy must be clearly communicated to employees, and penalties for non-compliance must be transparently explained.

It is also important to implement controls to detect the use of IT solutions not authorized by IT. These controls can include monitoring access to online applications and services, as well as analyzing network traffic to detect any suspicious activity.

It is also possible to implement solutions that block access to applications. These solutions include firewalls, VPNs, access controls, digital certificates and encryption protocols. By implementing these solutions, organizations can reinforce the security of their applications and limit access to authorized users only. These security measures will reinforce application protection and prevent unauthorized users from gaining access.


C. Conducting regular audits

Secondly, it is crucial to ensure the security of the corporate network at all times. The Information Systems Manager (ISM) must identify and analyze non-official technologies used by employees. By acting quickly, the ISM can prevent potential problems by removing or securing these tools. It should be noted that not all Shadow IT practices present the same level of risk. Certain activities can involve major risks, requiring drastic measures to be taken to remedy them.

D. Reassessing and optimizing the tools in use

Sometimes, the digital tools that employees use informally in the workplace actually help to improve productivity. Instead of banning them immediately, it may be wise to re-evaluate them and make them official, while ensuring that they are reliable and secure. Solutions exist to better protect sensitive files and activities, such as automated network monitoring.

In conclusion, Shadow IT is a fast-growing phenomenon in organizations, and can cause serious problems in terms of security, compliance and hidden costs. To avoid Shadow IT, it is important to take measures to avoid or control this practice within the organization. It is also important to work closely with IT to offer secure solutions to employees and encourage their use. By taking appropriate preventive and management measures, organizations can minimize the risks associated with Shadow IT and ensure a secure, productive work environment.