What Is Shadow IT? Exploring the Risks and Benefits Involved

Shadow IT might evoke thoughts of skilled hackers and complex underground schemes. Still, diving deeper and learning about what is Shadow IT, it’s something as simple as using an app to message your colleague for work purposes. Yet, despite these apps being corporate crowns, they’re still out of an organization’s control.

What Is Shadow IT

However, that’s not all about Shadow IT. From its literal definition to the benefits of Shadow IT, we’ll be exploring it all. 

Keep reading to find out more!

Got No Time to Spare? Here’s the Gist

  • Shadow IT involves using tech tools without IT approval.
  • Benefits include speeding up tasks, cost savings, and smoother workflows.
  • Employees use it to enhance productivity or due to lack of awareness.
  • An example is using unauthorized software like file-sharing apps.
  • Risks include data exposure, security breaches, and lack of control.
  • A VPN, like FastestVPN, can safeguard against these risks.
  • Secure shadow IT, follow rules and consider using a VPN for added protection.

What We Will Be Covering

  • What is Shadow IT?
  • Is Shadow IT a Good Thing?
  • Why Do Employees Use Shadow IT?
  • What Is an Example of Shadow IT
  • What Are the Benefits of Shadow IT?
  • What Are the Risks Associated With Shadow IT?
  • How a VPN Helps Mitigate the Risks of Shadow IT

What is Shadow IT?

The term “shadow IT” describes the use of software, hardware, and services in a professional setting without receiving permission from the IT department of one’s employer. These shadow IT tools don’t necessarily have to be illegal, dangerous, or officially forbidden by the organization. Instead, they are tools outside the company’s security and workflow norms.

Is Shadow IT a Good Thing?

Chris Kapustra–The Principal Architect at Insight Enterprises, says, “Shadow IT tools speed up procedures and resolve instant issues. And according to Gartner, businesses spend between 30% and 40% of their IT budgets on shadow IT. While that sums up the significance of Shadow IT in the corporate sector – there’s still more that makes it corporate bliss. 

Meanwhile, IT departments usually practice different rules and processes to control the adoption and deployment of new technology. Even though these steps are intended to secure the firm, they may unintentionally obstruct innovation and advancement. Contrarily, shadow IT avoids these rules, allowing for a quicker and unrestricted flow of business procedures.

Why Do Employees Use Shadow IT?

Let’s be honest: did you read your company’s IT policy properly before agreeing to it? Were you aware that many firms forbid employees from accessing work documents on their personal phones?

One of the main reasons employees use shadow IT is to improve their job productivity. For example, a few businesses still need to learn to switch from Skype business to Slack. However, a few employees might still be using it, but the company doesn’t approve of it. Despite this, Slack has various other features that can assist company operations.

Additionally. in some circumstances, individuals may be unaware that their behaviors qualify as shadow IT.

What Is an Example of Shadow IT?

Shadow IT includes a broad range of hardware and software. Everything that is portable or that you can install on a device qualifies as potential shadow IT. Following is an example of Shadow IT:

File Sharing

Shadow IT is when you choose to use a document editing program other than the one approved by your company.

You can easily enable file access with your coworkers through a file-sharing system. And utilizing storage alternatives provided by cloud services like Google Drive is a common file-sharing method. 

In this way, if you opt to transfer work-related data to cloud-based services not permitted by your employer, such as your personal Dropbox account. Or, you can use Google Docs for collaborative writing so that others can easily add comments and adjustments. You could, however, choose Microsoft Word’s calm user interface or NotePad’s straightforwardness. 

What Are the Benefits of Shadow IT?

Here are the top 5 benefits of Shadow IT:

Lower Technology Costs

Although companies are notoriously known to contribute to SaaS waste – an average business wastes $135,000 yearly on unneeded software licensing. And you can always save by using other efficient tools.

Your team can face financial limitations depending on your organization’s purchase policies. There may be a desire to use well-known, free alternatives instead of the necessary software in these circumstances. 

For instance, you can switch from Microsoft Office to the Google Docs Editor Suite to use the money you save on other team needs.

Faster Task Execution

Shadow IT eliminates the need for the IT staff to understand their business-side counterparts’ goals and specific needs. Instead, it allows the team to decide and use Shadow IT tools that work best for task execution. 

For example, when working on an online document, it only takes a click to enable access and allow others to see what you’re working on – leading to the ability to comment on the spot.

Easier Software Adoption

Your team is more agile than your IT department, frequently moving more quickly to handle new trends and issues in the market. 

Rapidly developing technologies have the potential to appear out of nowhere and become widely used before security analyses are finished. Despite the small software or tool adoption, requiring formal IT authorization will eventually lead to missed opportunities.

What Are the Risks Associated With Shadow IT?

Even with the best intentions, shadow IT presents several possible security risks to your company. Here are a few reasons businesses actively reject shadow IT use.

Unprotected Data

The Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022 found that the average cost of a data breach is around $4.35 million. To avoid these high costs, IT departments set policies governing workers’ allowed use of sensitive company data in their regular responsibilities.

When employees break these defined norms, they unintentionally open the door to illegal entry into this safe environment. 

These acts might be subtle, such as exchanging secret information with ChatGPT for decision-making purposes or sending sensitive data via personal email accounts. Once the data has been exposed, there is no way to get it back inside the secure system. Supporting that, 79% of IT experts feel that adopting shadow IT jeopardizes corporate data.

Inconsistent Data and Cybersecurity Threats

Companies are usually bound to rigorous regulatory duties when protecting sensitive data, mainly information that may be used to identify people. For example, enterprises must comply with The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The complication derives from the fact that organizations might face penalties for failing to maintain adequate data protection measures, regardless of whether a data breach occurs. The deployment of an unapproved shadow IT system within the firm to manage personal data might be enough to justify such sanctions.

Uncontrolled Flow of Data

Shadow IT assets are beyond the scope of the organization’s monitoring, indicating that cybersecurity teams cannot analyze their susceptibility, improve their security, or notice possible issues. Even the most comprehensive cybersecurity system will fail to protect a firm data if hackers can access it via an illegal Android Smartphone.

The burden of safeguarding shadow IT falls solely on the shoulders of the user, who may need to be better-versed in all potential attack routes or the secure setup of the tool for professional usage. The danger might be as simple as delaying a vital security update for a short period, leaving the program or device vulnerable to a well-known security flaw.

How a VPN Helps Mitigate the Risks of Shadow IT

A reliable VPN, such as FastestVPN, protects company data and controls user data access. It ensures complete data protection when interacting with apps and websites online, and they can hide specific resources. Alternative identity and access management (IAM) systems, frequently used for access control, also help manage user access.

Other than that, through complete tunnel encryption, the Internet Kill Switch, WireGuard protocol many other top-notch features can significantly mitigate the risks Shadow IT brings.

FAQs - What is Shadow IT?

What is meant by the term shadow IT?

Shadow IT uses IT-related gear or software by a person or department inside an organization without the knowledge or involvement of the business's IT or security section. This includes various components such as cloud services, software applications, and physical resources.

How does shadow IT relate to Cloud computing?

Shadow IT is the illicit use of cloud-based services, a cloud computing component. Employees may use these services without the IT department's permission, possibly jeopardizing security and compliance. This shows the relationship between the ease of cloud services and the desire to avoid established IT channels, which can lead to problems.

Final Note

The key takeaway is to efficiently manage systems to safeguard the existence of shadow IT within your network. Organizations must implement comprehensive cybersecurity measures, such as mandating the usage of cloud security technologies, to guarantee employees have secure access to corporate data. This method improves data security even when unauthorized software or personal devices are used.

On the other hand, using a trusted VPN, like FastestVPN, paves the way for enhanced security while you leverage Shadow IT tools. Enjoy an uninterrupted experience without ever worrying about data leaks!

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