Understanding the risks of shadow IT for your business

Understanding the risks of shadow IT for your business


Technology is becoming increasingly mobile, and personal tablets and smartphones are now viable alternatives to desktops in the office. Bringing their own devices to work lets employees become more flexible and allows the company to hold off on spending money on expensive hardware.

But why is there a rising trend of people using their own devices for work? A 2018 shadow IT study suggests that this might be due to dissatisfaction with the current IT solutions being provided in the office. After all, employees only want to get the job done quickly without running into too many roadblocks.

At first glance, letting employees use their own machines seems like a harmless way for them to work faster, smarter, and more efficiently. However, this practice has some major drawbacks that can mean disaster for your company. Let’s take a look at some of them:

#1. Increased risk of data loss and security breaches

Devices owned by your staff are not a part of your IT infrastructure. If you don’t regulate their use, these could expose sensitive company data to cyberthreats. This is why the practice of using unvetted devices for work is darkly referred to as shadow IT.

Let’s say one of your employees is using an application on their unsecured laptop. This can help get work done faster, but their device is not covered by your backup and disaster recovery plan (BDRP) should any data loss incidents happen. Any lost files or programs are the responsibility of the person who owns the laptop.

Shadow IT makes it difficult for organisations to handle data breaches. For instance, another user connects to a public Wi-Fi network to work on a confidential project on their tablet. Since that network is outside your firewalls, cybercriminals can easily infiltrate the device and view, modify, and copy confidential information. Hackers can also capitalise on software vulnerabilities, given that many users fail to install critical security updates.

Here are some ways to mitigate the risks:

  • Prevent access to unsafe websites
  • Prevent the use of untested applications that can conflict with existing software
  • Check for rogue hardware that can disrupt your network

You can also regulate data and application access using solutions like Azure Information Protection (AIP) and Microsoft Intune. The former makes it possible to add visibility and control permissions to your data, while the latter regulates the mobile devices being used to access corporate information.

#2. Inefficiencies

A setup where your employees have their own unique set of apps and devices to do their work may eventually lead to inconsistencies and compatibility issues when it’s time for team members to collaborate.

For instance, .xlsx files are useless to those who don’t have Microsoft Excel. They would have to spend even more time downloading, installing, and learning to use the program, which can reduce productivity.

To combat this, be selective about the tools your staff use. Ensure that everyone is aligned with your corporate infrastructure to reduce friction in the long run.

#3. Compliance issues

Compliance is critical for all organisations. It’s normally assured through internal audits, but since shadow IT devices aren’t company-owned, they can fall through the cracks. As mentioned earlier, data can be breached from stolen laptops and misplaced smartphones. And by failing to comply with regulations, businesses could be heavily fined or even be shut down for good.

It’s not easy to monitor your network for devices that are accessing your data. Partnering with a managed IT services provider (MSP) such as Office Tek can help, as we proactively monitor your IT infrastructure and prevent threats from infiltrating your system before they can cause any damage. We can also identify regulation compliance gaps, and recommends the best actions to take. The best part? MSPs charge a small monthly fee, which costs less than paying an IT employee a full-time salary.

Need dependable IT support? Office Tek is the answer to your problems. Our dedicated team will take care of the burden of solving all your technology problems, including shadow IT. Don’t let cyberattacks to get the best of your business. Drop us a line today!

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