Shadow IT is defined as the practice among users to deploy unauthorized technology resources in order to circumvent their IT department and the controls or limits the IT team has put into place.
In many cases, instances of shadow IT practices occur when users want to circumvent the existing, restrictive IT policies are too restrictive or get in the way of them being able to do their jobs effectively.
Why shadow IT is on the rise
While shadow IT is not necessarily a new phenomenon, there has been a noticeable spike in shadow IT activity in the last couple of years. Experts pointed out that one major reason for this spike is the rise in remote work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With users working from home, they are away from the purview of the IT department and are thus able to use unauthorized technology than from within the corporate office.
Another factor in the increase of shadow IT activity is the fact that it is easier than ever for a user to circumvent the IT department thanks to the processes and technologies that were originally designed for user convenience. With some knowledge and skills, some users are able to bypass security settings to install unauthorized software or add unauthorized users to company-sanctioned apps.
Addressing shadow IT
According to a Forbes Insights report, 60% of companies do not include shadow IT in their threat assessment, which reflects how the majority of organizations seem to downplay the danger of shadow IT. As such, education is being seen as the primary strategy to counter this lack of awareness. In particular, educating users on the dangers of shadow IT and the activities they may perceive as harmless is actually a shadow IT practice.
Of course, educating users alone is not enough to stop shadow IT use as there will always be users who will deliberately ignore the warnings. Likewise, giving in to users' demands for using particular technologies might not always be in the organization's best interests either as some apps in the wild could pose a significant threat to the companies’ systems.
Because of this, many have begun to adopt zero trust as a security measure as it is considered one of the best options in dealing with shadow IT threats. As discussed in a previous post, zero-trust is a philosophy in which nothing in your organization is automatically assumed to be trustworthy. User and device identities must be proven each time that they are used to access a resource.
There are many aspects to a zero-trust architecture, and each organization can implement zero-trust differently. Some organizations may use conditional access policies to control access to resources, usually through apps or sending a unique code through calls or SMS. But one of the most important things that an organization can do in implementing zero trust is to secure its helpdesk better so those trying to access company data or apps can be subjected to a thorough check and avoid inadvertent unauthorized access.