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In the dynamic landscape of modern business, the allure of quick fixes and enhanced productivity often leads employees to sidestep traditional IT channels. driven by the need for speed and efficiency, the impact of shadow IT on your cloud environment can be profound and far-reaching. If we talk about vulnerable assets and cyber incidents, The UAE hosts approximately 155,000 vulnerable cyber assets, with more than 40% of these critical vulnerabilities remaining unaddressed for over five years. As the digital landscape evolves and becomes more complex, we find that: 

  • 41% of employees use technology that IT can’t see, and this behavior plays a significant role in how organizations manage data security, compliance, and overall governance of their IT resources.
  • IT departments are unaware of one-third of SaaS apps running on corporate networks.
  • 68% of organizations have exposed shadow APIs, with undocumented third-party application programming interfaces (APIs) affecting up to 68% of organizations according to a report.
  • 31% of malicious requests target unmanaged APIs, with a study observing 16.7 billion malicious requests targeting unknown, unmanaged, or unprotected APIs1.
  • 76% of SMBs say shadow IT threatens security.

What is Shadow IT? 

Shadow IT refers to the use of information technology systems, devices, software, applications, and services without explicit approval or knowledge from the organization’s IT department. This trend is driven by employees’ desire to enhance their productivity and efficiency, often bypassing what they perceive as slow and cumbersome IT processes. 

However, while shadow IT can offer short-term operational efficiencies, it also introduces significant risks that can jeopardize an organization’s security and compliance posture. 

Tell me about Shadow IT Risks 

Security Risks

  •         Data Leakage and Loss: When employees use unauthorized cloud services to store and share sensitive information, this data is outside the control of the organization’s IT department. This lack of oversight makes it difficult to ensure that data is protected and stored securely, increasing the likelihood of unauthorized access, data breaches, and leaks.
  •         Vulnerabilities and Malware: Unauthorized applications may not be regularly updated or patched, leaving them vulnerable to attacks. Employees might also download apps that contain malware, potentially compromising the organization’s entire network.
  •         Network Security: Shadow IT can introduce vulnerabilities into the organization’s network. Without IT oversight, these applications can be poorly configured, leading to potential entry points for cyberattacks. 

Compliance Issues

  •         Regulatory Non-Compliance: Using unauthorized cloud services can lead to non-compliance with data protection and privacy regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS. This can result in hefty fines and legal issues for the organization.     
  •         Audit and Control Problems: Shadow IT complicates the ability to track and manage data flows, making it difficult to demonstrate compliance during audits. The organization may struggle to provide a complete inventory of the applications being used to store and process data. 

Operational Inefficiencies

  •         Resource Wastage and Redundancy: Shadow IT can lead to duplicative spending on IT resources and services. Different departments might end up purchasing similar tools or services, leading to unnecessary expenses.
  •         Disruption of Workflows: Unauthorized applications may not integrate well with other enterprise systems, leading to data silos and inefficiencies. Employees using different tools that do not communicate with each other can disrupt workflows and decrease productivity.
  •         Increased IT Burden: The IT department may need to spend additional time and resources to manage and secure the unauthorized tools and data, diverting attention from other critical IT functions. 

Organizations can effectively mitigate the risks associated with shadow IT while encouraging innovation and productivity. The key is to balance security needs with the flexibility and tools that employees require to perform their jobs efficiently.

What are the 5 efficient mitigation strategies for shadow IT?

Here’s a summary of effective strategies based on our research:

Improve Asset Visibility and Monitoring

  •         Implement remote monitoring and management and endpoint protection systems to gain real-time visibility into remote and office-based endpoints. This helps in spotting unauthorized software and vulnerabilities.
  •         Use cybersecurity technologies like attack surface management (ASM) tools to monitor internet-facing IT assets and discover shadow IT.
  •         Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs): Use CASBs to gain visibility into cloud services and enforce security policies across cloud applications.
  •         Automated Discovery Tools: Deploy tools that can automatically discover and monitor all IT assets, including unsanctioned applications and devices.
  1. Upgrade IT Service Management Practices
  •         Streamline technology provisioning lifecycles and improving IT governance processes to keep up with end-users’ demands.
  •         Develop and enforce policies addressing the most critical cybersecurity issues, including the use of personal devices, third-party applications, and cloud services. 
  1. Educate Employees
  •         Raise cybersecurity awareness among all users about the risks of shadow IT and provide viable options for avoiding it.
  •         Encourage employees to be transparent about what software they use, and educate them on the possible consequences of using untrusted software. 
  1. Provide the Tools Employees Need
  •         Conduct a thorough analysis of unauthorized services used within the organization and assess whether they need to be approved for authorized use or removed for security and efficiency reasons.
  •         Offer employees approved tools that meet their needs, reducing the incentive to seek out unauthorized solutions.
  •         Establish communication between employees and the IT department to ensure agreement on software that meets both security and convenience needs. 
  1. Implement Flexible Corporate Policies

Build a flexible corporate policy that addresses business’s most critical cybersecurity issues, categorizing software to help employees understand the risks and offer them approved alternatives. 

How do we Look at Shadow IT Risk mitigation solutions?

We believe that a proactive and comprehensive approach to asset management is crucial in addressing the risks of shadow IT. At Green Method Technologies, our focus is on identifying and implementing solutions that not only address the immediate challenges our clients face but also equip them with the tools to manage and mitigate future risks. 

In this context, we have closely observed the capabilities and impact of Axonius in tackling the pervasive issue of Shadow IT. 

Axonius offers a comprehensive cybersecurity asset management platform that provides organizations with a single source of truth for all IT assets, including those typically hidden in the shadows. Here are some features that pervasive issue of Shadow IT: 

  •         Comprehensive Asset Discovery: Axonius excels in automatically discovering and aggregating information about every asset in an organization’s environment. This feature has proven invaluable for our clients, as it helps uncover all network-connected devices and software, including those not previously accounted for.
  •         Automated Security Policy Enforcement: The platform automates the enforcement of security policies across discovered assets. It significantly reduced the manual workload for clients, ensuring that all assets comply with established security standards without constant human intervention.
  •         Real-Time Asset Inventory Updates: Axonius provides continuous updates to the asset inventory. that ensures that our clients always have the most current view of their asset landscape, which is crucial for dynamic IT environments.
  •         Risk Assessment Tools: The platform includes tools that assess and prioritize risks associated with each asset
  •         Integration capabilities: Axonius integrates seamlessly with over 800 existing security and management solutions, allowing them to leverage their current investments more effectively. 

Conclusion:

Shadow IT, while enhancing agility and productivity, poses risks to security, compliance, and operational efficiency due to the use of unauthorized tech resources. Effective management strategies include establishing clear IT policies, educating employees, utilizing robust monitoring tools, and promoting open communication. Tools like Axonius help mitigate these risks by providing comprehensive visibility, compliance validation, and automated management of shadow IT. By adopting such solutions, organizations can enjoy the benefits of modern IT tools while maintaining a secure and compliant environment.