What is “shadow IT”, and what security implications could it pose for businesses?

Contrary to how the term might make it sound, “shadow IT” isn’t quite where Batman hacks into your firm’s computer system. However, it is a case where – indeed, like Batman – your employees might solve an IT problem by taking matters into their own hands rather than referring to the established rules.

Those “established rules” in the employees’ case would be your company’s IT policy – but what security risks could your workers run by using personal hardware or software for business purposes?

Data leakage

As an IT Pro article warns, “non-business devices often aren’t installed with the security functions and standards of devices supplied or managed by an organization.” Hence, workers using these devices could accidentally leave sensitive data exposed to prying eyes online.

You could counter this threat by arranging for a cybersecurity company like Wandera to help you enforce a policy for acceptable usage of your corporate data. Putting this strategy in place could enable you to essentially eliminate shadow IT.

Compliance breaches

Naturally, when developing household-oriented applications and software, programmers won’t exactly make a big priority of ensuring that these are interoperable with competitors’ apps. However, this kind of interoperability is exactly what you – and, more to the point, your workers – need in a business environment.

When your business can’t benefit from such an arrangement, and data is routinely channeled through means not officially approved by the company, it could struggle to comply with financial standards, data security principles and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Impact on business continuity

security implications

Crucial to securing your company’s data is ensuring that it is, well, firmly in your company’s possession. You can ensure this if you use software tools built with business essentials in mind – but, when using alternative software, the data could too easily end up in jeopardy.

For example, if that data is looked after by a cloud provider catering primarily for personal users, that provider could one day give you just one month to move your data or else it is potentially lost forever.

A disaster recovery process that proves inefficient 

Picture a situation where disaster befalls your business, perhaps because data stored on-site is wiped out and so needs to be recovered from a cloud-based source. If that source is – again – a cloud provider aimed mainly at the non-business market, the disaster recovery process could turn out rather cumbersome.

Therefore, you could struggle to “hit the ground running” with your attempts to get your corporate systems back into operation.

Damage to the company’s reputation

You can probably easily recall at least some of the recent high-profile instances where businesses have lost customers’ data to security breaches and attracted significant backlash in the press as a result.

Information Age warns that, if your own business doesn’t use a trusted cloud provider to protect this kind of data, “the burden of responsibility falls very much on the shoulders of [your] company and if it falls victim to one of the risks, it will be seen as not having done enough.”