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Secure Your Enterprise from Shadow IT - Examples & Best Practices

"Discover the hidden dangers of Shadow IT & uncover how unsanctioned IT usage can slip by IT departments of large enterprises. Click here to learn more!"

In modern workplaces, employees increasingly leverage cloud-based services to enhance their productivity. While these services offer a range of benefits to employees, the term "Shadow IT" is used to describe the unsanctioned use of cloud applications that can slip into enterprises without proper approval. This article will discuss common examples of Shadow IT and the steps businesses can take to mitigate the risks associated with cloud usage.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Shadow IT & Its Growing Prevalence
  2. Common Examples of Shadow IT
  3. Unsanctioned Cloud Usage Linked to Data Security & Legal Issues
  4. Strategies to Combat Shadow IT
  5. Pros & Cons of Allowing Employees Access to Unsanctioned Cloud Usage
  6. Steps to Minimize the Risk Associated with Unsanctioned Cloud Usage
  7. How to Adapt to an Evolving Workplace Involving Cloud Usage
  8. Conclusion & Future Outlook

  1. Introduction to Shadow IT & Its Growing Prevalence

Shadow IT refers to the use of hardware and software, or any type of cloud services, that are not provided or sanctioned by an organization's IT department. The proliferation of cloud computing, mobile devices and cloud storage have exacerbated the issue of Shadow IT.

In the modern workplace, employees are increasingly taking advantage of the low-cost and widely available cloud services to help with their daily work, trading off security and compliance to gain ease of use and convenience. Research suggests that more than 75% of modern enterprise organizations have some form of shadow IT in place.

Though employees may feel they are doing their job more efficiently with the unregistered mobile applications and cloud services, IT leaders are struggling to manage data security, network performance and data privacy. While companies may get more productivity out of deploying such unauthorized cloud services, they can face serious legal issues and financial risks if not managed properly.

An overall lack of visibility and control over the consumerization of IT can put organizations at risk, and this is why it's important to take the necessary steps to mitigate the issue. Organizations lacking awareness and control of their cloud usage may be prone to data loss, privacy breaches, exposure to malicious actors, and non-compliance with various regulations and standards.

In order to avoid these risks, one must understand why, when and how Shadow IT is used, so that users can be empowered to use secure and reliable cloud technologies to enhance their productivity without compromising the integrity of the organization.

  1. Common Examples of Shadow IT

Shadow IT, or ‘unsanctioned cloud usage’, has become increasingly common in modern businesses. With the prevalence of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and other cloud-based solutions, it’s easier than ever for employees to access applications, services, and data without obtaining the IT department’s authorization. Below are a few examples of how shadow IT often manifests itself in the enterprise.

Personal Device Usage The majority of employees now have smartphones, tablets, and laptops they’ve bought and configured themselves. It’s easier than ever for employees to access their company data and use it for non-business purposes. This type of shadow IT increases the risk of data leaks and other security issues.

Social Media Usage Employees may be tempted to access social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter on the corporate network or on their own devices. This type of shadow IT can introduce a number of security risks, but it can also put the company in a bad light if it is discovered that employees are making irresponsible postings or talking about confidential internal information.

SaaS Applications The rise of software-as-a-service for commonly used business applications has made it easier for employees to set up their own accounts and use those services without the permission or knowledge of IT. While this type of shadow IT can sometimes be used to great success, it can also lead to compliance and security problems, such as leaving data vulnerable to attack or failing to comply with data protection laws.

Cloud Storage Services Employees may try to use unapproved cloud storage services to share large files or to sync information between computers. This type of shadow IT can lead to data being stored in unknown, unsecured locations, which can result in a serious security breach if it’s not discovered in time.

  1. Unsanctioned Cloud Usage Linked to Data Security & Legal Issues

Over the last several years, the use of cloud technology has become increasingly popular in the workplace. Unfortunately, with the surge in cloud usage has come a growing prevalence of shadow IT – the use of unsanctioned cloud services by employees. While ease of use and cost savings are attractive incentives for employees to access unauthorized cloud services, the security implications of unsanctioned cloud use can be significant.

From a data security perspective, the use of unsanctioned cloud services poses great risks. Unauthorized cloud services may lack the same level of encryption and data protection measures compared to approved products. In addition, these services could be vulnerable to ransomware, malware and other cyber threats. In some cases, employees may be unaware of any potential risks and may download unauthorized software without proper authentication procedures in place.

In addition to the risks posed on the security of the organization’s data, the use of unsanctioned cloud services can also lead to significant legal concerns. Companies may be held liable for issues related to employee privacy and intellectual property infringement if they are not properly monitoring cloud usage. If an employee downloads unauthorized software, the employer might face the prospects of copyright infringement and other related legal issues that could be costly.

It is important for organizations to take steps to address the potential security and legal risks posed by unsanctioned cloud usage. While cloud technology can offer many benefits, it is indispensable to have firm policies in place to minimize the risks posed by shadow IT.

  1. Strategies to Combat Shadow IT

As businesses become more dependent on cloud technology to remain productive and competitive, it is important to understand the process of shadow IT and recognize the potential risks associated with its use. One of the major challenges to overcome is how to combat shadow IT in a safe and secure manner.

The following strategies can help IT departments detect instances of shadow IT and protect the organization from potential threats:

• Implement Policies and Procedures: Drafting clear policies and procedures around the acceptable use of cloud computing can help to reduce the risks associated with shadow IT. IT should discuss the risks of shadow IT with employees and ensure the policy is articulated across the organization in a way that helps to reinforce compliance.

• Use Authentication and Authorization: Establishing authentication and authorization techniques for validating requests and granting access to cloud services can restrict unauthorized usage. This ensures that only authorized users can access specific services, making it much harder for any unrecognized use of the cloud.

• Monitor User Activity: IT should regularly monitor user activity to identify suspicious behavior. Implementing log files can help to detect any anomalous activity, potentially highlighting instances of shadow IT.

• Educate Employees: Education is a key component of reducing the risks associated with shadow IT. Employees need to be made aware of the potential risks of using unsanctioned cloud usage, and trained on the importance of only using approved services.

• Utilize Automation: Automation can be leveraged to reduce the time needed to monitor user activity and identify any instances of potential shadow IT. Automating the discovery process for cloud services can improve speed, accuracy, and compliance.

• Leverage Centralized Tools: Centralizing the management of cloud services and having a single point of control can help administrators better manage the IT environment. Utilizing centralized tools and platforms can also help to streamline activity and ensure that company policies are enforced.

By implementing the above strategies to combat shadow IT, organizations can help to reduce the risk of data breaches and ensure their cloud environment remains secure.

  1. Pros & Cons of Allowing Employees Access to Unsanctioned Cloud Usage

Shadow IT, also known as "rogue IT" or "stealth IT," has become an increasingly major issue for many enterprises. As the use of digitally fueled technologies continues to grow, more enterprises are finding themselves exposing their businesses to potential risks associated with unsanctioned cloud usage.

In this section, we will explore the pros and cons of allowing employees to access unsanctioned cloud services. While the use of cloud platforms can offer several advantages, it is important to consider the potential risks and how they can be mitigated with proper safeguards.


• Increased productivity – allowing employees access to unsanctioned cloud services can enable them to work more effectively and efficiently. For example, cloud-based collaboration tools can help teams become more productive by providing real-time access to data and documents.

• Cost savings – employee access to unsanctioned cloud services can reduce the costs associated with in-house infrastructures.

• Improved customer service – Cloud services allow businesses to more quickly and easily respond to customer inquiries.


• Security vulnerabilities – While cloud services offer numerous advantages, they can also expose a business to security risks if not managed properly. Unsanctioned cloud services may not offer adequate protection against ransomware or other malicious attacks.

• Data theft & data loss – Unsanctioned cloud services can be vulnerable to data breach or data loss if proper security measures are not in place.

• Increased liability – Allowing employees access to unsanctioned cloud services can increase the risk of liability in the event of a data breach or other security incident.

These are just a few of the potential pros and cons of allowing employees access to unsanctioned cloud services. It is important for enterprises to weigh the advantages and disadvantages when deciding whether or not to allow employees access to these services. For example, while cloud services can offer significant cost savings in many cases, it may be advisable to forgo these savings if security and compliance are paramount in the organization. Ultimately, however, the decision should be made on a case-by-case basis.

  1. Steps to Minimize the Risk Associated with Unsanctioned Cloud Usage

When operating in the modern digital world, enterprises need to be aware of the risks of unsanctioned cloud usage and develop strategies to combat Shadow IT. By understanding the key areas of risk and taking proactive steps to minimize them, organizations can reduce their overall exposure and ensure data security and legal protection.

The following are some steps businesses can take to reduce the risks associated with Shadow IT:

  1. Establish clear policies and guidelines: Setting up and communicating clear policies and guidelines around data usage and cloud computing is essential for reducing legal and data security risks. All employees should know what types of data are sensitive and which services are approved for use.

  2. Implement employee training: Educating employees about the potential risks associated with Shadow IT and the consequences for breaking the policy is a key step for minimizing risk.

  3. Leverage cloud management tools: Cloud management tools provide businesses with visibility into their cloud environments, allowing them to detect and alert on unsanctioned cloud usage and ensure compliance with policies.

  4. Monitor and audit usage: Organisations need to monitor their cloud environment and audit usage regularly to ensure employees are using the approved services.

  5. Invest in data protection: Having data protection measures such as encryption, access control and audit trails can help mitigate the risks associated with Shadow IT.

  6. Work with vendors: Companies should work with vendors on data security and ensure service providers have appropriate measures in place to protect customer data.

By taking the steps above, organisations can minimise the risk of data leakage, data loss and other legal issues associated with Shadow IT.

  1. How to Adapt to an Evolving Workplace Involving Cloud Usage

As cloud usage becomes increasingly more prevalent in the enterprise, it is essential to recognize the importance of understanding and adapting to an evolving workplace. To gain insights into how to do this, we must first examine the various necessary strategies for combatting the risks of shadow IT, or risks associated with unsanctioned cloud usage.

Employees may have a tendency to bypass both IT approved cloud environments and IT security policies due to lack of knowledge or because of the convenience associated with using unauthorized cloud services. Thankfully, there are some strategies that enterprises can implement to minimize the risk of unsanctioned cloud usage and adapt to a quickly changing workplace.

One such strategy is to secure more visibility and control over employee cloud usage. By deploying cloud access security brokers (CASB), an organization can gain visibility into unsanctioned cloud usage and have more control over limiting the activity. For example, a CASB can prevent the downloading of sensitive data, the sharing of files, or the utilization of certain services that have been barred from corporate use.

In addition, IT and other departments should also be encouraged to collaborate and work together to develop and communicate policies and procedures on cloud usage. Establishing clear guidelines and standards are essential for successfully adapting to a changing workplace environment.

Last but not least, enterprises should train employees on the importance of cloud security and the use of IT approved cloud services. Educating workers on the potential risks of using unsanctioned cloud services and the protocols to follow when using approved cloud tools can help significantly reduce the risk of shadow IT within the company.

In conclusion, though the prevalence and appeal of unsanctioned cloud usage are quickly gaining traction within the enterprise, there are several strategies organizations can employ to minimize the associated risks and understand how to adapt to an ever-changing workplace. With the right combination of tools and policies, the risks associated with shadow IT can be mitigated and the enterprise can become agile and better prepared to efficiently manage its cloud usage.

  1. Conclusion & Future Outlook

As companies move into the digital age, unsanctioned cloud usage has become an increasing challenge. Shadow IT can have serious repercussions, from data security and compliance issues to legal liability, which can often turn into long-term problems. While the versatility and convenience of cloud computing can bring many benefits, without adequate monitoring and oversight, these same advantages can lead to serious risks. As the workplace evolves and cloud usage increases, it is important to understand how to effectively combat Shadow IT and reduce the associated risks.

In conclusion, with the emergence and widespread use of cloud computing, Shadow IT is becoming more prevalent in the workplace. To minimize the risks and liabilities associated with this shift, it is important that organizations take the appropriate steps to effectively monitor and regulate unsanctioned cloud usage. By maintaining awareness and implementing strategies to combat Shadow IT, organizations can adapt and remain secure in their use of cloud technology. Looking to the future, it is likely that the prevalence of Shadow IT will only increase as cloud usage increases. With the right approach, however, the associated risks can become manageable.