Shadow IT security risks and how to overcome them

Shadow IT security risks and how to overcome them

Your employees no longer solely rely on computers and peripherals. Because technology is becoming increasingly mobile, personal smartphones and tablets are now viable alternatives. This allows for better flexibility without having to spend more on expensive hardware.

Why are employees using their own resources? It might be because they are not completely satisfied with the IT solutions being provided in the office or they find them difficult to use. All they know is that they want to get the job done quickly without the headaches.

Commonly referred to as shadow IT, this solution might seem to help your employees work faster and smarter. However, the personal devices they use are not a part of your network infrastructure, thereby exposing company data to security threats.

According to research company Gartner, shadow IT is projected to cause one-third of successful attacks on enterprises by 2020. Here are some security risks that surround shadow IT and tips on how to overcome them:

Increased risk of data loss and breaches

Let’s say one of your employees is using an application on their laptop that’s not connected to your IT system. While it does help get work done faster, it cannot be covered by your backup and disaster recovery procedures (BDRP) should any natural or man-made calamities happen. It is up to the person running it to recover any lost files or programs.

The same principle goes for data breaches. With shadow IT, you have no control over the entities accessing your resources. For instance, an employee may be online via a cafe’s public Wi-Fi, working on a confidential project on their tablet. Because it’s outside your network, cybercriminals can easily infiltrate the device and view, modify, and copy sensitive information. Software vulnerabilities can also cause data breaches, especially when end users neglect to install critical patches and updates.

Typically, your employees have no malicious intent in using shadow IT. However, there is a good chance that they aren’t aware of the risks. To mitigate these, regularly look into problems such as access to phishing sites, untested applications that can be in conflict with your existing software, and rogue hardware that can cause disruptions within your network.

You can also use access management solutions such as Azure Information Protection and Microsoft Intune to augment existing systems. Through Azure, you can classify data based on sensitivity, and add visibility and control permissions, ensuring data safety at all times. Intune protects company-managed devices, providing IT managers the ability to control access to corporate data.


Imagine each member of your staff having their own unique set of apps and devices to do their work. This free-for-all setup may work for each individual, but it naturally leads to friction once it is time for team members to collaborate.

For instance, .pptx files are useless to people who don't have presentation programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint. They'll have to spend time downloading, installing, and learning how to use such a program if they are ever to open and make something out of the files.

Moreover, having different programs and systems can lead to data loss. People who've tried to copy-paste a layout-heavy Microsoft Word file onto Google Docs know how time-consuming it is to faithfully recreate the original file.

Inconsistencies and incompatibilities lead to more work. This can be avoided by being selective about the tools your staff use. Make sure that everyone is aligned with your corporate infrastructure to optimize productivity.

Compliance issues

For all organizations, regulations compliance is very critical. Compliance is normally assured through internal audits, but since shadow IT devices aren't company-owned, these tend to fall through the cracks. Indeed, data can be and are breached from stolen laptops and misplaced smartphones. Failure to comply could result in costly fines to the company and, in a worst-case scenario, a total shutdown.

Constantly monitor your network to learn what devices are accessing your data. For small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), partnering with a managed IT services provider (MSP) such as F1 Solutions goes a long way. MSPs proactively monitor your IT infrastructure and prevent threats from infecting your system before they can even infiltrate it. What’s more, MSPs only charge a small monthly fee, which saves SMBs money compared to paying an IT employee a regular salary.

Mobile technology is an inevitable development that should be your friend and not your foe. F1 Solutions can help you take full advantage of this. For over 17 years, we have provided clients in North Alabama with cutting-edge solutions that enhance cybersecurity and increase productivity. Contact us today to learn more.

Need help finding ways to reduce business costs? Our FREE eBook has the answer.Learn more here