Why Shadow IT Can Be a Major Security Risk and How to Address It

Published on
11/04/2023 02:33 PM
shadow it

Shadow IT refers to the use of technology systems and applications within an organization without the knowledge or approval of the IT department. This can include things like personal devices, cloud services, or unapproved software. While the use of these tools may seem harmless, it can pose significant security risks to an organization. In this blog post, we’ll discuss why Shadow IT is a major security risk and how to address it.

What is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT is any technology solution that is used by employees without the approval or knowledge of the IT department. This can include things like personal smartphones, cloud-based file sharing services, or unapproved software applications. Shadow IT can be difficult to detect and manage because it often operates outside of the organization's secure IT infrastructure.

Why is Shadow IT a Security Risk?

Shadow IT poses a significant security risk to an organization because it can compromise the security of sensitive data and intellectual property. When employees use unapproved technologies, they may not be following proper security protocols, such as using strong passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, or updating software regularly. This can leave the organization vulnerable to cyber attacks, data breaches, and other security threats.

In addition, Shadow IT can make it difficult for IT teams to monitor and control access to sensitive data. If employees are using unapproved tools to store or share data, it can be challenging to ensure that the data is properly secured and access is restricted to authorized users.

How to Identify Shadow IT in Your Organization

To address Shadow IT, you first need to identify it. Here are some steps you can take to identify Shadow IT in your organization:

- Conduct a survey: One way to identify Shadow IT is to conduct a survey of employees to find out what tools they are using. This can help you understand what technologies are being used outside of the IT department's purview.

- Monitor network traffic: You can also monitor network traffic to identify any unusual or unauthorized activity. For example, if employees are using unapproved cloud services to store or share data, you may be able to detect this by monitoring network traffic.

- Audit software licenses: Auditing software licenses can help you identify unapproved software applications that are being used by employees.

How to Address Shadow IT

Once you've identified Shadow IT in your organization, you need to take steps to address it. Here are some best practices for addressing Shadow IT:

- Educate employees: One of the most effective ways to address Shadow IT is to educate employees on the risks associated with using unapproved technologies. Make sure employees understand the importance of following proper security protocols and encourage them to report any suspicious activity.

- Provide approved alternatives: If employees are using unapproved tools because they don't have access to approved alternatives, consider providing them with approved options. This can help to reduce the use of unapproved tools and improve overall security.

- Enforce policies and procedures: Make sure you have clear policies and procedures in place for managing technology use within your organization. Enforce these policies and procedures to ensure that employees are following proper security protocols and using approved technologies.

Best Practices for Managing Shadow IT

Here are some best practices for managing Shadow IT within your organization:

- Develop a Shadow IT policy: Develop a policy that outlines the acceptable use of technology within your organization. This should include guidelines for using approved technologies and consequences for using unapproved technologies.

- Monitor network traffic: Monitor network traffic to identify any unusual or unauthorized activity. This can help you detect Shadow IT and address it before it becomes a security risk.

- Use access controls: Use access controls to restrict access to sensitive data and ensure that only authorized users can access it.


Shadow IT can be a major security risk for organizations of all sizes. By following the best practices outlined in this blog post, you can identify and address Shadow IT within your organization, and improve overall security. Educating employees, providing approved alternatives, and enforcing policies and procedures can help to reduce the use of unapproved technologies and ensure that your organization's data is properly secured.

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