People 'n' Issues

How to avoid ‘Shadow IT’

January 26th, 2018
Shadow IT, or devices that have not been approved by an organisation can allow ransomware to invade an organisation’s network. BRENDAN MCARAVEY, Country Manager at Citrix SA offers some tips on how one can avoid these shady devices.
Citrix - Brendan McAraveyPhotography by Jeremy Glyn in September 2014

What is Shadow IT? It is technology used within an organisation without explicit approval — could be aptly terms as the modern Trojan horse! Since these technologies are not IT approved, they have the potential to allow ransomware and malware to invade an organisation’s network, cause data leaks and even introduce compliance risks.

It is critically important to fightback the malware, here are five easy ways to avoid shadow IT:

1. Understand the risks

Part of what makes the threat of shadow IT so insidious is a common lack of knowledge about the problem. More often than not, employees use unsanctioned technology, not for malicious reasons but rather because they are trying to find an intuitive solution for common business tasks. If a company’s existing technology solutions fail to address the needs of its employees, they will be forced to look to consumer-facing products.

It is integral to prevent that from happening and the response should be twofold:

·         Organisations must educate all employees about the risks of shadow IT, and there needs to be an enterprise-level solution that offers ease-of-use as well as advanced cybersecurity protections.

·         IT managers and business owners should develop a plan to pinpoint where employees implement non-IT-approved technology, then develop a strategy for eradicating the problem.

2. Boost your cybersecurity

It seems like nearly every day there’s a fresh headline about a major cyber-attack on a corporation or government office. The most recent local security breach reported was about sensitive information of 30 million South Africans being stolen from the credit bureau. And, prior to that more than six million accounts were at risk when the Ster-Kinekor’s website was hacked.

It is integral for an organisation to have a strategy for security technology that encompasses the virtualisation of applications, desktops and networks, as well as the centralisation of data to avoid exposure to risk at end points. Additionally, layered security and controlled access to mission-critical documents should become a priority.

3. Find replacements for shadow IT

To keep employee productivity levels high, organisations need to be able to access critical documents from any device, at any time. The modern business world waits for no one, and client expectations for timely delivery of services are on the rise.

Bring-your-own-device plans should follow secure-by-design protocols that allows for flexibility and mobility while ensuring that sensitive business information remains protected and private. Utilising enterprise-level file sharing solutions with consumer-grade UI and UX is one of the best ways to ensure employees remain productive and protected. When an organisations IT-approved solutions are easy to understand and use, employees will be less likely to turn to shadow IT.

4. Deploy additional security measures

Modern businesses cannot work within a vacuum. To be most effective, your data needs to travel – between employees, contractors, executives and other stakeholders. However, the more your data moves, the more opportunities there are for data loss and theft.

In recent years, data loss prevention (DLP) solutions have become more robust, taking advantage of new technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and behaviour analytics. A scalable DLP suite is a good solution for small to medium businesses because it can grow with your company.

Information rights management (IRM) is another highly useful tactic IT managers can rein in data when it goes for a walk. IRM can apply file-level encryption and authorization controls, so you can control who has access to sensitive information. For instance, documents can be restricted to view-only, view- and print-only or fully editable.

5. Develop a preventive strategy

Preventing ransomware and malware attacks is nearly impossible. Walling off employees within a proxy network and deploying firewalls may prevent unskilled attackers from successfully breaching an organisation, but those solutions aren’t enough anymore. Your business needs to be prepared for the worst.

Investing in responsive strategies is the only way to deal with security breaches as they happen. Organisations need to utilise solutions designed to rapidly detect, identify and respond to cyber-attacks as they happen.

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