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Shadow IT Risks on the Rise

The cloud offers convenient ways to store and access documents, making it especially appealing for employees who want to be able to retrieve company information while working remotely or on the go. However, not all cloud services provide adequate protection for sensitive information, and the independent or unsanctioned use of consumer-grade products for business purposes can be disastrous for an organization. This type of shadow IT makes it nearly impossible for IT staff members to oversee the flow of corporate information.  For this reason, it’s very important to introduce a secure and effective means for employees to transfer files. Otherwise, employees will always seek out a workaround to accomplish their goals. 

Shadow IT can expose an organization to costly security breaches or at the very least data leakage, leaving its sensitive and proprietary data vulnerable to theft, cybercrime, and hackers. Well-intentioned employees may not even realize that using their personal file sharing application is a security risk. The financial risks can be very substantial, left unchecked.

If your organization is running into the problem of shadow data and many employees are using unauthorized cloud applications, then it may be time to take a close look at your tools and policies.

Prevention of Shadow IT

Issuing policies and rules regarding information security and cloud service usage isn't enough to dissuade employees from resorting to shortcuts, particularly when maintaining information security is paramount to an organization. In addition to these measures, companies must offer employees secure file sharing alternatives that are equally convenient and functional so they have no reason to look elsewhere for solutions.

Employees resort to outside services and programs for business activities because these solutions are convenient and accessible. However, the corporate world has its own security needs that require closer oversight than average consumer activities, so it's important for businesses to be able to manage how their resources are stored and exchanged.

If you find yourself dealing with a shadow IT infrastructure and need help with data management, you’re not alone. 

How to Reduce Shadow IT Risk

Here are a few suggestions from our perspective to help lessen the burden of shadow IT or at least start to draft a plan of action:

  1. Take a look at your existing tools and policies - by doing this you may find holes where your users are being enabled to create a shadow IT infrastructure. Closing those holes is an easy first step in managing unsanctioned tools.
  2. Survey or audit your employees' data management and transfer processes - we all know that users do what’s easiest for them and they will often work harder to find a workaround, than to be compliant. Instead of continuously fighting that battle, try to work with your end users to establish common ground. You may be surprised at the number of things you have in common.
  3. Find a way to make it easier for your employees to follow a secure data management or transfer policy – keep communications simple, clear, and direct. Provide training on the policy annually, and to all new employees. Be sure to update the entire company on system security risks, communicating their role in preventing those risks. As, I’ve often said: “It takes team work to make the dream work.”

And if after taking those steps you still feel overwhelmed, Globalscape has a team of people that are ready and waiting to help. 


About the Author

James L. Bindseil is the President and CEO of Globalscape and serves on its Board of Directors.

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