blog post cover

6 Most Common Sources of Shadow IT

Shadow IT refers to the information technology systems and solutions built and used within an organization without explicit organizational approval. It is often the result of employees seeking to increase efficiency and productivity but can pose serious security risks. The widespread use of SaaS (Software as a Service) apps has made Shadow IT even more common While many of these applications offer utility, they often bypass the IT department's vetting, leading to potential security vulnerabilities.

Approximately 81% of organizations have experienced sensitive SaaS data exposure.

We’ll dive into some of the most common sources of Shadow IT, underscoring the risks associated with them and highlighting how a tool like Resmo can help you discover and prevent Shadow IT.

Why Employees Turn to Shadow IT

reasons for Shadow IT

Understanding the motivations behind employees' adoption of Shadow IT is crucial for companies looking to manage its spread and potential risks. While Shadow IT poses challenges for an organization, it is often adopted for reasons that seem very rational from the employee's perspective. Here are some of the most common reasons why employees turn to Shadow IT:

1. Ease of Use & Familiarity

Many Shadow IT tools are intuitive and user-friendly. If employees have used certain tools or platforms in previous jobs or in their personal lives, they may prefer those over the ones officially sanctioned by their current employer due to familiarity.

2. Speed & Efficiency

Official IT processes can sometimes be slow, especially in larger organizations. If an employee feels that getting approval for a tool will take too long, they might bypass the process entirely to get their work done faster.

3. Flexibility

Shadow IT applications might offer more features or customizations that cater to specific needs or tasks, allowing employees to work in ways that suit them best.

4. Lack of Knowledge or Training

In some cases, employees might not even be aware of the tools that the company provides or might not have been adequately trained on how to use them. This can lead them to seek out alternatives they know or have heard of.

You might train your employees about SaaS risks, and suggest resources about cybersecurity tips for employees.

5. Collaboration with External Parties

If an employee is working with clients, freelancers, or partners who use a specific tool or platform, it can be tempting to use that same tool for the sake of seamless collaboration, even if it's not approved.

Suggested reading: How to Monitor SaaS without Invading Employee Privacy

6. Perceived Gaps in Provided Tools

It's not uncommon for employees to feel that the tools and applications provided by their organization are not entirely up to the mark. This perception may arise for several reasons:

  • ‚ÄćLimited Functionality
  • Outdated Software
  • User Experience
  • Specialized Needs

7. Remote & Hybrid Work

The shift to remote and hybrid work models has drastically changed the way many employees approach their tasks, and with it has come an increased reliance on a variety of digital tools:

  • ‚ÄćDevice Diversification: Many remote workers use personal devices for work tasks. These devices might already have a range of non-sanctioned apps installed, making it easy to default to using them for work-related activities.‚Äć
  • Network Variability: Working outside the controlled environment of a corporate network means employees might encounter connectivity or compatibility issues that push them to seek alternative tools that work better with their home network.‚Äć
  • Immediate Needs: In a remote setup, where immediate IT support might not be as accessible as walking over to the IT desk in an office, employees might download software or tools on-the-fly to address immediate challenges.‚Äć
  • Collaboration with Remote Teams: To maintain productivity, employees might adopt new collaboration tools that they feel better facilitate communication and coordination with dispersed team members.‚Äć
  • Cultural Shift: The autonomy of remote work might make employees feel more empowered to make decisions about the tools they use, leaning towards what they feel is best for their productivity, even if it isn't officially sanctioned.

Also read: Remote Work Security Risks

Common Types of SaaS That Lead to Shadow IT

1. Team Collaboration Applications

Team Collaboration Applications

Common products: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Trello, Asana.

What makes team collaboration applications a likely source of shadow IT?

  • Ease of Use: These applications are often user-friendly and designed for quick deployment.
  • Organic Growth: A single team member might start using a tool, and it naturally spreads across the team.
  • Limited IT Interference: Since these apps can run without IT's direct input, they can easily bypass traditional IT controls.

The risks associated with this type of application include:

  • Data Leakage: Confidential information might be shared without proper security controls.
  • Unauthorized Access: Without strict access controls, outsiders might gain access to internal communications.
  • Integration Vulnerabilities: These tools often integrate with other apps, potentially opening more security holes.

2. Training & LMS Applications

Training & LMS Applications

Common products: Coursera, Udemy for Business, LearnUpon, Moodle.

What makes Training & LMS applications a likely source of shadow IT?

  • On-Demand Learning: Employees seek external platforms to enhance skills, often without notifying the IT department.
  • Decentralized Deployment: Different departments might deploy various LMS tools based on their specific needs.

The risks associated with this type of application include:

  • Intellectual Property Theft: Course materials and company training data can be exposed.
  • Inadequate Compliance: Training tools might not comply with industry-specific regulations.
  • User Authentication Issues: Improper user management can expose training content to unauthorized individuals.

3. Web Conferencing & Video Chat Tools

Web Conferencing & Video Chat Tools

Common products: Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, Cisco Webex.

What makes web conferencing & video chat tools a likely source of shadow IT?

  • Quick Communication: The need for immediate communication, especially in remote work scenarios, drives rapid adoption.
  • Multiple Options: Numerous free and paid tools are available, tempting employees to use multiple platforms.
  • External Invitations: Employees might be invited to use tools by external stakeholders, bypassing internal tools.

The risks associated with this type of application include:

  • Eavesdropping: Unsecured meetings can be intercepted by malicious actors.
  • Phishing Vulnerabilities: Fake meeting invites can be a vector for phishing attacks.
  • Data Privacy Concerns: Meeting recordings and chat logs might be stored insecurely.

4. Personal File Storage & Sharing Solutions

Personal File Storage & Sharing Solutions

Common products: Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Box.

What makes personal file storage & sharing solutions a likely source of shadow IT?

  • Convenience: These platforms provide a quick and easy way to store, share, and access files from anywhere.
  • Collaboration: Employees often use these tools to collaborate on documents with colleagues, bypassing corporate solutions.
  • Familiarity: Many employees use these for personal purposes and therefore prefer them over corporate-sanctioned tools.

The risks associated with this type of application include:

  • Data Loss: Information stored on these platforms might not be backed up in accordance with company policies.
  • Data Leakage: Sensitive company information can be unintentionally shared with external parties.
  • Compliance Violations: Storing company data on unapproved platforms may breach compliance regulations.

5. Personal Email Accounts

Personal Email Accounts

Common products: Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook.

What makes personal email accounts a likely source of shadow IT?

  • Ease of Access: Employees might find it quicker to send a document via personal email than through corporate channels.
  • Avoiding Restrictions: Corporate email might have attachment size restrictions or filtering that personal email bypasses.
  • Privacy: Some might use personal email when they want to keep the content hidden from company monitoring.

The risks associated with this type of application include:

  • Data Exfiltration: Confidential data might be leaked outside the organization.
  • Malware and Phishing: Personal email accounts might not have the same security measures as corporate ones, increasing the risk of malware or phishing attacks.
  • Data Retention Issues: Important information might not be archived or retrievable for future reference or compliance needs.

6. Development Platforms & Code Repositories

Development Platforms & Code Repositories

Common products: GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket.

What makes development platforms & code repositories a likely source of shadow IT?

  • Collaboration: Developers often use these platforms to collaborate on code and share projects.
  • Versatility: These platforms offer features that might not be present in corporate-approved tools.
  • Open Source Projects: Developers might engage in open source projects outside of work, leading to crossover between personal and professional codebases.

The risks associated with this type of application include:

  • IP Theft: Proprietary code could be exposed or stolen.
  • Malicious Code: Unvetted code or libraries might introduce vulnerabilities into corporate projects.
  • Lack of Oversight: Without proper oversight, code quality and security standards might not be maintained.

Tackling Shadow IT with Resmo

resmo shadow IT discovery

Identifying and managing Shadow IT is crucial for organizations that aim to secure their data and IT infrastructure. Resmo offers a comprehensive solution to this challenge. As a SaaS security tool, Resmo helps organizations:

  • Discover which SaaS apps employees use, either with or without the IT department's knowledge.
  • Detect critical security issues such as weak passwords, over-permissive access rights, and license-related issues.
  • Remediate security risks faster with ChatOps, ensuring vulnerabilities are addressed promptly.

With Resmo's capabilities such as Shadow IT Discovery, SaaS Risk Assessment, and Security Risk Remediation, IT teams can rest assured that they are taking proactive steps to mitigate the risks posed by Shadow IT.

Ready to see if your organization has Shadow IT? Try Resmo for free.

Keep on learning:

Continue Reading

Sign up for our Newsletter