Shadow IT, a problem child with redeeming features

An ever increasing number of employees use their own devices with all kinds of applications in the workplace, introducing a number of inherent risks for safety and privacy. As an IT manager, you would probably prefer to ban all those apps from your organisation. Unfortunately… That is both impossible and unwise. It would be better to inventory all those apps and, where necessary, block some of them before they can cause mischief.

Shadow IT has been around as long as computers have been used on the work floor. In the beginning, employees brought floppy disks to work with their favourite programmes, which then all found their way to the company network. Today, many companies have implemented a Bring Your Own Device policy (BOYD). This often results in a proliferation of mobile devices. What’s more, employees are constantly becoming more proficient at discovering, downloading and using their own favourite apps. All these devices, apps and cloud services pose serious problems for IT departments.

Why is shadow IT so dangerous?
At your average organisation, hundreds of different applications are used. Over 70 percent of the employees uses applications that have not been approved by the IT department.
When the IT department does not have a good handle on which devices and applications are being used within the organisation, serious security problems could ensue. According to Gartner, in 2020, roughly 33 percent of all attacks penetrating company networks will be caused by shadow IT.
Additionally, there is also a risk that, due to the use of these apps, sensitive information may leave the company premises. This is highly undesirable and in conflict with the GDPR.
An finally, it just is not very efficient when a variety of apps are used within a company that actually serve the same purpose. When various employees or departments use their own apps for file-sharing or cooperation, this is detrimental to productivity.

Shadow IT is unavoidable
Does this mean that the IT department should block all unknown apps? This may sound tempting, but in practice this is virtually impossible, but also not desirable.
Employees will always find a way to get their favourite apps into the organisation. Furthermore, people are much more productive when they have precisely the right tools at their disposal. It is even possible that the apps that the employees use are more efficient than those offered by the organisation. Many employees are actually very much up-to-date with all the latest developments. In this sense, you can also see shadow IT as an indicator to evaluate which apps the employees need.

Detection is key
Shadow IT may have its positive qualities, but that does not mean you don’t need insight into what devices and apps are used within your organisation.
If you want to manage all the network devices in your organisation from one central cloud-based solution, Cisco Meraki is a good choice. This allows you to detect security problems immediately and solve them with the press of a button.

The Meraki access points can easily be combined with Umbrella, a cloud-based security platform. This platform forms a first line of defence against Internet threats. Cisco Umbrella offers a complete overview of all Internet activities for all locations, devices and users and it blocks threats at the instant they reach the network.
These crystal-clear overviews show which apps are being used and which of these are high-risk. You can then block unwanted apps in just a couple of clicks.