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What is shadow IT? How do I protect my network?

The grey area of software used at work without authorisation from the IT department is growing and may entail harsh consequences. How do you combat shadow IT?

Do you know everything about your network?

Every introduction of a new IT solution into a company’s business departments (e.g. dedicated marketing or sales software) should have the support of the internal IT cell. However, when the cell has limited resources and the business needs are urgent, we have an anything goes scenario, which produces the uncontrollable effect of shadow IT, the IT grey zone.

The workers take it upon themselves to install software on their computers and they also have a much easier time taking advantage of SaaS solutions in the age of technological development. In most cases, it is enough to configure an online account. The common denominator is the IT department’s lack of control over the applied software, which could endanger the company’s security chain or expose the company to fines for not holding the required licenses.

Rafał Janus’ article published in Computerworld magazine reads:

The company’s IT department is responsible for all technology, even that it is not aware of. It may seem unfair, but that’s the way it is. In events of unauthorised access or audit failures, the heads of IT are the ones summoned before the chairman regardless of the cause. The IT department faces the challenge of finding and securing such applications. In many instances, the heads of IT are reluctant to apply measures of security to avoid business conflicts, especially when they do not have enough funds to realise all business expectations. However, the risk created by the grey IT zone is much greater than business dissatisfaction stemming from new measures of security.

Protection from shadow IT

You can protect yourself from shadow IT by monitoring the traffic outgoing from the company, but there are also other ways: you should also monitor the processes active in the network and audit the installed software. Besides solutions such as firewalls, you can also take advantage of IT management software. The Inventory and Users modules of Axence nVision offer key functions for preventing shadow IT.

The first allows for monitoring changes in software installed on all working stations in the network, which makes it easier to take appropriate measures when there are missing licenses or in the event of a potential hazard presented by a given application. In turn, the Users module allows the Administrator to block a given program until the reason for its installation is clarified and a consensus with the business is reached. When someone installs something, it is important to know what and why, which is something the users often can’t say. This module also allows to check whether the workers are using the secure SaaS services in the online browsing history. The IT department also has the option of creating blacklists of applications and questionable domains, which will be blocked from the employees.