Shadow IT: An Essential Component for Enterprise Security

Last year was infamous for global cybersecurity breaches—so much that it resulted in the game changing for organizational vulnerability. Security today is more than a departmental or team problem, and is very much an organizationwide concern.

Shadow IT—and shadow cloud IT—are two areas of importance to CIOs. Shadow IT describes IT systems or solutions used within an organization without the approval, or even the knowledge, of corporate IT. Similarly, shadow cloud reflects employee sign up for cloud services without corporate IT involvement.

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Shadow IT is here to stay, and reflects the consumerization of IT as employees bring in solutions that help them stay productive. This means organizations must accept the fact that unknown apps and devices are used every day within the enterprise.

Adapt to Accept Shadow IT

So what’s an enterprise dedicated to best security practices to do? Smart businesses will see internal security as a strategic IT opportunity. Here are five tactics IT must execute to gain more visibility into shadow IT and to manage it accordingly:

Fully Embrace Shadow IT

The concept of shadow IT emerged more than a decade ago as companies began to allow users to personalize their work experience. Early on, IT admins were frightened by this shift in workforce accessibility, wondering if they would: a) lose visibility, and b) lose control of their environments. In today’s world, shadow IT is a fact of life, so instead of fearing and fighting for control of it, IT admins need to admit its presence and form a symbiotic relationship with it.


From a cultural perspective, it’s imperative to keep an open line of communication with end users and discuss how they may be contributing to breaches. Ongoing education is necessary, because employees often don’t realize the actions they take can lead to an organizational vulnerability.

For example, a simple unauthorized file share via Dropbox, because IT might not even know the app is being used. End users simply don’t recognize that what they perceive as everyday business activity can actually expose the company to unnecessary IT risk. It is up to IT leaders to provide education and best practices for its employee base.

Better-Fitting Technology

When an organization uses multiple tools for one IT management purpose, such as antivirus, it breeds unnecessary complexity and extraneous work streams, causing the rise of management mistakes and gaps. Most likely these disparate tools do not integrate and fit seamlessly with each other in a dynamic network. Strong integrations or single-platform devices help alleviate this issue.

Automate and Govern by Policy

Complete endpoint management that encompasses discovery and management of off-network devices, patching that extends beyond Microsoft to Mac and third-party applications, and automation that is scalable and can drive consistency are important here. IT administrators must first have visibility on an automated basis; this includes third-party apps and cloud systems where data could be hidden. This also includes network traffic flow—even browser extensions, so a management plan can be created—despite the end users adopting technology without IT involvement.

Understand Shadow IT Affects All Organizations, Regardless of Size

With midmarket enterprises in particular, there is still a cultural idea that cybersecurity breaches do not affect them as much as their larger enterprise counterparts—that bad actors are not looking at them, only the “big guys.” This is a dangerous. Small organizations actually have more to lose, as downtime for them can be catastrophic.


Shadow IT will continue to grow as employees continue to adopt solutions that work best for them. Rather than combat rogue agents, infosec admins should work toward enabling IT to have visibility, and provide staff with automated endpoint management capabilities.

This helps ensure shadow IT does not become the source of entry for vulnerabilities. By taking these steps, organizations can maintain security and prevent becoming part of the next security breach headline.

Tracy Hernandez

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Tracy Hernandez

As Kaseya’s VP of Product Marketing, Tracy West Hernandez leads the company’s Go-to-Market strategy. Tracy brings deep expertise to this role with a portfolio of successful products and services that create value because they intersect both customer need and revenue demands. Tracy has worked in IT and software for over two decades, in roles that include product marketing and management, customer success, professional services and education.

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