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What is the Meaning of Shadow IT?

Shadow IT

Sounds scary, right? Like a Stephen King horror novel. Shadow IT. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

If you have anything to do with security operations at your organization, this is the kind of thing that keeps you up at night. Shadow IT, meaning information technology projects happening in “the shadows” outside of the IT department, is a serious threat. Cisco defines Shadow IT as “the use of IT-related hardware or software by a department or individual without the knowledge of the IT or security group within the organization. It can encompass cloud services, software, and hardware. The main area of concern today is the rapid adoption of cloud-based services.”

In 2020, Gartner determined that a third of all successful security attacks on enterprise businesses were done via Shadow IT resources.

The truth is, Shadow IT could be happening in your organization right now, and that is indeed frightening. Here’s how you can uncover it and how you can prevent it from happening in the future.

Shadow IT discovery

Shadow IT discovery is the process in which you investigate and find unapproved applications and services in your network. These are apps that other departments may think are cool or useful so they download them without seeking prior approval.

Because these apps weren’t screened through proper security protocols, they could pose a serious threat. Hackers love to target these types of applications and there are way too many real-world horror stories of Shadow IT attacks to prove it.

The best way to find out what’s in the shadows is to shine a bright light on your network. This can be done via regular security check-ups and scans across the organization or by using an application such as CoreView’s Multi-SaaS solution.

Shadow IT prevention

Shadow IT prevention starts and ends with your corporate security policy. The key is communicating this policy to each and every employee and explaining the risks of how using cloud apps without permission could expose the entire company to a costly security breach.

The second step IT managers can take is to beef up their firewall and network security in order to prevent unapproved software from being downloaded in the first place. An alert should be registered each time an attempt is made to access or download unapproved cloud apps and an automated (or in-person) communication about the risks should be delivered to that particular employee.

Finally, developing an easy-to-follow protocol in which employees can request permission to use certain applications is another way to prevent rogue downloads. If they clearly understand the risks associated with these types of cloud apps and the need to go through proper security channels in order to utilize new technology, they’ll be less likely to expose the organization to hackers and cyber-criminals.


Now that you have a better understanding of Shadow IT’s meaning, you can take the proper steps to prevent it from terrorizing your organization. In the light of day, and with a robust security program in place, it really doesn’t have to be that scary after all.

To learn more, check out our Shadow IT Discovery Glossary here.

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