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How Remote Work Changes Shadow IT

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As remote work becomes the norm, your IT department's ability to manage your remote workers' devices is limited. This often leads to issues with shadow IT, or the presence of unauthorized and unapproved software solutions on your devices, usually due to your employees trying to fill a need.

The Double-edged Sword of Shadow IT

Shadow IT is one of the threats to your security that, when properly managed, can provide insights into where your existing network and applications are lacking for your team, benefiting your business. If your team is installing unauthorized software, it is most likely because they feel they cannot be productive with the software you're providing them, so they try to install their own.

Of course, the problem is that these team members aren't experts in data security and may install software that is inherently vulnerable to compromise. If they install this software on their workstation, they may be unwittingly opening the entire network to exposure without meaning to.

The Importance of Monitoring

To better manage shadow IT, your IT administrator must develop a system in which they can monitor a variety of interactions. This will allow them to stop a problem before it has a chance to spread and place the entire network at risk. Additional steps your IT department can do to reduce the effect of shadow IT include:

Consolidate applications when you can - If you can find a turnkey solution to handle multiple needs, such as Microsoft Office 365, it makes your software (and the data it produces) significantly easier to manage. Doing so can reduce the need for your team to find alternative applications.

Restrict permissions - On company hardware, you can restrict the user’s permissions so they can’t install anything that isn’t approved by IT. At home, you don’t get as much control. However, you can give your staff easy, secure access to the office network. They can remote into their workstations and use all the apps and access files as if they were in the office. You still keep control, and you can tell if users are actually remoting in or not.

Research applications - Take advantage of your team's shadow IT and try to understand why they feel the need to install rogue applications and what need they are trying to address. You may be surprised by the productivity your team can bring to your processes.

Educate your users - When it comes to security, your team will always be your weakest link, and your greatest asset. Educate your staff about shadow IT and their responsibility to clear external applications before installing them on their workstation. If you include your team in keeping your data secure, they will become invested and understand the importance of doing their part.

Shadow IT and Your Remote Workforce

While shadow IT is a specific and clearly defined situation, reflecting the effect your team can have on your security, it is primarily an issue of communication. As such, shadow IT can be mitigated by monitoring your systems and engaging with your team. However, the dynamic changes when considering shadow IT and your remote workforce. It would be the best practice to view any of the software your remote team uses, unless pre-authorized and approved, as shadow IT. 

Shadow IT is a greater risk with remote workers due to your IT department being unable to monitor or manage your remote workers' workstations. There is a strong possibility that your remote team's computers are at some level, insecure. These vulnerabilities can range from...

Insecure software
It isn't uncommon for home users (and remember, that it is precisely what many new remote workers are) to download software from various online sources to solve a problem they have. The issue is that sometimes, free software may contain malware that can compromise their machines and your systems when they connect to it.

Improperly configured routers
Routers and their firewalls are the central defense against hackers gaining remote access to your team's network. An improperly configured router can be due to several issues, including being older and EOL (End of Life). EOL devices usually don't receive upgrades, resulting in their being vulnerable to attack. Here are three ways your team can protect their data. Another mode of allowing hackers to gain access would be your team not changing their router's default credentials: User: Admin, Password: Guest. 

Password management
While it is best practice to monitor and manage your team passwords, it is challenging to do such with their personal computers. As password compromise is the primary means hackers use to gain access to your network, and therefore, your data, your team must maintain best password practices, in and out of the office. Does your team know the do’s and don'ts of managing their passwords?

Your data in the wrong ecosystem
If your users are plugging in sensitive data into third-party applications, you don’t necessarily know where that data is going or how secure it is. This is one of the biggest problems with shadow IT in the first place.

Communication is the Key to Success

The danger of shadow IT lies in the lack of communication between your IT department and your team, which reduces your remote team's ability to make informed decisions. Communication is critical to success, which is why it is vital to ensure your team can communicate and collaborate even if they are in different employment statuses: in-house and remote.

By investing in business communication solutions such as VoIP and other services, you can make your processes better, allowing your team to be more productive and efficient because they are better able to communicate with each other.

If you are concerned that your staff isn’t communicating as much as they should or placing your data at risk due to a poorly configured set up, we can help. The professional IT technicians at Datalyst can provide solutions to help your team communicate with each other, and help develop a plan to keep your data secure. Call us at (774) 213-9701 to set up your comprehensive IT consultation today.

Monitoring Your IT is a Crucial Step to Success
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