In the first part of this series on shadow IT, we looked at what it is and how prevalent it has become within IT departments. Here are some of the specific risks that enterprises face from shadow IT:
Surveillance and data leakage
One-third of the 3,571 cloud services analyzed in a recent Skyhigh Networks report were vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug in the OpenSSL cryptographic library. That exploit was patched not long after its April 2014 discovery, but encryption remains a stumbling block for cloud security. Only 11 percent of services were encrypting data at rest.
Encryption is fundamental to cloud security. Within shadow IT, considerations about what encryption measures – if any – the provider uses take a back seat to whatever is most convenient for the end users. Enterprise customers have to take back control and ensure that all cloud services in use by the company feature encryption and have straightforward terms for managing keys.
“The important part is that the key management is disjoined from the cloud provider,” Trend Micro solutions architect Udo Schneider told ComputerWeekly. “This means that even if someone succeeds in stealing all your virtual drives, they will be useless to them. The fact the data is disjoined – which is really not technology but basic maths – is essential, but the interesting part in this whole discussion is that a customer can specify under which conditions they release a key to a workload.
Slow or delayed progress on modernizing IT
Security concerns about the public cloud are not enough to hold back business adoption. Many organizations are taking up Amazon Web Services and similar offerings to scale operations and reduce the burden of in-house IT infrastructure management.
But with shadow IT, setting up a secure, efficient enterprise cloud becomes difficult. Companies may lose sight of the cloud’s benefits after a breach or unexpected bill – triggered by shadow IT users – causes extensive damage. Organizations have to have conversations about how to implement cloud solutions that cater to users’ needs while also benefiting operations as a whole. As with encryption, due diligence must be performed in order to identify potential weaknesses and realize the consequences of a security incident.
“To securely implement SaaS products and take full advantage of the benefits they afford, it’s not enough to know what threats and vulnerabilities this delivery and consumption model presents. It’s also critical to hold a firm understanding of which party is responsible in the event of a breachhttp://talkincloud.com/saas-software-service/051314/forrester-shadow-it-cannot-be-ignored,” stated the authors of a recent Forrester Research report. “The combination of this new technology and its unique vendor-customer relationship, however, makes this easier said than done.” [Link is messed up, but I would just cut this quote altogether in the interest of space.]
Issues with mobile devices, spear-phishing and authentication
Last year, Trend Micro’s research projected that there would be more than 1 million malicious Android apps by the end of that year. The rapid adoption of mobile devices and BYOD initiatives means that are many new conduits for classic attacks such as spear-phishing to steal credentials and hijack accounts.
Only 16 percent of the apps studied by Skyhigh Networks featured multifactor authentication. Employees who are accustomed to constantly forgetting and resetting their passwords may be bringing these practices into the workplace via shadow IT usage of unapproved services. In the next part of this series, we’ll look at what can be done to better contain shadow IT in the context of the cloud.