When Does Shadow IT Become Business-Led IT

Oct 26, 2022

Oct 26, 2022

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4 min

Business-led and shadow IT is a part of organizations as more digital tools are available. Learn how shadow and business-led IT impacts your SaaS security.

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When Does Shadow IT Become Business-Led IT
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Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is the fastest-growing cloud application category that businesses utilize since 2020. According to Gartner, cloud services spending will reach nearly $600 million in 2023, an increase of 21% from the previous year. 

Shadow IT, which is almost always SaaS, is becoming more prevalent in organizations, and workers rely on readily available SaaS apps to do their work. Digital transformation has accelerated this trend as the number of apps increases and the functionality of apps increases, making them more powerful. 

Navigating shadow IT can be confusing as it sometimes gets conflated with business-led IT. However, key differences exist between the two. This article will compare business-led IT vs. shadow IT and discover their risks for SaaS security.

Understanding Shadow IT

Definitions of shadow IT vary depending on who you ask, but it generally refers to the use of any resource, such as applications and devices, not explicitly authorized by the IT department. 

While shadow IT exposes companies to significant risks and possible compliance issues, it also enables employees to work more efficiently. Increased use of shadow IT also stems from the rapid development of SaaS cloud-based applications. It encompasses personal devices, which organizations following a bring your own device (BYOD) policy for remote work may find beneficial. 

The benefits of shadow IT creates risk in the company, and businesses have investigated the most effective strategies to detect and control it while putting employees in the best place to observe security and compliance guidelines. The following are the five general steps in identifying shadow IT: 

  • Figuring out how much shadow IT exists within your organization’s framework 
  • Developing methods to minimize the risks of shadow IT
  • Protecting shadow IT accounts 
  • Coordinating shadow IT security across multiple control points

Is Shadow IT the Same as Business-Led IT? 

As shadow IT has become more accepted in the corporate world, it has taken on a new name — business-led IT. What is business-led IT? Essentially, any technology employees at your business use fall outside the responsibility of the chief information security officer (CISO) or another information security program. 

With shadow IT, the IT department may not be aware of the different applications and devices their employees use. This distinguishes it from business-led IT, where IT teams know what technologies personnel use and create risk mitigation strategies in response. Even if security managers and architects are unaware of the exact technologies used, a system is in place to troubleshoot issues and perform high-level governance. 

Does Business-Led IT Break SaaS Security? 

As mentioned, shadow SaaS is the applications, software, and systems employees use for work not necessarily authorized by the CISO or a similar executive. Maintaining the safe use of shadow SaaS can be challenging, as there is no universal method for security. For instance, establishing the best strategy for authentication may be difficult because each SaaS provider may take a different approach. 

Businesses should evaluate which applications and services they use most and their authentication options to reduce SaaS security risks. With this information, CISO and information security directors can confidently decide which mode best suits the company’s needs. One option that works for many businesses is single sign-on (SSO), as it confirms that account and password policies correspond with each SaaS application. However, SSO is a partial solution because it was designed to support a small number of known apps and not the hundreds of apps that business-led IT results in.

Security Risk with Shadow IT and Business-Led IT 

In the battle of business-led IT vs. shadow IT, one area of overlap is their risks. Both strategies contain features that may adversely affect your company. Challenges with shadow IT security include: 

  • Loss of data: If an employee resigns or retires, information stored in personal devices or the cloud may not be available to the company. 
  • Cost: From reputational damage following a breach to noncompliance penalties, shadow IT may be highly expensive for your enterprise. 
  • Decreased supervision: Since shadow IT is outside the boundaries of IT security, the department may not detect policy violations or issues with configurations until they occur. 
  • More potential for cyber attacks: As the business accrues more shadow IT, its attack surface will only grow. 
  • Decentralized data: Shadow IT prevents companies from having a single data source, which may lead to less reliable analysis and reporting. 

Similar issues impact business-led IT security, but this technique also presents a unique problem. When each employee uses the technology they deem most user-friendly, it can boost productivity. So the objective is to turn to shadow IT into business-led IT, and that can only be done by implementing a robust, automated security program that can discover, prioritize, secure, and orchestrate the securing of the SaaS apps being acquired by all the employees of the company.  

Once IT and security are able to monitor and secure the apps, the benefits can be realized without the risks commonly associated with shadow IT and dirty environments.  Allowing a decentralized technology acquisition strategy becomes a conscious, strategic choice and not a growing risk that cannot be mitigated. 

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Identifying Shadow SaaS with Grip

When evaluating business-led IT vs. shadow IT, it is vital to understand their security implications. At Grip, we offer a platform that simplifies locating and securing shadow SaaS called the SaaS Security Control Plane (SSCP).  This modern approach enables your business to discover, prioritize, protect, and organize SaaS security for authorized and unauthorized applications and managed and unmanaged devices. 

Our SaaS Security Control Plane requires fewer personnel and resources than competitors and takes less time to install. By relying on our innovation, your business may reap an immediate return on investment and save money on SSO. To learn more about SaaS security with Grip, download the datasheet today. 

Interested in a demo to see how an SSCP can help your SaaS security program?  Get a free SaaS security risk assessment from Grip today!

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