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Why Cloud Access Security Brokers Are Crucial for Overcoming Shadow IT

Written by Kevin Liew on 07 Aug 2017
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Did you know that your IT department is only aware of about 10% of the cloud usage in the company? While most IT experts understand that employees use non-sanctioned products, few are aware of the true extent of these services.

This collection of unauthorized cloud services used by employees in an organization is known as Shadow IT, and while it may seem innocuous, it actually poses a number of security risks.

Here's a guide on why Shadow IT is dangerous and how cloud access security brokers (CASB) are crucial to overcoming shadow IT.

Shadow IT Defined

Your IT department includes all the best computer experts at your company. When evaluating new cloud services, they go through an intensive vetting process, weighing a cloud service’s features and security capabilities against its vulnerabilities. However, regular employees rarely follow such a rigorous process. Shadow IT typically stems from an employee being unaware of using an unapproved cloud service, although occasionally they simply don’t want to wait for authorization.

Shadow IT on its own can lead to a range of problems. Most importantly, if a cloud service has weak or no security protections, then any data uploaded could be seized by hackers or other third parties. Some cloud services, such as PDF converters, can claim ownership of files uploaded to their cloud. This case is particularly dangerous for intellectual property. Luckily, companies can use a CASB to detect and set controls for their Shadow IT.

Detecting Unsupported Products

The first step to eliminating Shadow IT at your company involves discovering which cloud services are in use at the company. The IT department should already have a list of major sanctioned services, such as Office 365 or Salesforce, but the CASB can do the rest. The CASB solution can then leverage log collection to identify all of the cloud services used within the company. This can be anything from a major platform to a simple file converter.

Risk Evaluation

After the CASB has collected a log of Shadow IT services within in the company, it can then begin the vetting process on a macro level, identifying security vulnerabilities that may put your data at risk. Based on its capabilities and risks, each service will receive a risk assessment score from the CASB. Based on this score, you can use the CASB to set governance policies for each service. These policies can approve and sanction useful cloud services while blocking ones that put your data at risk. Any governance protocol can be altered by the company to fit their needs or requirements, and blacklisted services will be blocked in real-time to maintain the organization’s security integrity. CASBs are proactive rather than reactive solutions.

Inexpensive Solutions

The true cost of a salaried employee is a lot more than most people realize. Each member of your IT department has current duties that take up a full work week. Otherwise, you'd perform layoffs. So, the existence of Shadow IT on your servers leaves you with only two good options.

The first one is to hire a salaried IT employee that earns at least $60,908, and you'll pay far more than that annually. Conversely, a CASB tool costs a fraction of that amount, and it doesn't take nights or weekends off. You'll have an automated tool protecting your company's best interests all the time.

Evidently, Shadow IT jeopardizes your network infrastructure, but by using a CASB, you can negate the problems before they cause accidental security breaches.

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