Many enterprises have taken to creating their own proprietary apps and software, and mobile devices are now a mainstay in modern business. Shadow IT isn’t the only concern accompanying the growth of mobile in the business world, however. As mobile technology becomes more popular and pervasive, hackers are turning their attention toward mobile devices.
Understand Shadow IT in Modern Business
Cybersecurity is a dizzying dance—hackers devise new methods for cracking cybersecurity, and cybersecurity teams respond with new defensive measures, and the cycle repeats ad infinitum. However, one thing that can set a company back in a big way is being reactive rather than proactive when it comes to cybersecurity. As hacking grows more sophisticated, it is no longer viable to only address problems when they appear. Cybersecurity professionals must be hyper-aware of changes in the field and always look ahead for new vulnerabilities.
“Shadow IT” refers to software that employees use on their own smart devices to digitally access work without their IT department’s knowledge or permission. Of course, the problem is that a company may face cybersecurity vulnerabilities from employees who are accessing work-related materials on personal or unapproved devices or platforms. Most IT departments are only equipped to handle issues from typical operations, so if an employee creates an issue on an unapproved platform or device, IT might have more difficulty fixing the issue and crucial data might be at risk.
Let Shadow IT Create Opportunities
Many companies have devised in-house tech to allow employees to do their work, but the modern workforce isn’t as centralized as it once was. Many employees telecommute, and freelancing has become a crucial element in the modern workforce. Forward-thinking companies aren’t willing to sacrifice retaining top talent in favor of having a centralized workforce, so remote employees need ways to complete their work outside of the office.
You may discover that employees have found far more efficient and effective processes for completing work that outshine your traditional “approved” methods or devices. The younger modern workforce also craves flexibility. You’re bound to see much better results by allowing employees to complete their work on their own terms rather than enforcing an outdated status quo.
Despite the inherent risks, Shadow IT presents multiple positive opportunities for companies. Address Shadow IT with a mindset of assimilation rather than elimination—stop considering Shadow IT a problem and instead assess how you can make it more secure for your company.
Insist on Mobile Security at Work
If you do embrace a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, it needs to be well regulated and as safe as possible. There are several methods hackers can use to exploit mobile technology, so it’s vital to cover your bases as best you can, keeping the following suggestions in mind:
- Physical access is always an issue. Mobile devices are one of the most commonly stolen consumer items. If your employees are handling sensitive data on their mobile platforms, your company culture needs to emphasize device security. Enforce multi-step verification for any device used for work. If a hacker has direct access to a device, software and other cybersecurity countermeasures will likely not amount to much.
- Keep employees aware of malware. Most malware depends on the ability to trick a user into clicking something that shouldn’t be clicked. Ensure that your employees know to report any suspicious popups or advertisements. Your employees aren’t likely to encounter many attacks of this nature as long as they’re on-task with work, so make sure you set clear guidelines for personal use of devices for work.
- Consider wireless security. Some attacks are remotely targeted to a specific device. An unsecured or shoddily protected Wi-Fi network can result in cellular data being intercepted or otherwise compromised.
- Don’t discount insider threats. It’s an unfortunate reality that many cybersecurity issues arise from malicious insiders. Be proactive in preventing such occurrences by setting standards for permissible downloads and device usage.
Stay Ahead of the Cybersecurity Game
Mobile device manufacturers and some software developers are starting to focus on “self-protecting” devices—mobile devices built with cybersecurity for business in mind. The cybersecurity dance indicates that this may not be a successful venture. From what I’ve seen, hackers typically are eager to test a new defense mechanism’s mettle. However, you would do well to stay tuned to developments in this field, especially if your organization uses a BYOD policy and you recognize the importance of Shadow IT in modern business.
Your company culture should reflect a commitment to data security. Allow your employees to collaborate and to complete their work using their own devices and software. Just be sure to audit those methods for any potential vulnerabilities and address any that arise quickly and thoroughly. Regularly assess your company’s cybersecurity training for employees using mobile devices. New threats develop on a regular basis, so make sure your organization is staying ahead of the curve rather than reacting late to each new threat.
Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.