Last updated at Mon, 05 Jun 2023 15:04:35 GMT

What is Shadow IT?

The term “Shadow IT” refers to the use of systems, devices, software, applications, and services without explicit IT approval. This typically occurs when employees adopt consumer products to increase productivity or just make their lives easier. This type of Shadow IT can be easily addressed by implementing policies that limit use of consumer products and services. However, Shadow IT can also occur at a cloud infrastructure level. This can be exceedingly hard for organizations to get a handle on.

Historically, when teams needed to provision infrastructure resources, this required review and approval of a centralized IT team—who ultimately had final say on whether or not something could be provisioned. Nowadays, cloud has democratized ownership of resources to teams across the organization, and most organizations no longer require their development teams to request resources in the same manner. Instead, developers are empowered to provision the resources that they need to get their jobs done and ship code efficiently.

This dynamic is critical to achieving the promise of speed and efficiency that cloud, and more specifically DevOps methodologies, offer. The tradeoff here, however, is control. This paradigm shift means that development teams are spinning up resources without the security team’s knowledge. Obviously, the adage “you can’t secure what you can’t see” comes into play here, and you’re now running blind to the potential risk that this could pose to your organization in the event it was configured improperly

Cloud Shadow IT risks

Blind spots: As noted above, since security teams are unaware of Shadow IT assets, security vulnerabilities inevitably go unaddressed. Dev teams may not understand (or simply ignore) the importance of cloud security updates, patching, etc for these assets.

Unprotected data: Unmitigated vulnerabilities in these assets can put businesses at risk of data breaches or leaks, if cloud resources are accessed by unauthorized users. Additionally, this data will not be protected with centralized backups, making it difficult, if not impossible, to recover.

Compliance problems: Most compliance regulations requirements for processing, storing, and securing customers’ data. Since businesses have no oversight of data stored on Shadow IT assets, this can be an issue.

Addressing Cloud Shadow IT

One way to address Shadow IT in cloud environments is to implement a cloud risk and compliance management platform like Rapid7’s InsightCloudSec.

InsightCloudSec continuously assesses your entire cloud environment whether in a single cloud or across multiple clouds and can detect changes to your environment—such as the creation of a new resource—in less than 60 seconds with event-driven harvesting.

The platform doesn’t just stop at visibility, however. Out-of-the-box, users get access to 30+ compliance packs aligned to common industry standards like NIST, CIS Benchmarks, etc. as well as regulatory frameworks like HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR. Teams also have the ability to tailor their compliance policies to their specific business needs with custom packs that allow you to set exceptions and/or add additional policies that aren’t included in the compliance frameworks you either choose or are required to adhere to.

When a resource is spun up, the platform detects it in real-time and automatically identifies whether or not it is in compliance with organization policies. Because InsightCloudSec offers native, no-code automation, teams are able to build bots that take immediate action whenever Shadow IT creeps into their environment by either adjusting configurations and permissions to regain compliance or even deleting the resource altogether if you so choose.

To learn more, check out our on-demand demo.