In the fast-paced world of technology, the allure of installing the latest software tool is powerful. Many users, when faced with a problem, quickly turn to the Internet for an app that will help them overcome it. Others have become accustomed to certain tools on their personal devices and want to use them at work as well.

Yet, within the confines of corporate devices, these unsanctioned applications, collectively referred to as “Shadow IT,” pose a significant risk to the security and integrity of an organization. While the digital landscape has expanded our possibilities, it has also exposed businesses to new vulnerabilities. This article delves into the realm of Shadow IT, exploring its definition, the inherent dangers it poses, and strategies to safeguard your organization against its potentially devastating consequences.

What is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT refers to the deployment of applications and software on corporate devices without official approval or oversight. These applications, often acquired for personal use, bypass the established security protocols of an organization. Corporate security tools, designed to protect devices from potential threats, were not designed to handle personal or non-business applications. This disconnect between sanctioned and unsanctioned software installations can lead to unforeseen vulnerabilities.

Why is Shadow IT Dangerous?

The dangers of Shadow IT are many. From a security perspective, unsanctioned applications can be conduits for data breaches and unauthorized exfiltration of sensitive corporate information. Even seemingly innocuous applications like WhatsApp can become a security headache, as data can be sent without visibility into the content. Privacy features, such as encryption in messaging apps, further complicate the monitoring of communication.

Moreover, the very act of installing unsanctioned software opens the door to malware. The internet is teeming with malicious software masquerading as legitimate applications. Downloading from reputable sources, like Google Play Store or Apple’s AppStore, can mitigate this risk to some extent. However, many applications are sourced from external portals, making it challenging to discern legitimate from malicious downloads.

Furthermore, unsanctioned software can be a drain on computing resources and even result in cost overruns. Many popular personal applications run in the background, consuming extra computing cycles. Some are designed to take advantage of periods of low CPU usage to perform processor-intensive tasks. If your employees are using cloud-based computing services (such as Remote Desktop to access a virtual machine), installing these applications can result in hefty charges based on the increased computing resource consumption.

What Kinds of Applications Should Be Avoided?

People often install software to suit their individual needs without considering the broader consequences. While specific applications can be problematic, it’s more about the types of applications that raise concerns. Here are a few examples:

  • “Privacy” Apps: Applications that enable covert activities, such as file transfers without an audit trail or non-corporate VPNs, should be closely scrutinized. For instance, a VPN installed for accessing restricted content might mask more sinister intentions.
  • Cryptocurrency Miners: CryptoMiners, which consume excessive computing resources and are often linked to the darker corners of the internet, can compromise both security and performance.
  • Virtual Machines: There are many legitimate reasons to spin up a virtual machine. However, if given access to the corporate network, unmanaged activity can quickly create vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. It also opens the way for users to circumvent established corporate security measures. Such VMs should be managed via templates that automate configuration and follow security best practices.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Organization?

  1. Device Whitelisting: One approach is to employ whitelisting, which permits only approved executables and associated files to run. This helps prevent the installation of unsanctioned software by blocking any application not on the approved list and thus minimizing the chances of malware infiltration. While labor-intensive to set up and manage, this method can offer robust protection against unauthorized installations.
  2. Segregated Guest Wi-Fi: Establishing a separate Wi-Fi network exclusively for staff’s personal devices, known as a guest network, can deter the downloading of applications to corporate devices. This approach not only minimizes risks but also enhances staff satisfaction by allowing personal device usage without compromising security.
  3. Education and Policies: Regularly educate employees about the risks of Shadow IT and the importance of adhering to company policies. Clear guidelines should emphasize the use of approved applications and the potential consequences of unauthorized installations.
  4. Manage Corporate Resources with Microsoft 365. Microsoft 365 provides end-to-end security with features like advanced threat protection, data encryption, and multi-factor authentication, safeguarding against cyber threats. Its integrated security management simplifies monitoring and response, enhancing overall organizational resilience. Employees can access corporate resources securely from their personal devices.


Shadow IT is a real danger and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Corporate Information Security Officers (CISOs) must be vigilant and take proactive measures to curb the threat to their organizations. Unapproved software installations can compromise security, open the door to malware, and strain resources. By implementing strategies such as device whitelisting, segregated guest Wi-Fi, education, and application whitelisting, organizations can shield themselves from the potential havoc of Shadow IT. As technology continues to advance, safeguarding against this hidden threat is imperative to ensure the integrity and longevity of your business.

Are you finding it hard to stay on top of digital security threats? Do you need expert guidance to shore up your digital defenses? Contact us today at Gryphon Consulting and let us help you keep Shadow IT on the outside of your organization.