Cybersecurity Leadership & SMB Security Development
Mastering Shadow IT: Strategies for Integrating Unsanctioned Tech into Your Golden Road Develop

Mastering Shadow IT: Strategies for Integrating Unsanctioned Tech into Your Golden Road Develop

Explore practical strategies to manage and integrate shadow IT into your secured development processes, to enhance security and compliance without stifling innovation.
Explore practical strategies to manage and integrate shadow IT into your secured development processes, to enhance security and compliance without stifling innovation. Learn how MSSPs and security consultants can help your business transform shadow IT challenges into assets for growth and security.

What is the golden road to secured development?

The "Golden Road to Secured Development" refers to integrating security practices throughout the development lifecycle of software and systems to ensure that security is considered at every stage, from design through deployment and maintenance. Achieving this security standard is often described as adhering to a "Security by Design" principle, which involves proactive, comprehensive security integration into the technology environment rather than treating it as an afterthought.

Shadow IT, comprising IT solutions and systems used without the approval or knowledge of the IT department, can significantly affect a business's journey toward secured development, often referred to as the "Golden Road." Employees using unauthorized software or systems frequently bypass established security protocols and controls, introducing significant vulnerabilities into the organization. These vulnerabilities may compromise the security of sensitive business data and expose the organization to compliance risks, as these solutions may not adhere to regulatory standards. Moreover, shadow IT can dilute the effectiveness of planned IT expenditures and security strategies, as these unauthorized solutions are not accounted for in the strategic planning processes.

Businesses aim to achieve this high standard of secured development for several key reasons:

  1. Risk Reduction: Secure development practices help to reduce the risk of security breaches and data leaks, which can have severe financial, reputational, and regulatory repercussions for an organization.

  2. Regulatory Compliance: Many industries are subject to stringent regulatory requirements that mandate certain security practices. Incorporating these practices from the start of development can ease the compliance burden.

  3. Competitive Advantage: Companies that demonstrate robust security practices often gain a competitive advantage in industries where data security is critical. This is especially true in sectors like finance, healthcare, and e-commerce, where consumer trust is paramount.

Businesses understand that the investment in secured development is not merely a cost but a crucial element of their operational integrity and competitive strategy. This approach aligns with modern security frameworks and best practices, such as those outlined in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) frameworks, which advocate for a holistic, risk-based approach to security management.

How can Shadow IT Affect this?

Shadow IT refers to IT systems, solutions, or software used within an organization without the knowledge or approval of the IT department. This phenomenon can significantly affect the "Golden Road to Secured Development" in several ways:

  1. Increased Security Risks: Shadow IT introduces a range of security vulnerabilities because the organization’s IT security team has not vetted the hardware or software in use. These unauthorized tools may not comply with the organization’s security policies or standards, which can lead to data breaches or other security incidents.

  2. Compliance Issues: When employees use unsanctioned software or systems, it becomes difficult for the organization to ensure compliance with relevant regulations and standards. If the organization is found non-compliant during audits, this can lead to severe penalties, including fines and reputational damage.

  3. Resource Misalignment: Shadow IT can lead to inefficiencies and wasted resources. Investments in security technologies and systems may not be fully effective if shadow IT systems bypass these security controls. This misalignment can undermine the organization's strategy for secure development and deployment.

Businesses strive to integrate secure development practices into their operations to mitigate risks, ensure compliance, and enhance their competitive position. Adopting a "Security by Design" approach, they proactively embed security into every phase of software development. This reduces vulnerabilities and the potential for data breaches, which can have costly consequences in terms of both finances and reputation. Additionally, secure practices help businesses meet stringent industry regulations and standards, avoiding legal penalties and enhancing trust among customers and partners. In competitive markets, demonstrating robust security practices can also be a key differentiator, attracting clients who value data protection.

To mitigate the risks associated with shadow IT, organizations can take the following steps:

  • Increase Awareness and Training: Educating employees about the risks of shadow IT and the importance of following internal IT guidelines can reduce unauthorized IT usage.

  • Improve IT Service Delivery: Often, employees turn to shadow IT to fill gaps in the organization's IT services. By improving the responsiveness and flexibility of IT services, organizations can better meet the needs of their users within the security framework.

  • Implement a Formal Process for Technology Approval: Establishing a straightforward, streamlined process for evaluating and approving technology requests can help ensure that all IT solutions are secure and compliant with company policies.

  • Use Technology to Monitor and Control IT Assets: Employing tools to discover and manage connected devices and applications across the network can help IT departments identify unauthorized tools and take corrective action.

Addressing shadow IT is crucial for maintaining the security integrity of the development lifecycle and ensuring that the organization's IT investments align with its broader security and compliance objectives.

How can we work with the business to integrate shadow IT into the gold road process?

To integrate shadow IT into the secured development process effectively, a business needs a structured approach that involves collaboration across various departments. The first step consists of identifying and cataloging all shadow IT resources to understand their organizational scope and usage. Following this, it's crucial to engage with stakeholders to discuss these solutions' risks and potential benefits, ensuring there's an organizational alignment on IT security policies. By updating and enforcing these policies and offering a streamlined approval process for new IT solutions, businesses can reduce the reliance on shadow IT while ensuring that all technology used advances the organization's security goals. This integrative approach mitigates risks and aligns shadow IT with official IT practices, providing comprehensive security coverage across all business operations.

Integrating shadow IT into the formal IT and security governance framework, often called the "Golden Road to Secured Development," requires a collaborative approach between the business units and IT/security departments. Here are strategic steps to effectively manage and integrate shadow IT into the organization’s security roadmap:

1. Assessment and Inventory

  • Identify and Document: Conduct an inventory of all the shadow IT applications and devices. This can be achieved through network monitoring tools, audits, and encouraging employees to report their usage without fearing repercussions.

  • Evaluate Risk: Assess each unauthorized application or device's security, compliance, and business risks. This helps prioritize which applications can be integrated, replaced, or removed.

2. Engagement and Communication

  • Stakeholder Engagement: Involve business unit leaders in discussions about the risks and benefits of shadow IT. This collaborative approach helps understand business needs and the drivers behind shadow IT usage.

  • Education and Awareness: Educate users on the potential risks of shadow IT and the importance of security in the development process. Highlight how unauthorized applications might jeopardize the organization's security posture.

3. Policy Development and Enforcement

  • Update Policies: Revise existing IT and security policies to address shadow IT explicitly. Policies should cover the acceptable use of technology and the process for requesting new software and services.

  • Create Clear Paths for Approval: Streamline the technology evaluation and approval process. Make it easy and efficient for users to get the necessary tools through legitimate channels.

4. Integration and Adoption

  • Secure Integration: For shadow IT solutions that meet business needs and pass security assessments, integrate them into the official IT environment. Ensure they are configured, managed, and monitored according to organizational standards.

  • Provide Alternatives: If a shadow IT application is unsuitable for integration, provide users with secure and compliant alternatives that meet their business requirements.

5. Continuous Monitoring and Improvement

  • Implement Monitoring Tools: Use tools to continuously monitor the network for unauthorized applications and devices. This helps in the early detection and mitigation of risks associated with new shadow IT instances.

  • Feedback Loop: Establish a feedback mechanism where employees can continuously suggest improvements to IT services and request new tools. This iterative process helps reduce the emergence of a new shadow of IT.

6. Promote IT as a Business Enabler

  • Align IT Goals with Business Objectives: Position the IT department as a strategic partner that enables business growth and innovation rather than just a gatekeeper. This change in perception can significantly reduce the inclination towards shadow IT.

By implementing these strategies, organizations can mitigate the risks associated with shadow IT and harness its benefits to drive innovation and efficiency. The key is to balance control with flexibility, ensuring that security does not hinder business agility but supports it in a structured and secure manner.

How can Managed Security Service Providers or Security consultants help with this process?

Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) and security consultants are essential partners for businesses looking to control and integrate shadow IT into their official IT and security frameworks. Shadow IT consists of software, applications, and systems that employees use without explicit approval from their IT departments. While it can foster innovation and allow employees to find tools that suit their immediate needs, it also introduces significant risks. These risks range from security vulnerabilities to compliance breaches, which can undermine the organization’s secured development goals. By leveraging the specialized skills and advanced technologies offered by MSSPs and security consultants, businesses can comprehensively understand their shadow IT landscape, assess associated risks, and securely integrate these tools into their corporate IT environment.

Their expertise can be instrumental in several key areas:

1. Risk Assessment and Management

  • Identification of Shadow IT: MSSPs and consultants can employ advanced tools and techniques to identify unauthorized software and devices within the organization. This comprehensive inventory is the first step in understanding the extent of shadow IT.

  • Risk Evaluation: They can assess the security, compliance, and operational risks associated with each piece of shadow IT. Their expertise helps prioritize which applications or devices pose the highest risk and need immediate attention.

2. Policy Development and Strategy Implementation

  • Policy Guidance: Security consultants can help develop or refine IT security policies that specifically address shadow IT. They can ensure these policies are realistic, enforceable, and aligned with best practices.

  • Strategy Formulation: Consultants can help create strategies that reduce the reliance on shadow IT by addressing the root causes, such as gaps in current IT service offerings.

3. Security Integration and Compliance

  • Secure Integration: MSSPs can assist in securely integrating approved shadow IT into the company’s formal IT environment. They ensure these technologies are correctly configured to comply with organizational security standards.

  • Compliance Assurance: They help ensure that all IT solutions, including former shadow IT, comply with relevant laws and industry regulations, mitigating legal and financial risks.

4. Monitoring and Incident Response

  • Continuous Monitoring: MSSPs often provide continuous monitoring services that can detect the use of unauthorized applications and devices, helping prevent potential security breaches.

  • Incident Management: In a security incident involving shadow IT, MSSPs can provide rapid response services to contain the breach, mitigate damages, and identify the breach's source.

5. Education and Training

  • Awareness Programs: They can conduct education and training sessions for employees to raise awareness about the risks of shadow IT and the importance of adhering to IT policies.

  • Training IT Staff: Security consultants can train internal IT teams on new policies and procedures for effectively managing shadow IT.

6. Technology Implementation and Optimization

  • Technology Solutions: MSSPs can recommend and implement technology solutions that reduce the need for shadow IT, such as cloud services, collaboration tools, and enterprise app stores that offer employee-approved alternatives.

  • Optimization: They can help optimize these solutions to meet the business's specific needs, ensuring that they are both secure and user-friendly.

7. Strategic Advisory Services

  • Executive Advising: Security consultants often work with senior management to provide strategic insights into how shadow IT can be transformed from a security risk into a competitive advantage by harnessing innovation safely.

The collaboration between businesses and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) or security consultants is crucial for transforming shadow IT from a potential threat to a managed asset. These professionals bring expertise in detecting and integrating shadow IT and support the creation of robust security frameworks that address these challenges head-on. Through continuous monitoring, strategic policy updates, and employee training, MSSPs and consultants help ensure that shadow IT is used in a manner that supports business objectives without compromising security. Ultimately, their role is vital in enabling businesses to harness the benefits of shadow IT safely, ensuring that it contributes positively to the organization’s innovation, efficiency, and competitive edge in a secure IT environment. By doing so, they help businesses maintain agility and drive innovation while safeguarding against the inherent risks associated with unmanaged IT solutions.


To effectively manage and integrate shadow IT into your secured development framework, businesses should prioritize the following top three actions:

  1. Conduct Comprehensive Shadow IT Audits: Regularly perform thorough assessments to identify and catalog all unauthorized software and devices within the organization. Understanding the extent and nature of shadow IT is crucial for determining the next steps in risk management and integration.

  2. Revise and Enforce IT Security Policies: Update existing security policies to explicitly include guidelines and processes for managing shadow IT. Establish clear procedures for approving and integrating new software and devices, ensuring all technology aligns with organizational security standards.

  3. Leverage Expertise of MSSPs or Security Consultants: Partner with Managed Security Service Providers or security consultants to gain access to specialized skills and tools for shadow IT management. These experts can assist in securely integrating compliant shadow IT solutions, provide continuous monitoring services, and offer strategic advice to align shadow IT usage with business objectives.

By focusing on these key actions, businesses can ensure that shadow IT contributes positively to innovation and efficiency while maintaining robust security and compliance standards.

Thank you for the contributions of Jon Salisburg and Nexigen. Christophe Foulon from CPF Coaching LLC pulled together the rest of this blog.

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