A security expert tracks the use of Shadow IT software and technology.

Shadow IT & The Risk It Poses to Medical Facility Infrastructure

Shadow IT is the practice of a user tweaking or integrating software applications, lines of code, executables, or cloud services to make things easier for themselves. And while it is convenient, it can be a particularly risky venture, especially for secure medical facilities.

And because this new or modified technology is implemented without the knowledge of the organization’s IT department, it can present security threats in your infrastructure, leading to confidential patient PII (personally identifiable information) being stolen.

Shadow IT is often employed as a result of:

  1. Jobs being too monotonous
  2. Managers being too harsh with employees’ workload

And although the work landscape has changed because of COVID-19, not much has changed for medical facilities. In fact, working from home has resulted in many individuals using third-party applications to ease their jobs, as medical staff (including receptionists, accountants, etc.) are being pushed to their limits.

So it all falls on the security team to control shadow IT, including discovery, management, securing potential risks, and deciding when to permit and when to forbid it. One of the easiest ways to do this is to conduct regular risk assessments, or IT audits to ensure that only the authorized technology is being used for work.

What Threats Come With the Use of Shadow IT?

The use of Shadow IT itself isn’t the problem. Anything that helps employees increase their overall productivity should be encouraged. In a perfect world, the use of Shadow IT could increase and hold efficiency at 100%. Employees would be able to use just about any form of technology or software they desired in order to get their job done while keeping medical facilities secure.

However, the unregulated use of said technology often leaves the door open for malware and leaves employees vulnerable to phishing scams. As employees continue using unoptimized, outdated, and/or unsecured applications for work, the risk of a breach of security or an all-out cyberattack also increases. Hackers and cyber-criminals are continually testing the software and technologies used in business for vulnerabilities they can exploit.

One way of safeguarding your system and protecting your employees from such malicious attacks is to educate them. Implementing a seamless system that encourages them to tell you about any software or mods they are using, and how it helps them, is also a great way to keep you in the loop. This system may include an incentive program, i.e., anyone with a good suggestion would get a reward.

On the other hand, you could also make your employees use a VPN designed to keep track of which software is using the internet connection. However, we recommend educating your employees about the tracking capabilities of your system before asking them to implement the VPN.

There is also a physical solution to this, i.e., controlling data downloads through networks and locking installation privileges behind the administrator’s screen. This way, employees would always require the administrator’s permission to install Shadow IT.

As more and more applications are being introduced, it is natural to assume that there will be one or two out there that employees think could help them perform their roles more efficiently.

So to better secure your medical facility infrastructure against the risk of Shadow IT, we recommend you get in contact with our security experts and see how we can help!