Data Security

What is Shadow Data?

rectangle Written by: Anne Gotay rectangle 2 2 min read

What is Shadow Data?

Shadow data refers to all the information that is created, processed, and stored within an organization without the knowledge or consent of the IT department. You can also refer to this as hidden data, rouge data, unsanctioned data, or dark data. This can include files shared through personal email accounts, documents saved on personal devices, or data stored in unauthorized cloud services. This data can pose significant risks to a business, including security threats and compliance issues.


How Shadow Data Puts Business at Risk

The lack of control and oversight of shadow data can lead to several risks:

  1. Security Risks: Without proper security measures, this hidden data can be easily accessed by unauthorized individuals, leading to data breaches.
  2. Compliance Risks: Storing and handling data in non-compliant ways can lead to legal issues and fines.
  3. Data Loss Risks: Without proper backup and recovery processes, dark data can be lost forever, impacting business operations.

How to Identify Shadow Data

Identifying shadow data is a critical step in minimizing its risks. Here’s how you can identify this hidden data within your organization:

  1. Conducting Surveys and Interviews: Engage with employees to understand what tools and services they are using outside the official channels.
  2. Using Data Discovery Tools: Implementing data discovery tools can help in scanning and identifying unauthorized data across various platforms.
  3. Monitoring Network Traffic: By analyzing network traffic, you can detect unusual data flows that may indicate the presence of shadow data.
  4. Regular Audits: Regularly auditing devices and applications can uncover unauthorized data and services.



ong>How to Protect Shadow Data

Securing unsanctioned data is essential to mitigate the risks associated with it. Here’s how you can protect shadow data:</p>

  1. Implementing Security Policies: Create and enforce policies that guide employees on the acceptable use of devices, applications, and services.
  2. Utilizing Encryption: Encrypting this data ensures that even if it falls into the wrong hands, it remains unreadable.
  3. Monitoring and Controlling Access: Implement access controls to ensure that only authorized individuals can access the data.
  4. Educating Employees: Training employees about the risks of shadow data and how to avoid creating it can be a powerful preventative measure.
  5. Minimizing Shadow Data: By providing approved tools that meet employees’ needs, you can reduce the temptation to use unauthorized services, thus minimizing shadow data.


Use Cases

Understanding the use cases of shadow data can help in managing it effectively:</p>

    1. Enhancing Productivity: Sometimes, employees use unauthorized tools because they find them more efficient. Identifying these cases can lead to the adoption of better official tools.
    2. Uncovering Innovation: Shadow data can sometimes reveal innovative practices within the organization. Recognizing and integrating these practices can lead to growth.

<li>Improving Security: By identifying and securing hidden data, organizations can enhance their overall security posture.

Shadow data is a complex issue that requires careful attention. By understanding what it is, identifying it through methods like data discovery tools, securing it, and recognizing its use cases, organizations can minimize the risks and even leverage it for growth. Education and vigilance are key to managing this data effectively, ensuring that it does not put the business at unnecessary risk.


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