January 12, 2015

Online Security In The Workplace

By Gareth Cartman

Workplace Cloud Security

Our workplaces are changing and much of it for the better. Increased flexibility – pushed by cloud services – is behind many of the changes. Home working, increased collaboration – it’s all good, and it’s all delivering significant business benefits.

We know that. That’s so 2013.

But fewer than 10% of businesses know what their employees are doing on the cloud. They call it ‘shadow IT activity’ – in other words, activity that is happening on the cloud, within the business, which cannot be accounted for as secure.

Consider the disgruntled employee with access to company passwords through Google Drive or the careless employee with Dropbox access to supposedly secure files. Consider perhaps the careless celebrity with photographs in iCloud.

It’s in the shadows because we don’t know the threat. In fact, many of us don’t even know if we’ve been compromised or not.

The threat and the opportunity

For me, this is both a threat and an opportunity for IT. In the most opportunistic of terms, IT can stake out its position as the guardian of corporate security here. If the cloud has taken away much of IT’s responsibility – and potentially has put IT at risk within an organisation – then the risk of shadow activity within the business should give IT the chance to re-establish a position.

And there’s a business case – worryingly so. The threat is that our data could walk out of the door because we’re using file sharing and collaboration tools, often without regulation. Shared passwords, shared access – it may all increase productivity but unmonitored, it represents a significant risk.

50% of organisations questioned in this survey said that they don’t have a policy on acceptable cloud usage. With employees connecting to personal devices and carrying on the work either on their commute or at home, it’s almost impossible to restrict unauthorised SaaS usage – so would a policy help?

Governance – but what kind of governance?

Certainly, governance would be of benefit. Without IT’s overseeing of SaaS activity, the business benefits of cloud activity are almost wiped out by the risk of being compromised. There are businesses who have ceased to trade as a result of compromised data – so a balance has to be struck.

Innovation and agility need to be pursued, and it’s IT’s task to provide this environment. Therefore, shadow IT could very well be not just accepted but embraced, within a fast-paced environment. But governance goes beyond ensuring passwords are regularly changed and that leavers’ access is removed. It’s about a framework that guarantees both innovation and security. If we’re going to use the cloud to its full capability, we need to eliminate as many of the risks as possible – or the business case goes out of the window.

By Gareth Cartman

Gareth Cartman

Gareth Cartman is Director of Digital Marketing at Clever Little Design, and has written for a wide range of publications, from HR.com, Yahoo Small Business, ComputerWeekly and Wired Insights. His background is in technology, HR and marketing, and he’s also a Dad of two, an Evertonian and a Boston Red Sox fan.
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