How shadow IT fits into government infrastructure

One of the main concerns with government systems is their cybersecurity against attacks that could expose valuable information or even shut down essential services. To counter malicious attacks, federal IT workers have built a series of defenses into their systems to protect them from hackers, viruses and every other digital threat that's out there.

However, all of these procedures and roadblocks can sometimes get in the way of employees just trying to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. When progress is stifled with no end in sight, some federal staff members take matters into their own hands to improve the effectiveness of their daily operations. This shadow IT movement, often started with good intentions, poses a security risk to the entire country when individuals are going around the procedures in place without alerting anyone of their endeavors.

Government IT departments don't get a chance to see if these devices, software and applications live up the security standards of the workplace, making it difficult for some agencies to guarantee safety.

Why employees are going off on their own
The prevalence and pace of technological innovations has surpassed the government's ability to effectively adapt and implement changes in a widespread fashion, according to GCN. New technology has become so commonplace that many employees can find better tools for their job inside their own house or a store.

This raises staff's expectations about the equipment they believe they should have access to in the office. When security procedures are slow to incorporate the current technological trends, the current ease of acquiring new technology allows workers to build their own layer of infrastructure that is hidden from their superiors out of fear of reprisal.

General Michael Hayden is the former director of both the CIA and the NSA and understands the chaotic effect these good intentions can have on an entire organization, reported CSC.

"There were times when we had trouble identifying what infrastructure was serving whom. And occasionally we had to throw a switch and wait for the phone to ring to know where an individual shadow server fit into the broader IT structure," Hayden said in an online town hall with the source.

If employees don't have the tools needed to complete their jobs, they'll go out themselves and find them. Shipping waits, disks and lengthy installations that would normally draw attention are now a thing of the past. Instead, workers can make upgrades alone as easily as authorizing and authenticating new applications, stated CSC. The business process is so simple now, people don't even need to bother supervisors about the changes.

How the cloud can help bring government agencies out of the shadows
Federal organizations need to focus on becoming more agile and flexible in their pursuits of innovative technology if they want to halt unsupported practices in the office, asserted GCN. If government IT departments wish to implement some of the new devices and software emerging to make operations easier, they can turn to another developing concept to help make it happen: the cloud.

While government agencies haven't been able to adapt to the cloud as quickly as other industries, the efficiency, savings and transparency these services provide can benefit federal organizations just as much, reported ZDNet.

An array of tools and applications can be hosted on the cloud, letting employees bring innovation with them wherever they go, but that also reduces the effectiveness of IT departments to control sensitive systems. Groups need to work on building up cloud security so they not only know who and what is using their cloud through monitoring, but that key data is encrypted as well.