Taylor Armerding, CSO
Friday, January 25, 2013

One of the latest challenge for the heads of IT departments is how to secure sensitive company information that employees have shared or stored on public clouds without their knowledge, permission or control. A new survey describes how big of a problem "rogue" cloud use has become.

More than 75 percent of businesses surveyed recently by the security vendor Symantec reported that their employees have shared or stored sensitive company information on public clouds services. The report, "Avoiding the Hidden Costs of the Cloud 2013" (PDF document), which surveyed 3,236 organizations in 29 countries, found 83% of enterprises and 70% of small- to medium-size businesses (SMB) using such "rogue" service.

The term refers to public cloud services that are not part of a company's IT infrastructure and are being used without the knowledge, permission or control of the company's IT department.

"Perhaps the sales manager signs his department up for Salesforce without thinking to consult IT," the report gives as an example. "Or perhaps marketing shares important launch materials with outside vendors via an unauthorized Dropbox account."

"In either case the organization has put sensitive information into the cloud without organizational oversight," it said.

It has been called "shadow IT" as well, "but we thought rogue is a bit more descriptive," Dave Elliott, a senior product marketing manager for global cloud at Symantec, told CSO Online about the report.

By whatever name, it has either increased markedly in recent years, or IT departments have become more aware of it. "It has become a significant threat in the last couple of years," Elliott said.