Bringing Shadow IT into the light

Do shadow IT users belong in prison at once? On security, trench warfare and the reigns of IT.

Andreas Heer

The handcuffs snapped shut with a metallic “click”. The police officer who led me to a civilian police car was muttering something about “risk of absconding”. In the meantime, his colleague was struggling to carry my big monitor – 34 inch, curved – down the steps of the stairwell.


In the car that drove me to the police station, my three laptops had already been neatly packed in the boot. The police officer took off my handcuffs in the car. I rubbed my wrists and began to rack my brain. Was it the product presentation for the planned innovative new development? Or the business plan that I had secretly passed on to my colleague via my private online storage space? 


It all began so innocently. Shortly after I had started my new job in product marketing, it became too much effort to establish a VPN connection on the move every time I wanted to store the documents for the planned new introduction on the internal company server. It was much more convenient to work straight from my private online storage space. And I could do it in the evening on my stylish private design laptop and not on the old clatter box, as I had christened my company laptop. 

“Outdated technology and generally, those not using these modern cloud services are done for anyway, said the young colleague from IT.”

Appointments, to-dos and even business e-mails were also much easier to process when I used my cloud account. A young colleague from IT had shown me the tool. After four beers on that Monday evening, he had poured his heart out to me about how boring his day-to-day life was. Outdated technology and generally, how those not using these modern cloud services were done for anyway. And over our final schnapps, he showed me how he believed people nowadays should work.


When he got fired a couple of months later, I had long forgotten that I had released a few confidential documents for him on my online storage space to try out the sharing function and joint document editing. I could not have known that he had secretly passed on these documents to his new employer – our biggest competitor. The first I heard about it was from the investigating officer who revealed to me in a starkly furnished office room that legal proceedings had been initiated against me for industrial espionage.


“No, that’s far too drastic”, I thought as I saved my presentation for the internal security workshop. I decided to think up a more positive story the next day. I would discuss the idea first thing in the morning with the Chief Security Officer via a chat on the cloud service that we both used a lot as it was very user friendly. I also resolved to initiate a discussion straight away about how we could better support users of this shadow IT in the future. It is better to loosen the reigns of IT than to end up in handcuffs for real.

Andreas Heer

As an experienced IT journalist, he is familiar with the various shades of business IT and currently supports the Swisscom SME Business World. He is convinced that his life would be much more complicated without cloud services.

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