Shadow IT in Higher Education: Survey and Case Study for Cybersecurity
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Type of Work63 pages
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SubjectsUMBC Cyber Defense Lab
We explore shadow information technology (IT) at institutions of higher education through a two-tiered approach involving a detailed case study and comprehensive survey of IT professionals. In its many forms, shadow IT is the software or hardware present in a computer system or network that lies outside the typical review process of the responsible IT unit. We carry out a case study of an internally built legacy grants management system at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County that exemplifies the vulnerabilities, including cross-site scripting and SQL injection, typical of such unauthorized and ad-hoc software. We also conduct a survey of IT professionals at universities, colleges, and community colleges that reveals new and actionable information regarding the prevalence, usage patterns, types, benefits, and risks of shadow IT at their respective institutions. Further, we propose a security-based profile of shadow IT, involving a subset of elements from existing shadow IT taxonomies, that categorizes shadow IT from a security perspective. Based on this profile, survey respondents identified the predominant form of shadow IT at their institutions, revealing close similarities to findings from our case study. Through this work, we are the first to identify possible susceptibility factors associated with the occurrence of shadow IT related security incidents within academic institutions. Correlations of significance include the presence of certain graduate schools, the level of decentralization of the IT department, the types of shadow IT present, the percentage of security violations related to shadow IT, and the institution’s overall attitude toward shadow IT. The combined elements of our case study, profile, and survey provide the first comprehensive view of shadow IT security at academic institutions, highlighting tension between its risks and benefits, and suggesting strategies for managing it successfully