Securing Tomorrow: Strategies to Safeguard Businesses Against the Threat of Shadow AI

5/12/2024
main image

What is shadow AI? 

Sun Tzu famously wrote in his “The Art of War” treatise many centuries ago: "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles". Also, the reverse is true - you cannot win against something you do not know. 

This wisdom applies aptly to the modern business landscape, especially in the context of shadow AI. Shadow AI represents a formidable foe lurking within organizations, often unbeknownst to leadership. It embodies the unauthorized deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions by individual departments or employees, operating outside the purview of established protocols. This clandestine implementation of AI technologies poses significant risks, ranging from data breaches to regulatory non-compliance. 

Why is shadow AI dangerous for businesses?

Without a thorough understanding of the extent and implications of Shadow AI, businesses are left vulnerable to its adverse effects, unable to confront and mitigate its consequences effectively. 

Shadow AI presents numerous risks akin to those associated with generic shadow IT, including unknown or unpatched vulnerabilities that can serve as initial access points for system compromise and other security breaches. However, the emergence of ChatGPT and a plethora of similar services has introduced a new challenge: scale. 

Never before has the IT landscape witnessed such widespread marketing of capabilities from a single product group, often promising to double productivity and boost GDP. Consequently, users are increasingly inclined to experiment with these AI tools, even without involvement from their IT departments. Unfortunately, many of these applications involve the processing of sensitive customer data, and users typically rely on cloud-based solutions, heightening the risk of data leaks. Moreover, disparities in vendor practices and regulatory frameworks across different regions exacerbate these concerns.

Therefore, acknowledging and comprehensively addressing the presence of Shadow AI within organizational frameworks is essential for ensuring strategic resilience and sustained success.

What are some real-world examples of the dangers of shadow AI?  

As always, where there's utility, there's also the potential for misuse. This extends not only to threat actors but also to end users. Threat actors are increasingly leveraging generative AI capabilities for offensive operations, as detailed in a comprehensive overview of well-known actors and their LLM-based TTPs (for more insights, see Microsoft's analysis here). 

Equally concerning is the abuse of generative AI by end-users who disregard corporate policies, thus exposing their employers to significant risks. A notable incident involved Samsung's semiconductor division, where three employees reportedly leaked sensitive data to ChatGPT, as reported here.

Another classic example of Shadow AI could be a scenario where a marketing team, seeking to streamline customer interactions, deploys a chatbot powered by AI, such as ChatGPT, without proper authorization or integration into the company's IT infrastructure. These unauthorized initiatives can lead to legal liabilities, misinformation, and challenges in retrofitting the AI into existing systems.

How can businesses avoid the risks of Shadow AI? 

To mitigate the risks of shadow AI within businesses, several key strategies can be employed. Firstly, clear AI policies are essential. These policies outline the permissible uses of AI technologies, ensuring transparency and accountability. 

Secondly, employee education is paramount. By providing comprehensive training on AI ethics, usage guidelines, and potential risks, employees are equipped to make informed decisions and identify instances of shadow AI. Open communication fosters a culture of transparency, encouraging employees to report any unauthorized or unapproved AI implementations. 

Additionally, robust data governance practices are crucial. Establishing frameworks for data collection, storage, and usage ensures compliance with regulations and minimizes the risk of data misuse. By implementing these measures, businesses can effectively navigate the complexities of AI deployment while mitigating the dangers associated with Shadow AI.

Given the pervasive market hype and undeniable productivity potential of GenAI technologies, outright prohibition of their use is impractical. Instead, cybersecurity departments should aim to assist users in selecting and employing GenAI-enabled products that not only enhance employee efficiency but also effectively mitigate risks for their employers.

Assess Your Shadow AI Risk Today!

Explore how Squalio's Shadow AI Assessment for businesses can help you analyze the risks and develop an AI roadmap tailored to your organization's needs. Our assessment delivers a comprehensive Generative AI compliance assessment report, including a list of identified GenAI services, users per service with traffic volume details, risk classifications, and vendor geographies. 

Take proactive steps to safeguard your business against the dangers of shadow AI. 

Take proactive steps to safeguard your business against the dangers of shadow AI

Stay up-to-date

with the latest news and events from Squalio.

Stay up-to-date