Shadow AI Leading to Insider Threats amongst Bigger Companies

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to advance and permeate various industries, its potential for both positive and negative impacts becomes increasingly apparent. While AI holds great promise in revolutionizing business operations and enhancing productivity, a recent development known as “Shadow AI” has raised concerns over a potential wave of insider threats. 

Imperva, a leading cybersecurity firm, has shed light on this emerging phenomenon, highlighting the need for organizations to be proactive in addressing the risks associated with Shadow AI.

What is Shadow AI?

In an era dominated by data-driven decision-making, the use of AI algorithms has become commonplace. However, Shadow AI refers to the unauthorized or unmonitored AI systems operating within an organization, often hidden from security protocols. These systems can be developed and deployed by employees without proper oversight, leading to unintended consequences and potentially enabling insider threats.

Imperva's Findings and Insights

Imperva, known for its expertise in data and application security, recently conducted a study on the implications of Shadow AI. The research revealed that insider threats are expected to surge due to the clandestine use of AI systems by employees. According to Imperva's report, a staggering percentage of security professionals believe Shadow AI poses a significant risk to their organizations.

One of the key concerns raised by Imperva is that Shadow AI can bypass traditional security measures and go undetected. Unlike conventional insider threats that often involve malicious intent, Shadow AI threats are born out of ignorance or negligence. Employees may inadvertently expose sensitive data or disrupt critical systems without even realizing the potential consequences.

Implications for Organizations

The emergence of Shadow AI poses several challenges for organizations striving to maintain robust cybersecurity measures. Traditional security protocols, designed to detect and prevent known threats, may prove insufficient in dealing with Shadow AI. The covert nature of these AI systems makes them difficult to identify and track, leaving organizations vulnerable to data breaches, unauthorized access, and operational disruptions.

Moreover, Imperva highlights that the responsibility lies not only with individual employees but also with the organizations themselves. Companies must foster a culture of cybersecurity awareness and ensure that employees understand the potential risks associated with deploying AI systems without proper oversight. Adequate training, clear policies, and monitoring mechanisms can help mitigate the dangers posed by Shadow AI.

In reports, an immense majority of 82% of companies have no insider risk management strategy. This puts them in a very vulnerable situation as they are prone to real situations where an employee could use generative AI and have malicious intent attended. 

This technology can make the task of writing code or filling a Requests For Proposal (RFPs) more easy, which ultimately leads to the risk of breaching sensitive data. 

As per the word of Data Security GTM and Field CTO, SVP at Imperva, Terry Ray “Forbidding employees from using generative AI is futile.”

He further also stated, “We’ve seen this with so many other technologies – people are inevitably able to find their way around such restrictions and so prohibitions just create an endless game of whack-a-mole for security teams, without keeping the enterprise meaningfully safer.”  

Possibilities of Data Breach

As per the reports by Imperva, the biggest data breaches within the last five years have taken place due to human error. This is not something that was done intentionally but in fact, it happened by accident. Still, this is not regarded as a significant threat. 

The security company also suggests that in most cases the people don't actually have a damaging intent. At times, these employees are just doing their work more efficiently and with more precautions. 

One step companies can take is to not completely rely on their employees and tackle the responsibility of their own business and its security. 

Addressing the Threat

Imperva also highlights situations that organizations must adapt to. As per their study a proactive approach to tackle the growing menace of Shadow AI, would be implementing comprehensive AI governance frameworks that encompass all stages of AI deployment, from development to deployment and ongoing monitoring. 

Such frameworks should include robust security measures, regular audits, and an approval process to ensure the proper use and supervision of AI systems within the organization.

Additionally, investing in advanced AI-powered security solutions can provide organizations with the tools to detect and mitigate Shadow AI threats. By leveraging AI technology, organizations can stay one step ahead and identify unauthorized AI systems, anomalous behavior, and potential breaches more effectively.

Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing

Given the complex and ever-evolving nature of cybersecurity threats, collaboration and knowledge sharing within the industry are crucial. Organizations should actively participate in forums, conferences, and information sharing initiatives to stay informed about the latest trends and best practices in combating Shadow AI and other insider threats. 

By working hand in hand the industry experts, cybersecurity professionals, and organizations can develop effective strategies to protect against the risks posed by Shadow AI.


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