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Skyhigh Networks lets bosses snoop on employee cloud use

Big Brother for the (secure) common good

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RSA 2013 People have a tendency to skirt corporate IT policy and use their own applications on the network, and Skyhigh Networks thinks it has a way for IT admins to stop this from happening.

The company came out of stealth on Monday to announce the general availability of its Skyhigh Networks software, which can monitor any of 2,000 cloud-based applications and give admins a way to shut off unauthorized use of insecure, disapproved of, or other such banned apps.

"Cloud service use is exploding and it's viral," Rajiv Gupta, chief executive officer of Skyhigh Networks, told The Register. "Today there's a myth that adoption of cloud services is impeded due to lack of security and privacy."

Whether companies like it or not, cloud adoption happens; employees use consumer services such as Spotify, cloud storage from Dropbox, and even small Amazon Web Services instances for development, Gupta said.

Skyhigh Networks lets companies get a clear view of what employees in their organisation are doing – an approach that employees are sure to find invasive and chief security officers are likely to find beguiling.

"Even if customers expect their employees are using cloud services, they expect between 10 and 20. What we are showing them is their employees are using [more]. It's an 'oh crap' moment. What you want to know is, are these services risky services or not?" Gupta said.

To that end, Skyhigh has profiled some 2,000 cloud applications and ranks the security of the apps via around thirty different factors, ranging from whether they are multi-tenanted to how data is stored. Its approach has some enterprises convinced, with big businesses like Cisco, General Electric, and Equinix all using the software.

But won't organizations that adopt this all-seeing cloud tech go for a scorched earth policy and ban the majority of employee-used applications, The Register asked?

"It depends," Gupta said. "Some organizations that are more heavy handed, their approach would be 'I'm gonna shut them down', [but] what we're finding is the CIO, the CSO, are becoming more forward-thinking."

By example, if a CIO finds through the Skyhigh Networks discovery process that more than 5 per cent of their employees in their business are using a particular app, then this could encourage them to get a contractual relationship with that company, Gupta said.

But the more likely scenario that strikes El Reg is the CIO finding out that employees are using a risky app – for example, Dropbox instead of Box.net – and shutting access down.

The technology is available both from the cloud, and as an on-premise software agent. It accesses the log files of an organizations' firewalls, proxy servers, and other devices, then spits out a report on the apps it has found.

One company that tested the technology found that 46 cloud storage services being used within its organization, Gupta said. Once they discovered this, they tried to weed out some of the high-risk services so that they could easily track what was and wasn't being used.

At the time of writing, Skyhigh Networks had not responded to technical queries from The Register. The technology costs between $2 and $10 per employee per month, depending on the size of the organization. ®

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