'Staff would just open up Dropbox accounts all over the place' admits US government services CIO

By Peter Gothard
05 Sep 2014 View Comments
washingtondc

The CIO of the US government's General Services Administration has admitted that, before his department became a Box customer, its staff "would just open up Dropbox accounts all over the place", sharing and collaborating in a way that led to a real fear that "once in a while, people will share something with the world they're not supposed to".

Sonny Hashmi made the confession during a panel discussion at Box's BoxWorks 2014 conference in San Francisco today, explaining how enterprise-grade cloud storage and collaboration software has improved his department's security, without having to rely on the "savvy" of the employees.

Further reading

The GSA's services underpin the functions of many government agencies, meaning it holds a lot of critical information on vast swathes of government activity.

"People would always find ways to get the job done, even if it was with their own tools," explained Hashmi.

"So we'd provide these super-secure, highly regulated tools, but people would go around them. We had a perfectly good email platform, but it was a client-based thing - you had to work at a PC - so people would open up Dropbox accounts all over the place and use all kinds of different sites and tools."

While he said that "some of these sites were better than others", Hashmi underlined the important fact that none of them was actually visible to him or his IT team.

"They couldn't be managed in a proper way. But you saw a tremendous uptake of these things to help people stay mobile, and collaborate and be in contact with each other, so they'd find a way to do it whether it's sanctioned or not."

Hashmi described many of the shadow IT-related tools of choice as "kind of sucky" in that they allowed people to easily "make mistakes".

"Now the tools are much more human-centric, and they allow you to share and collaborate, to engage in a variety of ways. People are not savvier than they were in the past - it's just before it was one-click, share with the world, and once in a while people will share something with the world they're not supposed to.

"Now you can't just share with the world. You just can't do it," said Hashmi.

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