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Robotic Process Automation Security and Why It’s Important

Robotic process automation security has become a topic of increasing importance for organizations looking to implement RPA on a wide scale.

Streamlining your business with robotic process automation (RPA) helps your business automate mundane, redundant tasks by doing them quicker, more efficiently, and cheaper.

But, with RPA implementation comes the chance of additional security risks. Here’s some more information on robotic process automation security and avoid typical security pitfalls.

RPA Use in Business Today

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has quickly become an important form of business process automation. In practice, RPA allows bots—specially designed software programs—to take over several different complex processes to efficiently perform mundane or redundant tasks normally performed by people.

In 2020, 78% of organizations in a Deloitte survey had already implemented RPA and 16% plan to do so in the next three years.

Businesses can use these bots for a variety of processes, including: data extraction, data management, operational activities, procure-to-pay processing, and inventory and supply chain management.

They’re useful in many different industries and are capable of using machine learning to adapt and learn from patterns and trends picked up by the bot.

Businesses choose to implement RPA because it results in reduced costs, improved customer experiences and interactions, better workflow management, and additional data aggregation and analytics capabilities.

While traditional automation has existed for a while now, RPA has grown significantly in the space of a few short years and is predicted to become a nearly $4 billion market by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of 31%.

Robotic Process Automation Security Challenges

RPA does come with some additional challenges, though, specifically in the form of ensuring the security of the system when introducing RPA processes into it.

RPA integration creates more opportunities for exposure

Anytime more variables are instituted it increases your risk.  In order to properly perform their tasks, BOTs must be highly integrated into your system. This means a new avenue for bad actors to gain access into your system and potentially do damage.

Unauthorized changes from misaligned control design

Automating processes via RPA without aligning control design can lead to overrides which often go undetected and result in unauthorized changes to information and processes.

Non-compliance caused by generic bot IDs

Your business could be at risk for large fines imposed by regulatory bodies for non-compliance as a result of a security breach or non-regulatory compliance in your RPA process.

Introducing RPA to your processes also brings an added layer of complexity that must be accounted for in terms of compliance.

Generic bot IDs also pose a non-compliance risk due to the potential of indirect usage.

Bot access to sensitive credentials may lead to data leakage

Cyber criminals can use malicious software to gain unauthorized access to bot systems and use them to obtain sensitive user data and information.

This malware can move smoothly through the system and even train bots to destroy high-value data, disturb business processes, store sensitive information, and steal data and upload it elsewhere on the internet.

The fact is, in order to do their jobs, bots need access to your system and that access can be abused by hackers who gain access of one.

Bots may process information when they shouldn’t be

Bots operate at high speeds. This means that, in the event of a breach with a delayed reaction, they could continue processing information even when they shouldn’t be. This could result in corrupt or inaccurate data.

To avoid this, control parameters that determine exactly what a bot can and cannot do should be clearly understood so that it doesn’t continue processing data when it shouldn’t.

Intent identification issues with bots

Bots are smart, but not foolproof. They are not built for intent identification which means detecting a security breach might be a challenge. RPA bots aren’t as good at detecting sometimes obvious errors that a human might immediately be able to point out.

This means that if data has an issue, a bot may not call it out and instead pass it on which can exacerbate an error.

Mitigating Robotic Process Automation Security Risks

In order to lower your chance of an attack through your RPA system, consider these steps:

Identification and authentication

No matter if your RPA bots are unattended or attended, you should implement multiple identification and authentication security procedures to protect your system and ensure only authorized users are accessing it.

Role-based access control

Restricting access based on a person’s role is an effective method of security in which access is only allowed to information that is necessary to effectively perform a job.

In RPA, role-based access control ensures that access for employees is limited to only the parts of bot creation and management they need, depending on their role in the department.

This limits risk by managing which users have access to information and privileges within the bot system.

End-to-end data encryption

Maintaining the confidentiality of data is an important part of RPA security. It’s important to protect and preserve the confidentiality of data, especially if you’re in an industry that requires you to handle sensitive information like healthcare or finance.

Protecting your encryption keys and credentials

Credential vaults are used to store system credentials rather than hard-coding credentials directly into an automation.

These vaults are divided up into lockers which allow for the allocation of encrypted credential information to be used on a per user basis based on privileges and roles.

Protecting data in use

During runtime, there are a few ways to help protect unauthorized access to confidential information:

  • Stealth Mode: This keeps sensitive information from being shown on-screen and being stored by bots.
  • Input Lock: This feature locks the mouse and keyboard of the machine on which an automation bot is running.
  • Time Limit: Set a time limit after which an automation is terminated if it hasn’t finished executing its task.
  • Central Control: Control the operation of remotely running automations from one central place so all bots are accountable.

Securing RPA deployment

There are many different forms of security controls available to help you securely deploy RPA.

Network-based firewalls, intrusion detection, anti-malware, and external log servers are necessary forms of security during bot deployment.

Logging and monitoring

Though automation is designed to perform without interaction from human workers, it’s important to implement proper monitoring and logging controls to ensure bots are doing what they should be doing and are working efficiently.

Reviewing RPA tracking logs regularly allows IT staff to have a clear understanding of exactly what their bots are doing (or not doing), meaning they can get ahead of any issues and spot existing problems in the bots execution of tasks.

You might also perform periodic assessments of the system as a whole to scan for risks, ensure the integrity of the BOTs, and track performance of the entire system.

Conclusion

By implementing key security measures like identity authentication, access control, data encryption, deployment security, and bot monitoring, you can safely use key automations to help your business save money and become more efficient without sacrificing security.

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