Cybersecurity in the age of bots: The RPA advantage

Robotic process automation (RPA) is not a new phenomenon, but the way businesses have been adopting this business automation module in the recent past has been phenomenal. According to McKinsey & Co., the return on investment (ROI) for RPA deployments can be anywhere in the range of 30-200 per cent in the first year. Little wonder then that industries as diverse as insurance, healthcare, supply chain management, finance, human resources, customer service, and business process organizations (BPO) are investing in the RPA promise. 

For those who came in late, the technology in question enables computer software to automate human activities that are manual, repetitive and rule-based. From data entry and invoice processing to know your customer (KYC) and fraud checking, there are innumerable areas where the RPA software offers faster, more accurate, cost-effective and efficient solutions. This, in turn, empowers organizations to focus more attention on complex tasks that demand human expertise and intelligence.

While the Chief information officers (CIOs) are convinced of the myriad business benefits of RPA, the question that looms large is: How secure is RPA?

Potential perils

Is it impossible to hack into the RPA system? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’. It’s quite possible for hackers (or even corrupt administrators) to modify an automated session and impact critical system availability and continuity. Similarly, they can also get inappropriate access to sensitive data, leading to fraudulent activities.

Data security and access security are pressing issues that pose potential threats for RPA. Sadly, most enterprises don’t realize that it’s not enough to replicate the traditional security mechanisms and protocols used to give and restrict access to human beings. Depending on whether traditional RPA bots or bots with artificial intelligence (AI) are deployed, every enterprise needs to devise its own robust security strategy that meets the company’s unique challenges. One of the most common mistakes that businesses make is to give the bots the exact same access as the administrators. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Infographic: The key Ingredients of a Sound RPA Tool

Interestingly, experts concur that RPA has the capacity to reduce the risk of error inherent in human work. There’s no denying that RPA minimizes security risks at a macro level, by automating tasks that typically call for security-related efforts in training employees – say, in password management or applications of privacy settings. Further, an automated environment is fundamentally free from human biases, prejudices and variability, making the final outcome more accurate, consistent and in compliance with the company’s requirements.

Better safe

RPA doesn’t store any data on its own. The technology works as a top layer. But privacy is largely dependent on how you design your solution. So, it’s important to ask the right questions: Who designed the robot? Is it in line with the best industry practices? Does the RPA tool provide a full audit trail and essential security and compliance features? Does it secure only the current operation, or the entire RPA lifecycle?

Read: Top 5 criteria for selecting the best RPA tool for your business

The best way to deal with internal security risks is to deploy role-based and resource-based RPA access to authorized users. To protect the business from external malicious attacks, it is essential to choose an RPA product that stores sensitive information encrypted in a secure database. The encrypted passwords and credentials used by the RPA software robots (to login into the company databases during automation) are most secure in a credentials vault.

According to Gartner, security and risk management leaders must ensure that transaction monitoring, credential management and script reviews are in place to prevent fraud and avoid data leaks. It’s prudent not to reuse human credentials with bots and to watch out for breaks in segregation of duties. Prevention, they say, is better than cure. And for RPA security that entails due diligence and regular supervision of security measures.

The IT factor 

In most organizations, the IT department is the least enthusiastic about RPA. It’s not that they don’t understand its disruptive potential; they are acutely aware of the security risks that they will be held accountable for. So, it’s essential to get the IT team onboard at the earliest.

Security issues need to be addressed upfront, before deciding on the RPA product or provider and setting up the required infrastructure. It’s a good idea to start with small pilot projects, together with the IT folks, to understand how the technology works and determine if certain security tweaks are needed, before you roll out a full RPA implementation.

Read: RPA: Challenging the frontiers of cognitive technology

In time, you could also consider establishing an RPA center of excellence, comprising IT and business professionals, with centralized control and command of the deployments. A business-led strategy, complemented by strong partnership with IT, can ensure that an enterprise’s RPA venture will not only be successful, but also fully secure.

All in all

RPA is not immune to security risks. CIOs must be proactive in acknowledging that both data and access-security are concerns that need to be addressed – and can be effectively addressed – by enterprises, provided the IT team is brought onboard at the outset. Done right, the returns on RPA investment are well worth the latent risks. Want to know the secret behind a successful RPA implementation? Talk to our RPA experts!

Author : Jisha Krishnan Date : 03 Oct 2018