Revealing the Security Risks in RPA and How to Safeguard Against Them

Revealing the Security Risks in RPA and How to Safeguard Against Them

Naveen Joshi 30/08/2019 3

As the RPA tool deals with sensitive data, chances of hackers attacking the tool are higher. Security risks in RPA can harm an organization, and hence, executives should consider security practices to mitigate these risks.

Over the past few years, there has been tremendous buzz around automation. In the digital age, where companies are struggling to achieve optimized business processes, meeting challenging deadlines, and improving customer satisfaction levels, automation is the best way out. With several automation tools flooding the market, RPA is one of the most incredible applications that organizations today rely on. The adoption rate of RPA is exploding across various industry verticals. This accelerating trend is expected to grow from 250 million US dollars in 2016 to 2.9 billion US dollars in 2021, according to Forrester. Realizing the benefits of RPA, organizations across the world are testing the automation waters. The rule-based automation application, RPA, has indeed transformed the way businesses carry out their manual tasks. RPA deployments have helped out organizations to automate labor-intensive processes, increase productivity and accuracy at work, and also to cut down unnecessary financial expenses. Benefits are plentiful, no doubt, but RPA can have a devastating impact on businesses if hackers enter the application. As the automation tool executes back-office processes and deals with vital data, it can attract malicious actors too. Hence, organizations should be well prepared to manage the security risks in RPA, from the time they think of deploying the tool.

Security Risks in RPA

The emerging business process automation tool, RPA, is programmed such that it can deal with high-volume transactional tasks, invoice processing, email communication, and other back-office processes. Some of these activities are run by the RPA tool with near-zero human involvement. The data that RPA deals with can or can not be sensitive. The automation tool can even comprise of vital data like credentials, employee details, or customer information. As evil players are thirstily waiting to get hold of confidential information like this, there are high chances that they try to enter the RPA platform too. What if hackers access the application platform, implant malicious code, and alter the rule-based processes? Well, if this happens, then businesses will face to face the dire consequences. Let’s now check the possible security risks in RPA.

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Poor Governance

For quite a while now, we know that organizations are dealing with shadow IT, where employees make use of hardware or software systems without the IT department’s knowledge. As the RPA tool is designed such that it can be easily operated by the non-IT personnel, there are chances that the non-technical departments use RPA tool without informing the IT team. The RPA tool, with no proper security boundaries, can be easily hacked by grifters. Hence, no sound governance of RPA can pose significant threats to organizations.

Lack of Knowledge

To be able to understand the consequences of hacker attacks, employees (especially those working on non-IT departments) should have sound security knowledge. No doubt, organizations enforce strict policies and procedures to improve the security factor. But what if employees fail to understand this intent and hence break the laws?

Inappropriate Vulnerability Management

The proactive approach, vulnerability management, is vital to keep IT assets away from any malicious activities. A good vulnerability management program deals with identifying and mitigating IT vulnerabilities. It basically spots the incoming security threat by keeping a check on every endpoint. What if organizations miss out on this? What if companies implement a vulnerability management program but it isn’t effective to find RPA attacks? What if hackers train bots to implant malicious code into the RPA platform and remotely control the tool? Instances like these can, undoubtedly, be an entry point for hackers.

Insufficient Data Security

Perhaps, the only thing that hackers are interested in is data. Hence, it is of utmost importance that organizations limit data access and usage rights to protect their digital assets. Taking care of the data from destructive forces is not an easy undertaking. But as no option is left, organizations have to ensure that their data is secured and protected from hackers. However, no company has found an infallible data protection solution yet. What if hackers create a bot that is able to extract confidential information and make it available to hacker’s web servers? This could happen only if organizations have weak data security systems.

Steps to Mitigate the Security Risks in RPA

Now that we have a comprehension of the security risks in RPA, let’s discuss the measures that can solve this concern.

Establish a Governance Framework

First, comprehend the security risks in RPA with the help of a risk management program. Second, educate your employees about the risks around RPA. Accordingly, organizations should prepare strategies that will define the rules and regulations to ensure RPA security.

Monitor the RPA Environment

Employees working in an RPA environment should be carefully granted access rights to logins. As every employee is assigned to execute different tasks, the control rights or credentials should be restricted and provided according to their job only. While working with the RPA tool, the employees should mandatorily log-in every time they use the RPA platform for security.

Use Password Vault

Organizations should use a password vault to store and secure all the passwords that are used for the RPA tool. Password vault is one such software program that keeps the passwords secure from the criminals in this digital world. The best thing about password vault is it encrypts the database that contains the passwords. With the help of a password vault, the RPA team can store all the passwords that they use in a single location while not compromising on their security.

Employ Encryption

Another measure to mitigate the security risks in RPA is to encrypt sensitive data or passwords. Passwords should be encoded in a fashion that only the concerned participants are able to access them.

Conduct Regular Audits

Justified that the RPA tool cut down the role of humans in performing back-office tasks. But to manage the security risks in RPA, it is important to have supervision on the activities executed by the automation tool. Conducting audits regularly will help organizations to understand whether the RPA tool is operating as intended or not. Organizations can backtrack to the step that actually resulted in the glitch, in case of any problem. Hence, examining and evaluating the RPA activities should be mandatorily taken into account by adopters.

Given the intensifying cybersecurity crimes, organizations are developing new strategies and also leveraging the latest technologies to fight against the threats. While businesses are making great efforts to achieve success in the cybersecurity realm, hackers come up with innovative ideas to carry out fraudulent activities. Considering the amount of data the RPA automation tool juggles with, it is no big surprise that the tool can be the next target for hackers. Hence, companies deploying RPA application should be vigilant of security risks in RPA, strategize accordingly, plan security measures proactively, and also monitor the RPA activities regularly.

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  • Sean Mcquillan

    Like all innovation initiatives, RPA comes with disruption and risks associated.

  • Ben Gregory

    Using the wrong sourcing model can lead to excessive costs.

  • Andy Taylor

    Due to its nuance, companies can end up often times choosing the wrong tools for their needs

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Naveen Joshi

Tech Expert

Naveen is the Founder and CEO of Allerin, a software solutions provider that delivers innovative and agile solutions that enable to automate, inspire and impress. He is a seasoned professional with more than 20 years of experience, with extensive experience in customizing open source products for cost optimizations of large scale IT deployment. He is currently working on Internet of Things solutions with Big Data Analytics. Naveen completed his programming qualifications in various Indian institutes.

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