Securely deploying automation for business benefit

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Streamlining business processes – and cutting down on the need for human employees to perform mundane and repetitive tasks – automation technology is increasingly being employed by organisations around the world. As part of their digital transformation initiatives, in which businesses seek to improve their efficiency, automation represents an opportunity to boost productivity while significantly reducing the risk of human error.

The platforms and tools needed to automate an organisation’s business processes often require access to sensitive corporate information, however, and without sufficient security measures in place they can find themselves vulnerable to compromise. Of course, as we see in the news on an almost daily basis, such vulnerabilities can leave a business, and the information it holds, wide open to the risk of exploitation. The threats of fraud and data leakage, for example, are both currently associated with automation and, if not addressed, will mean it can be more of a handicap to a business than it is an enabler.

It is imperative, therefore, that any organisation considering automating its processes is able to successfully identify, understand and avoid the most common security issues associated with the technology itself.

Avoiding dependence

Although advanced automation solutions are easily capable of handling processes that depend on interactions between humans and the bots used to automate an organisation’s processes, it’s important that organisations avoid assigning those bots with credentials designated for human users.

The majority of robot solutions are often hard-coded, so the level of sophistication of their security will typically depend on the consistency and quality of the developer that created them. In addition, users will usually need to employ a third-party solution to help store passwords for human users and plug any gaps in credential management. Avoiding this dependence, and ensuring appropriate levels of security will, therefore, rely on the use of encrypted protocols, change audit and independent credentials.

To help this avoidance, RPA provides and organisations alike should look at traditional software development, encompassing both quality and security from the beginning. The automation technology itself should then be smart enough to distinguish how to behave.

Not the same

While automation tools tend to be grouped together in one homogeneous group, they are far from the same. Some tools, for example, provide and support the full lifecycle of an end-to-end robotic process, while other solutions will require third-party add-ons to enable them to offer a similar degree of management, thereby representing an additional security concern.

When deploying third-party solutions of this nature, it’s important that organisations consider the security implications of the potential risks they represent. After all, with additional complimentary tools extending process usage, the more complex the ecosystem will become. Rather than complicate matters further, security should, therefore, be kept as simple as possible. Organisations should learn just which specific areas of the systems they use need to be protected and how to do this.

Restricted access

It is often the case that, with many automation solutions, the quality of the processes they deliver such a tracking changes, secure communications, and version management, can be dependent on a developer’s skills and aptitude.

It can sometimes be impossible to avoid breaks in segregation duties, for example, when using traditional robotic tools that require dedicated human bot operators and dedicated developer teams to function. In many cases, more third-party solutions will be needed to monitor for fraud. The most effective way of avoiding the escalation of privilege that can occur as a result of automation, therefore, is to make sure that every bot has the bare minimum access and capabilities they need to perform their job.

The alternative is to use automation systems which arrive ready to deploy, pre-programmed and boasting built-in full audit and compliance tools. Not only will these particular systems streamline the implementation process, they also require little in the way of technical support. As a result, the need for additional expertise and resource will be reduced; good news for many businesses for whom these assets are in short supply.

Enjoying the benefits

Take part in any discussion around automation, and it will soon turn to the subject of efficiency. Automation is, after all, a key part of many organisations’ digital transformation initiative as they look to improve the speed and productivity of their business processes. Efficiency doesn’t necessarily sit easily with security, however, particularly when it comes to automation.

It’s entirely possible to address concerns around a lack of process oversight, audit requirements, or the failure to notice errors and vulnerabilities, though. Rather than creating a piecemeal patchwork of automation tools, and instead implementing a strict approach to processes, organisations will be able to minimise security and fraud risks right from the off.

Automation technology must be deployed in a secure environment for organisations to fully enjoy its productivity and efficiency benefits. By understanding what they need to do to protect their business and its valuable information, and by taking the necessary precautions, organisations should have face no security concerns when they come to implement automation and robotics as part of their digital transformation strategy.