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robotic process automation security risks
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Understanding and Eliminating Robotic Process Automation Security Risks

We’ve previously outlined the important benefits on offer with RPA, but as with any new technology, adopters should be cognizant of the robotic process automation security risks too. RPA brings compound but solvable concerns ranging from typical security issues through to business risks. Awareness and mitigation are key to maintaining security and compliance.

Balancing value against risk

Robotic process automation (RPA) is seeing rapid take-up, with Deloitte’s 2018 RPA survey finding that 53% of respondents have started to explore RPA. Yet though RPA can quickly bring value to process-driven businesses the risks posed by RPA implementations are unique and more diffuse than many companies realise. Indeed, it is the less familiar nature of RPA security risks that technology leaders should be most concerned about.

What are the robotic process automation security risks?

In many ways, RPA is a unique technology which is why robotic process automation security risks are somewhat different. Consider the fact, for example, that RPA effectively behaves like a human being, making use of standard human user credentials and UI actions to complete tasks. These are some of the key points risk-conscious enterprises should watch out for when implementing RPA:

1. Getting the implementation right

As always, new technology should be implemented with the support of existing teams and CXO staff. Implementation must be planned thoroughly and evaluated every step of the way. Teams must be conscious of change management too, understanding the implications RPA has for the wider business, for individual processes, and for staff members.

2. Managing access control and vulnerabilities

Identity and access management (IAM) become key issues with RPA as robots often go through exactly the same motions as humans, using similar credentials. Yet, that also means that the same security controls that keep the staff from exploiting systems can also keep RPA processes safe. Nonetheless, robotic process automation security risks do present another threat surface and security teams should always stay aware of the additional risks presented by the presence of robotic processes.

3. Preparing for business continuity

Yes, RPA can very much be a set-and-forget technology, humming away in the background. But what are the repercussions when an RPA process breaks down? What if a single software update causes a point of failure, interrupting RPA workflows? Companies should understand how RPAs introduce a threat to business continuity and establish plans to mitigate this.

4. Reputational damage and compliance

Robots running amok can cause the types of reputational damage that even the most trusted business will struggle to recover from. It is not just gross errors companies should be concerned about. For example, a subtle programming decision that means loans approvals discriminate against sections of the population can be equally damaging.

RPA poses a regulatory threat too, in part because RPA-driven processes can appear like black boxes, inscrutable to regulators. Explaining how these processes get results can be difficult. Where errors caused by RPA creep in companies can be in trouble with regulators, unable to explain why inaccurate statements were made.

top 10 security risks in robotic process automation

Mitigating RPA risks

Companies should not step back from implementing RPA in concern about RPA security risks. Instead, mitigation is the answer. In taking steps to mitigate robotic process automation security risks a company could very well secure robotic processes to the extent that these are far more reliable than the human equivalent.

We’ve hinted at some of the steps to mitigate RPA risks in the previous section. More specifically, we suggest that companies implementing RPA concentrate on the following points:

  • Watch data use. Where sensitive and personally identifiable data is at stake companies should be very careful to lock down RPA solutions, ringfencing where necessary and monitoring the use of data.
  • Secure configuration. RPA provides yet another target for malicious actors. Securely configuring RPA solutions and ongoing access monitoring will help ensure RPA processes are not misused by outside parties. Companies should also rigorously apply security standards to RPA solutions.
  • Concentrate on integration. Companies can ensure business continuity by carefully integrating RPA into other frameworks, including records and IT risk management. These frameworks are designed to mitigate technology and business risk and can do the same for RPA.

Though RPA risks are slightly different in nature, the risk mitigation required to ensure risk-free use of RPA is not so onerous as to erase the benefits of RPA.

Deploy the right expertise

Of course, robotic process automation security risk mitigation can go wrong and be lacking in effectiveness. Consider finding a technology partner with the RPA background to ensure best in class approaches against the risks and threats unique to RPA.

Our security team at ELEKS can give a full assessment of business continuity and compliance to ensure a safe, secure RPA environment. This includes locating aggregated misconfigurations or vulnerabilities that may leave your business open to attack.

Get in touch with our security experts to get full visibility into your RPA risk profile and to ensure that your RPA configuration is secure by design.

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sam fleming
Sam Fleming,
President, Fleming-AOD