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Mastering secure automation

Security is one of the most common concerns organisations associate with the implementation of robotics, writes Neil Kinson, Chief of Staff, Redwood Software. Why? Responsible for automating essential processes across significant areas of a business, these platforms may have access to sensitive company information.

And as we’ve seen all too often over the last few years, failure to have the appropriate security measures in place to manage this sensitive information not only leaves the technology that has been compromised out of action, but entire organisations open to vulnerabilities. This means that the potential risks of improper handling, manipulation or hacking quickly turn automation from an enabler to a potential obstacle for organisations. How then, can organisations successfully identify, understand and avoid the most common security issues when it comes to putting automation into practice?

Despite advanced automation solutions being able to easily handle processes that depend on human to bot interactions, one thing businesses should stay clear of is assigning bots with human user credentials. Initial security problems with typical robotic solutions start with the fact that the tools are all hard coded. This means that the degree of security sophistication is entirely dependent on the quality and consistency of the developer. Using encrypted protocols, independent credentials and change audit are the key to avoiding the dependency on developer consistency to ensure appropriate levels of security.

Despite often being grouped together as one, not all automation tools are created equally. While some solutions provide and, more importantly, support the full lifecycle of an end-to-end robot, other tools require third-party add-ons in order to provide a similar level of management. This immediately adds to security concerns, with organisations having to consider a whole new realm of risks related to third-party solutions. The more complimentary tools you have to oversee the greater the degree of complexity growth as you extend process usage. Where they can, organisations should keep security simple, learning exactly what areas of the systems they use need to be protected, then turning their attention to how.

For traditional robotic tools that require dedicated developer teams and human bot operators, avoiding breaks in segregation duties can be unavoidable, which often means the need for more third-party software to monitor for fraud. Ultimately, the easiest way to avoid privilege escalation as a result of automation is to ensure that all bots only have the minimum access and capabilities required to perform the tasks at hand. Organisations can also opt for pre-programmed automation systems that arrive ready to be deployed with full audit and compliance tools already built-in. Helping to streamline the installation process, these platforms also require minimal technical support, freeing up the need for additional expertise and resource, two things many businesses don’t have.

Process-based approach

Concerns around a lack of process oversight and audit requirements, or vulnerability to errors going unnoticed, are entirely avoidable. Efficiency is usually one of the first words to come up in any discussion around automation – organisations want to do more and faster, without having to compromise on results. However, while arming businesses with the opportunity to boost productivity and streamline processes, automation efficiency isn’t always a term that works in perfect harmony with security. Luckily, this can easily be combatted through implementing a strict approach to processes, rather than creating an ad-hoc patchwork of automation tools, security and fraud risks are minimised from the outset.

Automation can quickly help organisations dramatically minimise the chance of error that goes hand-in-hand with the human workforce, also improving first-time accuracy and eliminating the need for staff to be stuck carrying out manual tasks. However, all of this is only true when automation is used in a secure environment, with the relevant and necessary protective layers in place to mitigate any form of hacking or improper use. Businesses considering implementing robotics should have no hesitations of doing so, as long as they understand how to keep themselves and their valuable data safe!


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