RPA Implementation: 9 Ways to Design Secure Software Robots

We’ve published two other articles that touched upon the intrinsic relationship between robotic process automation and cybersecurity. But since the world of RPA keeps moving forward with accelerated speed, the time has already come to provide you with updated information.

As RPA use expands across the industrial landscape, more effective risk mitigation solutions have become available. In a nutshell, secure software robots can reduce time to respond to incidents (and thus also lessen risk exposure), and can deploy security controls whenever they detect compliance exceptions (thereby decreasing attack service).

The valuable assistance of RPA for the increasingly problematic issue of cyber security management stems from these two main features.

Due to the growing number of cyber threats, businesses must address new risks regarding sensitive data security. The safety of confidential data is intimately connected with both customers’ and employees’ trust in the robotics platforms at work in your organisation. But why should you coopt the bots in the endeavour to ensure the necessary degree of security?

For three converging reasons: the cybersecurity talent gap, the need to cut down costs (e.g., for additional hirings), and the proven efficiency of cognitive automation in improving organisational security.

Since automated processes are easier to manage, control and predict, software robots are secure by definition. However, there are certain procedures for RPA implementation that foster the reduction of cyber security risks, such as security breaches, phishing scams, malevolent hackers, credential thiefs, manual errors, etc.

How can you design secure software robots?

There are a couple of principles that you should aim to make available for your RPA implementation strategy in order to ensure bot security.

1. Reduce the potential avenues of attack

The rationale for this is rather simple: the less avenues of attack, the less effort is to be invested in protecting the system. The way to go is to impose some limitations onto your software robots.

Provide a minimum amount of data input and remote data, restrict the available services and connections, and establish a single, centralised configuration for the input files. The effect of these design measures will be less complex but more secure software robots.

2. The principle of minimal privilege

This means that you provide bots with all the access that is needed, but nothing more than that. In other words, software robots’ access should be limited to only the exact files and resources they need to perform their duties.

Minimally expand administrative rights or any more permissive actions when these are absolutely necessary. Likewise, the accounts used by bots to connect to remote resources should be kept to a minimum dictated by the duties they need to perform.

3. The principle of defense in depth

Bots are thoroughly secure software robots when multiple layers of security controls are placed throughout the robotic system in order to defend bot assets from malicious attacks. If we take the example of an input file asset, the principle entails limiting the permissions of the file, a variety of approaches to data validation and input verification, and the encoding of data output prior to displaying it on screen.

4. Implement security policies consistently

Manually changing permissions for lots of software robots is not only unsafe, but also unscalable. Fortunately you can ensure consistent policies by creating a central repository that supports the automatic rotation of access rights or a unique password. Automation of the management of login data ensures consistency.

5. Remove hard-coded access rights

This is yet another procedure for multi-layered security that minimises the risk of attacks. The way to go is to replace the hard-coded access rights from robot scripts with an API call. This way, requests refer to convenient access rights residing in the central repository.

6. Tailor your assumptions in the opposite direction of trust

Bots gather and processe data from multiple input sources. If you assume that all API/ service data is not to be trusted, you need to equip the bots in such way that they can actually process it. This means extra security controls and set procedures for data validation.

7. Secure access to the RPA console

Both RPA administrators and other users with additional rights should be able to identify, track and record administrator activity. However, RPA administrators are privileged users. Their login credentials must be available for the organisation in order to determine user responsibility, and to monitor activities.

If the security teams cand track the sessions of RPA administrators in real-time, they can also terminate them should the need arise. A good example is that of CyberArk, which has an additional layer of protection for admin accounts, consisting in minimal privilege enforcement, privileged password management, session recording, and privileged data analytics.

8. Assign a unique identity to each RPA bot

Running software robots with human operator credentials makes it impossible to univocally attribute actions, in particular attacks or fraudulent actions. Consequently, it’s best if you use different naming standards that can distinguish between human and bot identities.

For instance, you may assign identity B-257 to the bot operated by an employee identified with E-527. The information regarding the tasks that user E-527 asked bot B-527 to conduct is to be registered in logs or audit trails.

9. Integrate data protection technologies

The idea is to take the good example of robust technologies for data protection used by top finance, retail, energy, or healthcare businesses, and include those into RPA technologies.

Keep in mind the Transport Layer Security (TSL) 1.2 protocol, the most up-to-date industry standard, designed specifically to secure the privacy of information shared via the Internet. By choosing an RPA tool that goes hand in hand with this TSL 1.2 protocol, you can protect your organisation from both internal and external attacks.

Conclusion

All the advantages of latest technologies come at a cost, and there’s no mistake in saying that security risks constitute the most challenging such cost. Because of the high amount of sensitive data exposed to potential malicious threats, data and access security are a leading cause of concern for organisations set to traverse the automation journey.

The good news is that with some degree of proactive planning in RPA implementation, i.e., choosing a stable RPA tool and a good RPA partner, and enforcing security measures such as the above listed, it is relatively easy to handle threats efficiently.  A wisely chosen RPA partner can assist you in the proper management of security risks. If you want to find out more about this, take a look art our article about 5 things to consider when choosing and intelligent automation/RPA partner.

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