5 Best Practices for Mitigating RPA Security Risks

September 28, 2022

Nithya Rachel

5 Best Practices for Mitigating RPA Security Risks
Technology adoption has continuously helped businesses outsmart the competition. In recent years, progressive business leaders have been turning to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to accomplish more while keeping costs down.    But the hype around RPA is not without skepticism over security. Whether a bot works supervised, unsupervised or in a hybrid manner, the very nature of it mimicking human-computer interactions makes it vulnerable to cybersecurity risks.   If fears of a cyberattack are holding you back from automating your business processes, we are here to reassure you. You can seize this competitive advantage with some precautions. RPA security risks can easily be averted by following a few best practices.   In this blog post, we will go over the potential threats of RPA and discuss how you can mitigate them. 

Security Risks of RPA

RPA bots interact with systems and applications just like humans. They change data, edit files, and move in and out of applications like CRM and ERP. And just like humans, RPA bots need privileges and credentials to perform these tasks. Below are some RPA security risks that you need to be aware of:

Sourcing Related Security Risks

RPA projects require secure development, safe deployment, and strong governance. An RPA project introduces extra layers such as web, API, and data into your systems and applications. If you hire an inexperienced RPA vendor or task your internal tech team with automation, you may end up with a poorly designed solution that overlooks compliance or regulatory policies. A non-compliant or insecure framework exposes your organization to cybersecurity and legal risks.

Misuse of Privileged Access and Data Breach Risks

Superuser accounts, like your IT staff, have the highest access to the company’s network. According to a data breach survey in US organizations, 82% of respondents stated that a compromised privileged account was the reason for a breach in their organization. The risks of privileged access abuse from RPA implementation are no greater than the risks associated with humans. Like human users, bots need read/write privileges to perform tasks. Cyber attackers can use bots to break into a system to steal or misuse data. They can also train robots to disrupt business operations after gaining privileged access.

Vulnerabilities and Outage Risks

Cyber attackers can exploit a vulnerability, such as weak data encryption in an RPA bot, to gain access to sensitive data. A poor RPA implementation can expose you to attacks such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS). Malicious hackers can also cause system outages with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on bots.

5 RPA Security Best Practices

In an organization, RPA bots pose the same level of security risk as an unguarded employee. The key to managing RPA security risks is to treat bots like any other employee in your organization and grant only the necessary permissions. In this section, we will explore the best RPA security practices.

1. Choose a Vendor Who Prioritizes RPA Security

Hiring an inexperienced vendor with poor coding standards and weak encryption can lead to serious security flaws. Consider a vendor’s track record, company history, customer base, development techniques, and support levels before deciding whether to work with them. An experienced RPA vendor like Eleviant, who has expertise in building RPA solutions for a bank and an independent insurance group, can carve out a safe automation strategy that works best for your company.

2. Establish a Strong Governance Framework

Regularly validate RPA scripts and audit logs to ensure a bot is working correctly. Your vendor and internal teams should work together to establish a robust governance framework. The framework must clearly define the automation scope, prioritize identified RPA candidates, and evaluate regulatory and business risks for each RPA candidate. The framework needs to define each team member’s roles and responsibilities clearly. It is also advisable to update your company’s Information Security Management System (ISMS) and Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies to incorporate RPA specific requirements.

3. Create Unique Credentials for the Bots

For better auditing and troubleshooting purposes, it is essential to distinguish the activities of a bot from those of an employee. Never use an employee’s credentials for RPA implementation. Create unique identities for every bot in your system, and do not store passwords in the source code. Keep passwords in a centralized, encrypted location such as a password vault and change them frequently. Limit the number of employees who have access to RPA credentials. Configure a robust authentication method like two-factor authentication or token authentication for extra security.

4. Follow the Principle of Least Privilege

The principle of least privilege (PoLP) is a widely used security concept. IT administrators prevent users from accessing sensitive business data by giving employees only the minimum access rights or permissions they need to perform their tasks. The same PoLP concept applies to RPA. IT administrators can configure minimum access rights for a bot to access applications and databases. For example, a bot that copies email addresses from a database and sends emails must have read-only access to the database.

5. Ensure Consistent and Accurate Logging

It is critical to monitor and log every transaction of an RPA script. Efficient security and risk management practices ensure consistent and accurate logging. Accurate, system-generated logs can help you analyze the root cause when a bot malfunctions. It is a good practice to secure RPA logs in a separate system and encrypt sensitive data.

RPA Security Checklist

Gartner recommends a 4-step action plan for Security and Risk Management leaders to mitigate RPA risks. We have put together a similar but comprehensive security checklist that can be useful when you start implementing RPA.

Enhance software development practices to include secure bot development/deployments.

  • Treat a bot like a user and create a separate set of credentials.
  • Use a secure authentication mechanism.
  • Maintain a password vault to store bot credentials and rotate bot credentials frequently.
  • Establish mechanisms to identify, avoid and control bot abuse such as a provision to lock down bots.
  • Do not leave any credentials in the source code.
  • Use two-factor authentication for an extra layer of security.
  • Follow the principle of least privilege and grant only the necessary permissions to the bots.
  • Ensure that all transactions are correctly logged.
  • Review RPA scripts and logs regularly.

Eleviant and Secure RPA Implementation

RPA is gaining traction but comes with its own set of risks. The right vendor can securely automate your business by balancing RPA risks and opportunities. At Eleviant, we help businesses identify automation opportunities and maximize growth. Get in touch with us for a secure RPA implementation in your organization.

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