If businesses take small steps, stay focused, and prioritize accordingly, they can stay one step ahead to not only implement a successful automation strategy but to also achieve efficiency with fewer roadblocks.

Phani Dasari, Chief Information Security Officer

November 23, 2023

4 Min Read
human workers connecting gears
alphaspirit via Adobe Stock

Automation has become a basic necessity across all major industries, taking regular work to the next level, where bots and other solutions create efficiencies in traditionally people-heavy customer service tasks. However, rushed or fragmented business processes can expand the attack surface for security challenges and present undesirable cyber risks. The implementation of automation requires adequate preparation, a strong investment, and a meticulous strategy to avoid security challenges and reputation-damaging mistakes.

A recent survey reports that the majority of automation projects fail to take off due to their complexity. For those that do manage to reach the execution stage, there is a 50% chance of them failing. A vast majority of business leaders are not happy with their robotic process automation (RPA) implementation speed.

If companies are aware and well-prepared to face the roadblocks in an automation implementation project, they will be able to enjoy all the benefits that automation has to offer without security challenges.

The first step for a successful automation journey is to build a strong foundation. Here are a few considerations to begin the process:

  • Build on existing resources: Start with a strategy of augmenting front-line resources to train automation while lightening the cognitive load on valuable employees.

  • Choose the right partner: Find the right partner to support in-house teams. It can bring forward valuable processes-development expertise.

  • Take baby steps: Pilot each initiative around your primary design and drive smart automation transformation through many smaller-step changes and successes.

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Once the groundwork is set, security challenges can become more serious during and after deployment with higher-stakes and higher-rewards. Consider this detailed rundown of the potential challenges experienced during and after deployment.

A Holistic Approach, Without Automating the Entire Process

A holistic approach is important to have at all times, which includes educating employees and fostering a security-aware culture. Security and automation processes should be refined and continually improved to adapt to evolving threats.

However, it is not always feasible to automate an entire process and can create security holes executed with pitfalls. Costs can also escalate significantly if perhaps only 80% of the process was automated. That additional automation may require code that’s a lot more complicated and requires more security.

It is advisable to always assess whether a whole process requires automation and identify the tasks that will suffice. It is also possible to combine RPA tools with AI-based technology where RPA is not adequate, but the employees still require relief from particular tasks.

Related:The Evolving Ethics of AI: What Every Tech Leader Needs to Know

Prioritize Security Concerns, Even After Implementation

Since bots and automation tools have access to CRM, ERP, and other critical business systems, they can freely move data along different processes, thus posing a potential loophole after deployment that is prone to exploitation.

The following measures can address these security concerns:

  • All bots should have unique identification credentials, and bot operators should undergo two-factor identification.

  • Employing robust encryption algorithms is fundamental. Encryption should be consistently applied to data at rest, in transit, and during processing. Implementing industry-approved encryption methods uniformly across various cloud instances provides a strong shield against unauthorized access.

  • The RPA access rights of the bots to the systems should be limited to the tasks that the bots need to perform. Granular access controls tied to specific roles and responsibilities ensure that only authorized users have access to sensitive data. Identity and Access Management should be synchronized across all processes, maintaining a centralized and coherent approach to user access and permissions.

  • RPA tools should be designed to generate consistent logs without gaps that are reviewable during suspicious activities. Real-time monitoring for unauthorized modifications and thorough logging of activities contribute to swift threat detection and response, maintaining data integrity.

  • There should be a risk management framework in place to guide RPA development, deployment, and operation. Automation tools necessitate comprehensive backup, versioning mechanisms, and a robust disaster recovery plan. Having historical versions readily accessible ensures swift restoration in case of data loss or corruption. Rigorously testing the disaster recovery plan is crucial to minimize downtime and ensure data availability.

As automation continues to handle the ever-increasing need for higher efficiency and productivity, it’s important to not lose sight of security concerns. If businesses take small steps, stay focused, and prioritize accordingly they can stay one step ahead to not implement a successful automation strategy but achieve efficiency with fewer roadblocks.

About the Author(s)

Phani Dasari

Chief Information Security Officer, HGS

As the CISO at HGS, a global company that executes digital-led customer experience (CX) for hundreds of world class brands, Phani Dasari plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the organization's global information assets. His leadership encompasses a wide range of security operations focused on strengthening data security, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, fostering a security-conscious culture, and developing and executing incident response and recovery strategies to minimize disruptions to the business.

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