Information Management

8 RPA Security Best Practices for Secure Implementation

8 RPA Security Best Practices for Secure Implementation

by Brad Ancell - April 17, 2024

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology that uses robots to automate repetitive, rule-based tasks. The right RPA solution can free up human workers, reduce errors, and increase productivity. 

This can be a massive advantage for many companies. Even so, RPA security should be a prime concern. From data breaches to unauthorized access, an RPA solution can present significant security risks to an organization. That’s where RPA security best practices come in. 

Let’s look at some common security risks inherent in RPA implementation and uncover eight actionable best practices your business can use to mitigate those risks.

Common Security Risks in RPA Implementation

One of the biggest challenges when implementing an RPA solution is the simple fact that a business will add a new vector for cyber attacks. Much like other software additions to a business network, design is critical. A poorly designed RPA solution will often neglect key best practices, leading to some significant security risks including:

  • Unauthorized Access - RPA bots need access to various internal systems and applications to perform tasks. Attackers can exploit this vulnerability by leveraging inadequate access controls, such as poor passwords, to impersonate an authorized user. 
  • Data Leakage - Since RPA bots often deal with sensitive information, they’re a prime target for malicious actors. Bots infected with malware are a concern, but bots with poor configuration can also lead to unintentional data breaches and leaks.
  • Bot Malfunction - Bots with logic errors or inadequate error handling can malfunction, leading to unintended consequences. This can mean operational disruptions, system damage, or even damage to a company’s reputation.

Unfortunately, the risks of RPA bots are quite common as this technology trend is a prime element of digital transformation strategies. As more and more businesses turn to RPA solutions, risks like these will only become more serious.

The key to mitigating risk is only utilizing properly configured bots for optimal RPA security. Bots are designed to streamline operations, carrying out tasks quickly and efficiently. A poorly configured RPA bot will do the opposite and end up more of a hindrance than a help. That’s why business leaders need to implement RPA security best practices when considering an RPA solution.

RPA Security Best Practices

To make the most out of an automation solution and unlock significant efficacy gains and productivity improvements, following RPA security best practices is critical. Always remember that while RPA is a helpful digital tool that can streamline monotonous internal processes, it inherently introduces new security vectors that require careful consideration. 

To help you and your team better understand what safe operation looks like with an RPA solution, here are some key best security practices.

1. Role-Based Access Controls (RBAC)

Imagine creating a thousand copies of your house key and handing them off to strangers on the street. That’s the equivalent of having lax access controls. To mitigate these risks, implementing a role-based access control (RBAC) system designed in a least-privilege permissions approach is essential.

Each RPA bot and user should only have access to the specific data and systems they need to do their jobs. This can significantly minimize the risk of damage due to unauthorized access.

2. Encryption of Sensitive Data

Data is at the heart of many digital business operations and keeping that data safe is a key responsibility. With the average cost of a data breach in the U.S. at around $9 million, this is not something a business can overlook.

When working with bots, encryption is non-negotiable. Always encrypt data at rest and in transit to render it unreadable if intercepted. Always remember that even a single data breach can have disastrous consequences.

3. Regular Security Audits and Compliance Checks

Like other software or hardware tools, maintenance is essential for proper operation. Be sure to set up regular security audits and compliance checks, especially for industries like healthcare or financial services with strict regulatory demands.

Monitor bot activities, identify suspicious behavior, and patch vulnerabilities promptly. Think of it as having your own security team always on watch.

4. Secure Bot Development and Testing

Not all RPA developers produce quality software. A poorly coded bot can easily contain malicious code or security vulnerabilities. Once a reliable RPA provider is identified, testing is the next step. Through testing in isolated environments, businesses can more effectively implement secure practices.

Moreover, regular code reviews can help ensure bots are both robust and attack-resistant. It’s important to note that preventive measures are always better than reacting to issues as they come up.

5. Harden Existing Defenses

Attackers seek the easiest point of entry. The fewer avenues of attack found in a security system, the harder it is for a malicious actor to carry out their plan. To reduce these attack surfaces in an RPA solution, start with data. Whether it’s remote or unnecessary, make sure access is limited and always restrict what's not needed.

This goes for connections as well. Only grant access to required services and connections. Another key element of this strategy is ensuring files and formats are standardized for centralized management.

6. Develop an RPA Security Governance Framework

It’s important to develop frameworks to manage security risks with a dedicated set of controls. This includes regular risk assessments of RPA processes, defining roles and responsibilities, and securing access controls. While we’ve touched on these points earlier, the goal of a governance framework is to create standards around these concepts. 

A strong framework will go beyond these points, touching on things like logging, monitoring, and compliance. More importantly, ​​security is an ongoing process, and continuous improvement is key to maintaining a robust and resilient RPA environment.

7. Data Privacy and Protection Measures

Data regulations like GDPR and HIPAA for healthcare are not to be taken lightly. Be sure to implement measures to protect data privacy throughout the RPA process. This includes anonymizing sensitive data, using data masking techniques, and adhering to data retention policies.

A violation of HIPPA alone can result in fines up to $68,000. Since RPA solutions are automatic by nature, these violations can happen unbeknownst to the organization, especially if there is no standard RPA governance structure in place.

8. Secure Integration with Existing Systems

Think of secure integration as a safe bridge between your RPA tools and existing systems. To do this, conduct thorough security assessments, implement robust authentication protocols, and monitor activity across both environments. 

This ensures smooth operation without compromising security. Since these RPA processes will integrate into existing workflows, carefully considering the consequences of poor implementation is essential.

Where To Find a Reliable RPA Security Partner

RPA security is an essential component of adding this automation technology to your business. By following general RPA security best practices, your team can benefit from the efficiency and productivity advantages of proper RPA integration without compromising security.

A key element of doing this correctly is partnering with the right RPA provider. As we touched on earlier, the biggest risk to a business is an RPA bot that’s coded incorrectly and set up unreliably. To keep your business and its data secure, always vet RPA candidates before landing on the right one for your needs.

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