Businesses across the country are being won over by the many productivity and efficiency benefits offered by automation. A study from ReportLinker estimates the digital process automation market is expected to grow to $12.61 billion by 2023, a compound annual growth rate of 13.13 percent. From manufacturing to marketing, many types of businesses have found ways to integrate automation into their daily operations. Companies like Oracle, who recently increased automation levels for apps in its sales suite, are finding new ways to offer automation tools to various types of professionals.

Workforces are seeking to embrace more digitized tools, processes, and practices in hopes to improve operations and help their employees become as productive and efficient as possible. Whether it be in the form of document sharing platforms, instant messaging apps, or self-driving cars, there’s one thing for sure: automation will play a critical role in this transition. As Dhruv Asher, UiPath’s senior vice president of business development and product alliances, tells Investors’ Business Daily, “Robotic Process Automation is a cornerstone for digital transformation. If you talk to any [chief information officer] they’re looking to create a modern workforce for a digital economy, to go through a digital transformation.”

But as automation tools gain popularity with business professionals, what impact will they have on business security? Here are four security concerns to keep in mind when implementing automation tools in your business.

Beware the automation-savvy hacker

Just like businesses, governments, and other organizations have begun to index data and automate processes, so have malicious hackers. Though hacking used to involve more hands-on technical competencies, automated “hacking tools” have evolved in sophistication and scope, making it much simpler for hackers to break into even complex systems. Port scanners and password crackers are examples of tools that automate simple, repetitive processes exponentially faster than humans. Organizations of all sizes must find and implement strategies to resist these automated tasks because automatically finding vulnerabilities is now much simpler for hackers.

Misconfigured, outdated, or unpatched software can enable successful external cyber attacks. Businesses must learn to be proactive in their patch management and should consistently monitor systems for any vulnerabilities that would leave them susceptible to hackers. Organizations looking to defend against external threats should consider how the daily work of the IT department impacts overall data security.

Limit password sharing for automation tools

Some of the most popular tools for business automation are those that can automatically pay monthly bills. They’re extremely beneficial for businesses; forgetting to pay a bill can otherwise negatively impact a company’s access to lines of credit. Many companies use these tools to deduct the necessary amounts each month, often on a specific day. However, a business should restrict permissions to those accounts and assign multiple personnel to monitor transactions. There is always a possibility for insider threats, whether intentional or unintentional, so businesses should have proper checks and balances in place. Because automated bill-pay systems are often monitored less than those that have to be completed manually, malicious insiders and outsiders can easily wreak havoc on the system. They can change payment schedules, delete payment methods, or withdraw large sums of money, all of which can negatively impact a business’s finances.

Don’t ignore update notifications

Many automation tools display pop-up messages when new software updates are available. These messages can be easy to ignore. You might be in the middle of a project, important email, or just in the depths of the workday, and can’t take the time to reboot the system or your device right at that moment. You’re not alone; A Google study from 2015 found that just 38 percent of regular software users update their programs automatically or immediately upon being notified a new version is available.

However, it’s important for users to update their software as soon as possible. Sometimes the updates only encompass new features, but, more often than not, they also address bugs that could compromise security. It’s best for businesses to check for software updates on a schedule, whether it be weekly, bi-weekly, or setting a particular day each month. For example, Microsoft introduced Patch Tuesday in 2003, which is the unofficial name for their scheduled release of security fixes on the second Tuesday of each month. If you’re concerned regular updates will disrupt your workday, try to schedule maintenance outside your regular work hours or during other periods of downtime, such as your lunch hour.

Use automation for security too

Let’s face it: many security professionals aren’t the biggest fans of automation, especially when it’s applied to their everyday processes. Putting machines in control of things like provisioning, data access, backup, and a host of other functions can add more risk to an already risky environment. Though an automated organization does pose new security challenges, the fact is the same tools being used to augment other departments, like marketing or inventory management, can also be applied to security.

For example, according to the FireMon 2018 State of the Firewall report, which surveyed more than 300 security professionals, nearly 40 percent of respondents indicated the IT/cloud team or the application owner is responsible for network security in the cloud. Nearly one-fifth of respondents did not know who was responsible. This research indicates that people outside the security department are often responsible for cloud security. This is where automation can play an important role. Tasks in the change-management process, such as planning, risk assessment, and compliance testing, can all be automated, which improves workflows for these security professionals.

Although automation can be a tremendous help to businesses, it can also pose risks if it’s misused, neglected, or not sufficiently monitored. If you’re one of the many businesses looking to incorporate automation into its operations, be sure to effectively monitor security and restructure your security policies on a regular basis. Staying aware of the security concerns listed in this article will help businesses of all sizes and in all industries ensure they implement processes to use automation tools safely and effectively.

This article was written by guest author Marie Johnson.

About the author:

Contributor to Enlightened Digital, UX Designer and technology writer from New York City. If I’m not writing my latest blog post in my kitchen, you’ll likely find me strolling through Central Park, cappuccino in hand.

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