What is robotic process automation (RPA)
(RPA) Robotic Process Automation is a type of business process automation governed by structured inputs and business logic. RPA is based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) or metaphorical software robots (bots). Various companies or organizations use RPA tools and configure the robot or software to manipulate data, communicate with other digital systems, trigger responses, and interpret applications to process transactions.
Robotic process automation has a wide range of uses. It can generate a simple automatic response to emails, and also deploy bots in vast quantities, where they are programmed to automate jobs.
With traditional automated tools, a developer prepares a list of actions to automate a task and interface to the back-end systems with the help of a dedicated scripting language or Application Program Interface (API). RPA generates the action list by examining the users performing the task at the application’s Graphical User Interface (GUI). The RPA later delivers the automation by repeating the job performed by the user directly in the GUI.
Testing tools of the graphical user interface (GUI) have technical similarities to that of robotic process automation tools. RPA tools repeat the set of actions that are performed by the users to automate interaction with the GUI.
Robotic process automation software is trained to imitate the digital data tasks performed by humans. Furthermore, RPA software performs various tasks such as calculations, filling out forms, producing reports, updating records, and achieving high-volume transactional tasks that require moving data between multiple applications. The RPA does not need a physical screen to complete a job. They execute the tasks step by step in a virtual environment.
Measures to ensure effective robotic process automation:
Understand the RPA operations before planning any process automation
The company or the organization developing the RPA must evaluate, identify, document, and then test and validate the RPA based on the results required. The process should be dynamically polished, actively utilized, updated, and evaluated. Hence, it is crucial to understand and have clarity about RPA operations.
Documentation for the existing process
Registering the daily business outcome and targeting the day-to-day tasks that are repetitive in behavior will influence the business positively. Hence, it becomes crucial that every existing process should have documentation that registers the process concept, workflow of all the robotic processes to inspect before the automation, routine transactions, and so on.
Target a Specific goal
Having a specific goal for RPA is essential for an organization. All the partners and stakeholders need to be present and on the same page, with explicit knowledge about the various benefits of the business. Communication regarding the goal of the project should be clear.
Set and control the expectations
The rules and regulations are expected to be set before conducting any task. The working process, the technology used, and the purpose of the robotic process automation must be defined ahead of developing the RPA.
Guide the team to adopt robotic process automation
Providing proper guidance about robotic process automation to the team in an organization is essential. The organization needs to support end-to-end metrics to communicate and track the progress and focus on business outcomes.
Long-term utilization of robotic process automation
RPA should be developed for long-term utilization, a. And the tool must be flexible enough to embrace future changes and advancements regarding the applications.
RPA tools & three types of functionalities
Usage: Some RPA tools are optimized for attended automation, while some are optimized for unattended automation. Unattended automation is often the background process of attended automation.
Programming Options: RPA needs to be programmed to work. There are various ways to program RPA. These different ways have involved a trade-off between programming time and the complexity of the bots being deployed.
Cognitive capabilities: the RPA isare categorized based on cognitive ability, which helps them to determine the action of RPA based on input gathered from the other systems. RPA tools have a wide range of cognitive capabilities.
The types of Robotic process automation
Attended is the type of automation where the bots relay passively on the user machines and are invoked by the users at a particular instance. The users actively trigger automation since the point of invocation is hard to detect with the help of programs.
Unattended automation is the kind that raises the standard of the RPA to another level. Unattended automation allows the program to operate in the background by processing the required data to provide the output.
Hybrid automation combines both a supportive environment and a back-end environment that makes the RPA more efficient and robust.
Benefits of RPA
Cost-cutting: RPA saves organizations’ labor costs by accomplishing various tasks in a short period.
Accuracy: RPA can reduce the error rate and inconsistency. The completion of the process is accurate when the RPA process is at work.
Digital transformation: RPA can be used by the organization or companies to automate parts of processes without harming the legacy systems or investing money in time-consuming and expensive back-end integration, thereby allowing an organization or company to digitalize their data completely.
Employee confidence and productivity: Automation of various complicated and repeated tasks allows employees or users to be more productive and confident.
Compliance: RPA reduces human interaction with sensitive data and minimizes the possibility of data fraud. It tracks the bots’ performances and collects the information for analyzing agreements according to governance necessities and regulations.
A Spotlight on Robotics Security Attacks
Robotics is an integrated branch of science and engineering that deals with the creation, operation, design, and applications of robots. The sensor feedback, information processing, and computer systems are controlled with the help of robotics. It is developed to substitute human labor and clone human actions. The robotic system provides data and intelligent services by connecting with its surroundings through aids such as human interferences, sensors, and actuators. They deal with various complexities like intelligent algorithms, information processing, dispatching, hardware control, and safety reliability.
The transformation of robotics ranges from a remote-controlled system to a human. With advanced changes and new inventions comes higher risk. The robots perform various tasks in sectors like business, medical, and household security systems.
Cybersecurity issues in robots occur for various reasons. Cyber-criminals usually target the insecure communication process that occurs between robots and users. Hackers or cyber-criminals hack the unstable communication link to threaten information security.
Security system failure in the robotic system enables hackers to access the features of the robotic system without needing to use a valid password or username from remote locations. The lack of encryption in the robotic system then exposes any sensitive data to the cybercriminals.
Cyber-criminals alter the robotic features if the robotic system has a weak default configuration. The potential hackers gain access to the programmable features of the robotic systems and modify them if any insecure configuration is found.
Types of Robotics security attacks
Robotics is an embedded system that is vulnerable to several cyber-attacks. The cyber-attacks on embedded systems are classified based on the target layer of the integrated system architectures, which are as follows:
Hardware attacks are the type of security attacks that robotic systems are vulnerable to during both manufacturing and usage. Various types of hardware attacks are found, like hardware Trojan, hardware backdoors, fault injection, eavesdropping, and hardware modification attacks. Reverse engineering the components of the robotic system during mass production allows cyber-criminals to add hardware Trojan into the system. The hackers install the hardware level backdoor or kill switches to access the robotic system. The robots are then attacked during the maintenance process.
Firmware/Operating system attacks
The flash memory of the robotic system contains the codes of an embedded system; this allows the organization to update the operating system (OS) remotely through the internet connection. The ability to update the robotic system’s operating system, firmware, and device drivers gives cyber-criminals the opportunity to provide insider threats of cyber security.
The OS present in the robotic system is vulnerable to cyber-attacks, such as the execution of arbitrary code, root-level access to the system, and denial of service. The attackers alter the operating system of the robotic system and gain full control of the device. Once the cyber-criminals enter the embedded system, they plant the malware on the robotic devices that transform the machines into bots.
The robotic system includes software applications to perform several tasks. The common types of attacks on software applications are software Trojans, worms, viruses, and buffer overflow. The malware installed on the system allows the cyber-criminals to collect data and spread the malicious code. The vulnerability in the software applications of the robotic system will enable cyber-criminals to control the robots.
Cyber security threats in the robotic automation process caused by hackers
Controlling the robotic system: once hackers gain access to control the robotic system, they cause network security threats leading to the data loss or malfunction of the robots, which causes significant losses to the company.
Physical Damage: after gaining access to the robotic system, hackers try to harm operators present in the system. The hackers use robots to change the security mechanism and damage the work cell.
Process interruption: hackers suspend or alter the robotic process, which could threaten the operations.
Sensitive data exfiltration: the security flaws in robots act as an access point to cyber-criminals. Hackers use this vulnerability to steal sensitive customer data. The robotic security system should be protected against various possible security breaches. The criminals transfer confidential data from the robotic system to multiple remote servers.
System Blockage: The robots are vulnerable to ransomware attacks, blocking access to data and the entire system.
Methods to prevent hacking in Robotics
Security system: the organization can implement the Secure Software Development Life Cycle (SSDLC) process while building a robotic system.
Factory Restore: the organization can provide the option to restore the robot to its original default state while developing the robotic system.
Secured supply chain: implementing the best cybersecurity practices by the developer or the organization stops the hackers from entering the robotic system.
Encryption: the data transmitted between the users and robots through the communication links need to be encrypted. The encryption of the link provides significant protection against cybercriminals.
Proper education: knowledge sharing on cybersecurity to the developers or the staff working in the robotic system is essential to prevent threats to computer security.
Security audits/analysis: security audits can be carried out by the organization to know the status of the robots. A complete system analysis will help the developer track security attacks in the robotic system.
RPA Product and Process Security Assessment
RPA is revolutionizing the mobile and web application landscape with innovative features like in-app integrated, automation enabled, AI-capable chatbots for several industry verticals, including the Banking sector. The extensive support offered by RPA-enabled chatbots renders the process of customer onboarding along with the pre- / post-authentication process smooth and flawless. Besides engaging the customer, it measures the customer response and takes cognitive decisions to enhance customer experience, thus significantly improving the engagement outcomes.
The interesting fact is that many of these solutions can offer assistance for sensitive financial transactions or queries. RPA, coupled with state-of-the-art cognitive capabilities, has much potential to redefine the whole digital application experience in the near term. Thus, with RPA, modern-day mobile and web applications can be scaled to behave intelligently with AI/ML capabilities.
Additionally, as RPA optimizes the support time or SLA while maintaining the quality of support, the service industry is also a business vertical which is experiencing rapid RPA adoption.
However, when organizations embark on the transition of existing business workflows to automated workflows using sophisticated RPA products or services, serious security concerns such as the ones listed below could arise.
- Improper credential handling by chatbots or chatbot controllers;
- Privilege manipulation of chatbots by malware;
- Improper cognitive decision-making;
- Memory attacks that can control or manipulate bot actions;
- Lack of visibility of bot actions after deployment.
While several organizations conduct a security assessment of RPA by means of a thick client testing of the chatbot solutions, several hidden security risks are just ignored or not considered.
NST Cyber as your trustworthy RPA provider
NST Cyber has proven experience in delivering both robotic process automation services and products for leading RPA vendors, integrators, and clients from industry verticals like bBanking, telecommunications, and so onTelco, etc.
We offer comprehensive security assessment services for Attended, Unattended, and Hybrid Automation-based RPA solutions. Leveraging on our extensive experience in conducting security evaluations of different types of RPA solutions, NST Cyber can offer solutions to secure the following types of RPA:
- Assisted or attended RPA solutions – where human intervention is required at some point in the automation workflow.
- Unassisted or Unattended RPA solutions – are designed to perform unmanaged tasks and to carry out the task fully automated.
- Cognitive RPA solutions – are enhanced by Machine Learning algorithms for decision-making and improvement.
- Integrated RPA solutions – like engagement or support resolution chatbots.
Since the service elements and automation workflow behave differently, sometimes even for the same product, our approach and methodology for security assessment proportionally vary based on product capabilities and deployment.
About NST Cyber
NST Cyber is an emerging leader in the cyber threat management space as we provide a full cycle of robotic process automation services, security assessment, control validation, and defensive, and detective security advisory to enterprises. NST Cyber collaborates with multiple business verticals like banking and finance, oil and gas, retail, manufacturing, and healthcare, to assess their current security posture and continuously improve their resilience against targeted cyber-attacks. With profound technical expertise and commitments, NetSentries works with several esteemed banks and FinServ companies to improve Enterprise-wide security posture and meet compliance requirements from regulators.
For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our service page.