Cybercrime has shot up about 600% due to the pandemic, according to research by top Cybersecurity firms. As stated in World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2020, cybercrime will likely cost the world $11.4 million each minute in 2021. A weakness or flaw in software, hardware, or organizational processes, which when compromised by a threat can result in a security breach, which is also a network vulnerability.

Cyber attacks hit businesses every day

There are different types of network vulnerabilities such as Malware, Social engineering attacks, Outdated or unpatched software, Misconfigured firewalls/operating systems. It is important that your network security team addresses these factors when assessing the overall security posture of your systems. When left unchecked these vulnerabilities can lead to more advanced attacks such as a DDOS (Distributed Denial of Services) which can bring a network down to a crawl or prevent users from accessing it. A malware is often deployed through phishing emails. Threat actors send emails to employees containing links to websites or embedded attachments within the email itself. If an action is taken such as clicking the link or downloading the attachment the malicious code is executed and you can consider yourself breached.

Maintaining the security of software code is an ongoing battle, with major companies like Facebook, Apple, Microsoft releasing patches daily to defend against new cyber threats. One of the most significant threats to an organization is exposing your internal network or services to the internet. When exposed, threat actors are easily able to spy on your traffic, steal data, or compromise your network.

Robotic Process Automation or RPA, is a great tool for automating repetitive knowledge worker tasks such as – Repetitive assessment procedures, Control tests, Risk assessments, Reconciliations, Report preparation, Audit support and Data gathering etc. It is a way to add capacity incrementally but sustainably without having to always rely on increases in headcount budgets. It is also a great tool for marketing durable value-add capabilities of the team. There are various steps for risk and control assessment in an order of adding least to most business value – Sample/Manual assessments, Automated assessments, Proactive assessment, and Predictive assessment. In case of Sample/Manual assessment there is a poor level of assurance, little to no value provided to business and a lot of time wastage.

In Automated assessment, the following are the steps – Connect to a data source for real time data acquisition and normalization; Deliver greater assurance by analyzing 100% of the data; Create a step once and schedule it to cut out repetitive tasks; Remediate exceptions through workflows and notifications; and finally Turn test results into KPIs that drive actual risk or control assessment. The automated process offers an excellent level of assurance. Using supervised Machine Learning model, you can predict and handle risks more effectively. This is done with the help of all the available data and scenarios being fed to the system as training data, which identifies risk and helps in preventing it well ahead of an attack. RPA helps in a great extent to bridge the talent shortage gaps in cybersecurity teams. IT security teams can focus on high cognitive tasks.

Curbing the cyber attacks

Early detection of possible malware attacks is possible with faster analysis of alerts by bots where it selects relevant information and makes effective decisions. Bots can check for sensitive data stored in unauthorized location and later validate and remove the data. Unauthorized entry can be prevented by blocking users with invalid credentials. It adds a layer of encryption for more secure data usage. RPA bots can be utilized by analysts to automate repetitive search for unusual network traffic, unusual user account activity, login anomalies, suspicious registry, system file changes, increase in database read volumes etc.

Simulations of cyber-attacks or penetration tests are done on organizations’ computers and systems to evaluate the security of the system and identify security gaps. Bots can be used to capture necessary data, trigger responses, and generate reports from the results obtained from the test.

Regular checks and monitoring are required to ensure bots work within its defined limits. It is always better to limit the access provided to RPA environment, generate Generic IDs, and never share personal IDs and passwords with the bots.

Before implementing RPA

· Prior to implementing RPA in your organization, it is advisable to have an overall people strategy, how you are going to engage your workforce with the use of the technology and how are you going to make sure you have the talent to build on this technology?

· Governance and risk – how you are going to make sure technology functions over the long term, dealing with change management and technical brittleness?

· Overall structural perspective – is it improving your environment or making it more complicated? What you are trying to achieve, how you want your functions to run as this technology gets implemented both in short term and long term?

While discussing the models for RPA implementation make sure that you get the desired cost savings. Ensure a robust bot maintenance model as a failing bot is like stopping of an assembly line with an immediate drop in productivity. Eliminate or reengineer an inefficient process as a bot is a magnifier of business process and there is a likelihood of magnification of inefficiencies. There should be a plan for Bot decommissioning, once it expires, and transitioning to a new strategic solution.