Are Automation Tools an Open Invitation to Cybercriminals?

What if you were offered more time in your day, fewer operational errors, and heightened productivity with minimal effort – would you take it? Most small businesses would leap at the opportunity. In fact, 44% of organizations already have by implementing business process automation initiatives.

Now, run the same thought experiment knowing you had an increased likelihood of experiencing a security breach.

If that tradeoff sounds like an unfair deal, consider how you might fully realize the promise of eliminating repetitive tasks without opening your newly automated business to cyber threats.

Double-Edged Sword: Unleashing Efficiency Through Automation While Guarding Against Security Risks

“‘Business Automation’ comprises a systematic approach to easing out manual processes in favor of open collaboration, just-in-time analytics, and intelligent rules-driven automation. It is variously known as “Business Process Automation (BPA)”  explains LearnWoo.

It’s the mistake-free way to speed up repetitive, hands-on tasks, freeing up your team for other high-value work. 53% of CIOs and IT decision-makers who’ve automated some portion of their operations, finance procedures, marketing initiatives, or sales cycle say it’s helped make their businesses more efficient and improved their customer experiences.

As great as that is, there’s a shadow side to investing in automation if you don’t have the right security oversights in place. The truth is that fully automated processes are a prime target of cybercriminals. Without the proper controls and human intervention, automated operations can quickly become breeding grounds for malware and ransomware attacks.

Fortunately, if you’re intentional about the tasks you are automating and how you’ll monitor them, you can better anticipate any potential vulnerabilities. So long as you and your team practice good password hygiene and cyber awareness, you’ll be well-equipped to manage risks and recoup the full benefits of an automated workplace.

Where to Automate for the Biggest Productivity Gains

Ready to make automation investments, but aren’t sure where to start? Reviewing these three overarching tracks may help you set off in the right direction:

Basic automation

Make an inventory of your daily tasks. Once categorized, you may start to see areas where you can speed up or digitize them. Your communication channels could be an intuitive place to begin. Just make sure you test out any automation with your internal team before deploying them to any external comms or marketing campaign.

Workflow automation

The most efficient order of operations isn’t always obvious (to humans at least). That’s where rule-based logic tools come in. They can help you streamline repetitive processes, like scheduling and task management, or automatically pull pertinent info from your email and update other systems, such as a separate project management tool.

AI-driven automation

For a more comprehensive solution, try an advanced automation option. “It involves artificial intelligence that learns how to perform tasks or workflows based on previous cases as opposed to via a human setup. This automates massive multi-step workflows, such as customer service, precise data analytics, forecasting, etc,” says NetHunt. “For example, you need to collect inputs (customer inquiries), divide them by tags, and get an understanding of what will be the most frequent inquiries in the upcoming month to allocate support representatives respectively.”

Once you’ve settled on a type, you can get more granular about where you want to implement an automated approach. Experts recommend that SMBs investigate automating their CRMs, order management systems, and customer service procedures to optimize their processes, improve their lead generation, and level up their custom support.

Best Practices for Secure Automation

You’ve probably heard the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to protecting your automation tools, taking a preventative and collaborative human-machine approach to cybersecurity goes a long way.

What that looks like according to Phishing Tackle:

Not being so overly reliant on cybersecurity automation that you no longer worry about having human intervention.
Engaging in continuous, ongoing cybersecurity training for your staff and building a strong security-first culture.
Monitoring your automated processes for issues like files corrupted with malware, insider attacks that leverage your automation, and data leaks amplified by automation.

At the end of the day, the risk of an automation-related security breach is never zero. But manage those risks appropriately, and you’ll be repaid in the most important non-renewable resource available: time.