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Cyber Security Automation: The security challenges and how to manage them

It is often noted that automation is good news for businesses. Business automation has benefits in terms of productivity and efficiency, as well as helping companies get more from their workers. Another area that is regularly cited as benefiting from automation is cybersecurity. Automating security services can improve the speed of incident response, reduce the serious problem of alert fatigue, and promotes faster threat detection.

Perhaps one of the true benefits of cybersecurity automation is that it takes roles out of the hands of humans. It is well known that humans are the weak link in the process of cybersecurity, with human error being a factor in 82% of all data breaches.  

However, it is also important to point out that in spite of the power of automation it can also create cybersecurity challenges of its own. In this article, we look at the cybersecurity threats surrounding automation and what you can do to manage them. However, to start, it is important to understand exactly what is meant by ‘automation’. 

What is automation?

In the context of this article, business automation refers to the use of technology in order to take on repetitive tasks. The idea is that humans are actually relatively slow and bad at performing repetitive tasks (such as data entry) and are prone to making mistakes. Computers, on the other hand, are very fast at this type of task, and never make mistakes. 

This means that if you automate tasks, you can free up employees to take on work that is of greater value to the company. Some of the key types of automation include business process automation, robotic process automation, and AI-powered automation

And while they all can be extremely useful for your business, when you begin to invest in them you open yourself up to the danger of certain types of cybercrime. That doesn’t need to be a huge problem – if you understand how to manage the risks, they remain inconsequential compared to the benefits of automation. 

Over-reliance on cybersecurity automation

One of the major concerns in automation from a cybersecurity perspective is when the two issues intersect. Yes, automation can be an extremely powerful tool in keeping your business secure, but if you become over-reliant on automation, it can actually be a major problem for the company.

Any cybersecurity is always going to be best if it brings together the skills of software and human expertise. If you focus your cybersecurity measures too heavily on automated processes it can leave you assuming that you are fully protected, when in reality you are still vulnerable. 

Automation without human input can create vulnerabilities

It is unfortunately the case that when you automate a process, you can be making the business vulnerable to a different type of cybercrime. Any process where there is no human oversight can be manipulated by cybercriminals.

“When we switched to an automated payroll system we were very quickly targeted with a cyberattack,” says Mike Knivett, Managing Director of SEO agency Artemis Marketing. “Fortunately, our IT team noticed the problem and were able to shut it down before we could be breached”. 

It is important to think closely about the processes and actions that you are automating to establish whether doing so can leave your business vulnerable to an attack. 

Taking humans away from the security process and out of a creative equation can ultimately create problems for security and efficiency. We did speak above about the problem of humans in cybersecurity. Human error is a very common factor in many cyber breaches and so it can be easy to assume that if you cut humans out of the process entirely, you are more likely to have powerful security measures that are difficult to breach. 

Of course, we are still only telling half of the story here. Humans actually play a vital and essential role in cybersecurity – however, there are some roles that humans are more suited to. Indeed, there are certain roles that only humans are capable of, such as carrying out research into new types of threats and creative thinking. 

The high costs of automation

Perhaps a more tangential way to look at things is to consider that process automation can sometimes be costly. Having to invest in software can put a dent in your budget and this can unfortunately have a knock-on effect on your cybersecurity budget. 

While this isn’t something that businesses like to think about, it is important to ensure that your IT is well-funded when it comes to cybercrime. As such, when making a decision about automation, you need to ensure that your spending is not impacting other parts of the company. 

Common cybersecurity challenges for automation

Some of the most common cybersecurity challenges with regards to process automation include:

  • Malware – automated processes can mean that files that are corrupted with malware can be shared freely. This can allow malware to spread significantly without anyone in the company being aware.
  • Insider attacks – attacks from inside the organisation can be all the more devastating if the attacker is using their knowledge of automated processes.
  • Data leaks – leakage of data can be a huge and ongoing problem for businesses, but if criminals can find a way to overcome a part of the system, it can be made worse by automated processes. 

As we enter an age of increased reliance on automation, ensure your staff are trained to spot the most up to date cyber threats. Check out our 14 day free trial today.

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