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Automation’s Role in Business Security

Oct. 23, 2019
Marie Johnson

Digital transformation is sweeping through organizations large and small; in fact, IDC anticipates that 40 percent of all technology spending will go toward digital transformations, with enterprises spending over $2 trillion through 2019. As George Westerman, MIT principal research scientist defines it, “digital transformation marks a radical rethinking of how an organization uses technology, people, and processes to fundamentally change business performance.”

Many organizations are finding new ways to use emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), the cloud, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to optimize their own business operations. For example, restaurant chains such as IHOP and Applebee’s are testing technologies that enable consumers to order from Google Assistant, while TGI Friday’s is using AI and machine learning (ML) to help mix drinks and target consumers with highly personalized offers.

One of the most pivotal technologies that is affecting digital transformation is automation, which aims to free skilled human labor from mundane tasks and speed up response or task time. Today’s businesses are integrating tools equipped with automation at a rapid pace, whether they are used for sending emails, managing sales leads, or posting to social media platforms.

Automation is not only a helpful tool for marketers and sales representatives, it is also making an impact on the workload of IT and cybersecurity professionals. With new products such as Oracle’s autonomous database, which automates software patching, tuning, and many other operations, it’s inevitable that automation will play a larger role in business security.

Here are a three security concerns to keep in mind when implementing automation tools in your business:


Limit password sharing when using automation tools

When using automation tools on accounts that handle critical business information, such as an automatic bill-pay service, be sure to restrict account permissions and assign personnel to monitor transactions. Because automation-enabled tools are often monitored less than those that require manual action, malicious insiders and outsiders can easily wreak havoc on the system. Unfortunately, all businesses are at the risk of malicious threats, whether intentional or unintentional, so it’s important to actively monitor these accounts, regardless of the convenience that automation provides.


Don’t neglect update notifications

Many automation tools display pop-up messages when new software updates are available. These messages are easy to ignore; in fact, research conducted by Google indicates that only 38 percent of regular software users update their programs automatically or immediately upon being notified a new version is available.

If you’re a member of this population, be aware that this habit can put your individual and organizational online security at risk. In many cases, updates to these tools not only encompass new features but also address bugs that could compromise security if left unpatched. Businesses that are cybersecurity savvy often check for software updates on a regular schedule, whether it be weekly, bi-weekly, or setting a particular day each month.


Hackers can use automation too

Just as today’s businesses have learned to use automation to their benefit, so have the most sophisticated online hackers. Automated hacking tools have evolved with the times, making it much simpler for hackers to break into even complex systems. To avoid susceptibility to cyber attacks, businesses must be aware of new software vulnerabilities and stay on top of their patch management. Organizations looking to defend against external threats should consider how the daily work of the IT department impacts overall data security.

Digital transformation has become a top priority for many business executives, but as they adopt new and cutting-edge technologies, today’s organizations must also consider the impact on their business security. Although new technology such as automation can be a tremendous help to businesses, it can also pose risks if it’s misused, neglected, or not sufficiently monitored. Staying aware of security concerns will help businesses ensure they use automation tools safely and effectively.


Four Automation Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. How could automation effect and/or disrupt your typical business operations?
  2. Can you chart the advantages automation provides versus the liability it might introduce without appropriate security policy changes?
  3. What security policies would be most integral to a successful automation transition?
  4. How much of your security posture is compromised by automating tools and functions to perform repeatable tasks?
Have more questions? Ask us on Twitter at GKonITSecurity.


Marie Johnson is a contributor to Enlightened Digital, UX Designer and technology writer from New York City. If she's not writing her latest blog post in her kitchen, you'll likely find her strolling through Central Park, cappuccino in hand.