Chatbots are growing in popularity today (e.g. the Whitehouse’s Obama Facebook chatbot) because they’re so convenient. Unfortunately, they also bring many security vulnerabilities with them. As such, before your business deploys a chatbot, you must be able to ensure that you have adequate security. Failure to do so could leave your platform vulnerable in a major way. With this in mind, here are a few things you should know about the main security vulnerabilities chatbots bring with them and what you can do about them.
D Zone says that you really need to encrypt all chatbot communication. You should already be familiar with encryption as the primary way of protecting most of what your business does online. Without it, you’re making hackers’ “jobs” easier. Make sure you don’t overlook this when it comes to your chatbot. They require an encrypted channel to run on. Of course, this is easier when your chatbot is running on a private platform, but when you run a chatbot on a public platform (e.g. Facebook — although they’re currently working on end-to-end encryption for their messenger, but this is problematic since it’s still in beta mode) managing encryption can become a major challenge for you.
After all, you don’t want to transmit sensitive information through public channels. This is why it’s a good idea to adopt the mentality that someone is always watching you when you use a bot on such channels. Also, make sure that these bots can’t access your company’s other systems.
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Create Rules for Managing Data Storage and Handling Data
Chatbots will always collect information from the people who use them. This is inherent because without this they can’t provide users with the information they need. Additionally, chatbots do this so they can become more receptive over the long-term. It’s up to you to think about where you’re storing this information once it’s been collected though. You should also consider how long you’re storing it for. Once you’ve established such rules, make sure you apply them to your chatbot. You want to make sure that it knows and understands what you want it to do with any data it’s collected (e.g. the minimal amount of time for which you’ll store financial information in your company database). If it doesn’t, then there’s the chance that it may expose your sensitive information and then your business will suffer from this “mistake.” This is a risk you can’t afford to take.
When it comes to data storage you must make sure that it’s also just as secure as any other type of information that your chatbot collects. This is simple when you’re using a private platform because you alone have sole control over security, but with a public platform, this isn’t the case. As such, you should take steps to make sure that your customers’ personal information isn’t being stored by public chatbots. They don’t have the secure storage that you need. In fact, any storage that they do have should be considered unreliable at best. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t expect a social network to take responsibility here either, especially not when a breach occurs with your chatbot. Remember, you’re the one who will always be held responsible so it’s best to be proactive now instead of being retroactive once it’s already too late.
The Growth of Criminal Chatbots
Most people won’t even think about the fact that these types of chatbots exist today. However, it’s important to realize that chatbots are more capable of impersonating humans. While this is one of the main reasons why chatbots are so valuable, this has also resulted in various scandals, like the one that happened at Microsoft. The problem here is that chatbots can be used to impersonate customers and staff, which is when they’re also able to commit a variety of scams. When a chatbot chooses to impersonate your company, it could possibly gain control of your customers’ personal information or trick your employees in such a way that it gains access to your company’s servers from where it can cause further damage.
Unfortunately, Tinder experienced this first hand. They had a chatbot that impersonated a female and was able to get men to click on a link. Once they did so they were encouraged to enter their credit card information so they could become “verified” members of the platform. Of course, there were some people who did so. They ended up becoming subscribers of an online porn platform through which they then went on to lose a lot of money.
How to Combat Criminal Chatbots
Training is the main way of combatting criminal chatbots. Here is your opportunity to tell your employees that they shouldn’t click on any links that chatbots or customers send them. Of course, you should also tell your customers the same thing. For instance, banks are known for telling customers that their employees won’t ever ask them for financial information. This is done to ensure that a cybercriminal doesn’t impersonate them since customers will already know that a bank won’t ask them for their personal information.
IT Pro Portal also suggests that you carefully choose an open source antivirus software to use along with your carefully chosen live chat or chatbot provider. Of course, you’ll find yourself going through various regulatory compliance procedures to make this happen. Unfortunately, your job won’t end there either. You’ll also need to undertake stringent penetration testing. This should include monitoring and controlling user access and permissions — something that’s even more important to do when you have disgruntled employees because they can cause a major data leak that’s comparable to the damage caused by malicious software.
One more thing you should remember is that you must run regular audits. Anything that’s found during these audits should be properly reported — even up to the board level when necessary. This is part of making sure that your senior executives know what’s going on so they can allocate room in your budget to keep your live chat or chatbot operations properly protected.