Emilia Dunaj
Emilia Dunaj
Head of Technology Insights
March 2024, 12 min. read

The back office involves critical functions like data and document management, financial processes, and administrative activities. Automation streamlines these operations, but it also expands your digital attack surface. You need to be aware of the risks of automation.

With more connected devices and sensitive data flowing through your back office, leaving the door unlocked is no longer an option. The efficiency and effectiveness of these operations hinge on their security. 

Taking the right security measures against all types of data breaches is key to ensuring your operations remain robust, reliable, and resilient against evolving threats. 

In this article, we explore the common online security threats of automation tools and the essential measures required to protect your back office operations. 

Read on to discover how to fortify your back office in the age of intelligent automation.

What are the business process automation risks?

As businesses integrate more sophisticated technologies and tools into their back office, they also open doors to a range of automation security threats. To build the right defense, first, you need to understand the threats:

  • Stolen information: A prime example of how personal data breaches can occur is through human error. For instance, a careless employee can forget their phone or laptop in a cafe. Such a simple oversight can lead to unauthorized access to sensitive information, putting personal data, as well as business information, at risk of being stolen.
  • Unauthorized access: This threat involves hackers gaining access to systems or data for which they lack authorization. It could be an external attacker or even an employee exceeding their access privileges.
  • Insider threats: Often overlooked, insider threats come from within the organization, representing a significant risk of business process automation. For instance, unhappy employees might wrongly use their access to important information for their own benefit or to damage the company.
  • Phishing attacks: These attacks trick employees into revealing sensitive information, like login credentials, often through deceptive emails or websites. A single click on a malicious link can compromise the entire back office system.
  • Ransomware and malware: Malicious software, including ransomware, can disrupt back office operations by locking out essential data or corrupting systems, often demanding a ransom for data release.

By identifying these threats, you can effectively tailor your automation security strategies to counteract each risk. This ensures your back office operations remain secure and efficient.

Key data security measures for back office operations

So how to prevent data breach? To keep back office operations safe in today’s automated world, you need a well-rounded security plan. While the threats are varied, the following measures provide a multi-layered defense, ensuring your back office runs smoothly and securely.

Access control and authentication

Access control and authentication stand as critical first lines of defense. These systems ensure that only authorized users can access specific data and resources.

Say that one of your employee’s credentials has been compromised. Without stringent access controls, this could lead to unauthorized access to financial records or personal data. But, with a robust access control system in place, such breaches are prevented. The system ensures that only users with the right permission can access sensitive areas of your back office system. 

These controls can be as simple as password-protected files or as complex as biometric authentication for critical databases.

Authentication goes hand in hand with access control, verifying the identity of users before granting access. Best practices in this area include the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA). With MFA, a user must provide two or more verification factors to gain access. 

This method significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access, as it’s unlikely an attacker would have access to multiple authentication factors. For example, a user might have to put in a password and a code sent to their phone to get into the system, a basic aspect of automated process security.

Additionally, implementing single sign-on (SSO) can streamline the authentication process and maintain security. With SSO, users only need to remember one set of credentials for multiple services.

Regular software updates

An often underestimated yet crucial aspect of back office security is the practice of regularly updating software. This routine maintenance plays a fundamental role in shielding systems from emerging threats and vulnerabilities.

Here’s why.

Regular updates often involve access to new features. But primarily, they are about security. Every update of your automation solution potentially includes patches for security loopholes that have been discovered since the last version. 

For example, if you leave your accounting software outdated, attackers could exploit known vulnerabilities to access confidential financial information. But by regularly updating this software, you close these vulnerabilities, significantly reducing the risk of such breaches.

The rationale behind frequent updates is straightforward–staying one step ahead of cybercriminals. Software developers continuously work on improving software security, and these enhancements are rolled out through updates. 

Neglecting these updates can leave a back office system exposed to attacks that exploit outdated software. For instance, the infamous WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 exploited vulnerabilities in outdated Windows systems, impacting thousands of computers worldwide. Regular updates would have mitigated this risk significantly.

Secure network architecture

Implementing a well-designed network architecture streamlines operations and is crucial for protecting data and resources from cyber attacks.

A robust network architecture is layered and multifaceted. It incorporates several key components: 

  • Firewalls: Act as gatekeepers, controlling incoming and outgoing network traffic based on established security rules.
  • Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDPS): Monitor network traffic for suspicious activities and take necessary actions to prevent or report intrusions.
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): Secure remote access by encrypting data transmitted over the internet, essential for protecting data in transit.

Implementing advanced network security tools is critical in building a secure infrastructure. For instance, next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) go beyond traditional firewall capabilities. They integrate additional features like application awareness and control, advanced threat detection, and encrypted traffic inspection. 

Additionally, network segmentation is a vital strategy, isolating different parts of the network to contain any potential breaches and limit access to sensitive areas. This is especially useful in environments where multiple users access various levels of data. 

Tools like Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates are crucial in ensuring secure communication over the internet. They are especially important for transmitting data that involves sensitive information. These security measures are commonly seen in online transactions, email communications, and data transfers within corporate networks. They provide an essential layer of encryption to protect data from interception or tampering.

Employee training and awareness

The truth is, even the most sophisticated security systems can be compromised by simple human error or oversight. In fact, a recent study revealed that 74% of breaches involve the human element.

Thus, effective training is key to strengthening back office security and building a culture where everyone is alert and responsible. As online threats continually change, our training methods need to evolve, too. This approach is essential in any strong security plan, helping staff stay ahead of hidden risks and prevent security problems. 

For example, a well-meaning employee might click on a phishing link, unwittingly granting access to secure systems. Regular training can significantly reduce these risks by keeping staff informed about the latest security threats and best practices. 

This includes understanding the subtleties of social engineering, recognizing phishing attempts, and following proper protocols for handling sensitive data.

Interactive training sessions, rather than passive presentations, tend to be more effective. These can include simulated phishing exercises, where employees receive mock phishing emails and are assessed on their responses. 

Regular workshops that update staff on examples of data breaches, new security protocols, and emerging threats can also be beneficial. For ongoing education, consider implementing e-learning modules that employees can access at their convenience through an online B2B portal. These courses can cover a range of topics, including password security and data privacy automation regulations. 

Lastly, create a policy where employees must complete a certain amount of security training annually to ensure that everyone stays up to date. 

Data backup and recovery

In back office operations, the ability to quickly recover from data loss is just as important as preventing it. Regular data backups and a robust recovery plan are crucial safety nets for any organization.

Regular backups ensure that, in the event of system failures, cyberattacks, or natural disasters, critical data is not lost forever. Say a company’s financial records are corrupted due to a software glitch. With recent backups, the recovery is swift, minimizing downtime and operational disruption. 

Therefore, it’s critical to establish a routine backup schedule. You can perform updates daily, weekly, or at another regular interval. It’s a good practice to store backups in multiple locations, including offsite or on cloud platforms, for added security.

A well-crafted recovery plan outlines the steps to restore normal operations following data loss. Your plan should include identifying key resources and personnel responsible for executing the recovery. Prioritize the recovery of critical data and establish clear communication protocols during a crisis. 

Regular testing of the recovery plan helps to ensure its effectiveness. As your business needs and technologies evolve, your plan may need updating, too. 

Also, it’s a good idea to set up failover mechanisms. These systems kick in automatically if there’s a problem. They switch to a backup system to keep services running smoothly, ensuring little to no interruption to your back office operations.

Incident response plan

In cases when a data security breach occurs, instead of panic, you want your team to respond with calm, coordinated precision. Having a playbook for handling security crises swiftly and efficiently ensures everyone knows their roles, minimizes downtime, and protects your brand’s reputation.

When crafting your incident response plan, follow these steps:

  • Form an incident response team. Establish a team with clear roles and responsibilities from various departments, such as IT, legal, and communications.
  • Develop identification and assessment procedures. Set up systems for monitoring and detecting breaches and procedures for assessing their severity.
  • Define containment and eradication protocols. Establish clear protocols for containing threats, such as isolating affected systems, and steps for eradicating the threat.
  • Focus on recovery. Implement processes for system and data recovery using backups post-incident.
  • Conduct thorough post-incident analysis. Analyze the incident thoroughly to learn and improve future security measures.

How quickly you respond to a breach can significantly affect how serious its effects are.

For instance, a rapid response to a ransomware attack can prevent the spread of the malware, minimizing its impact on business operations. A well-structured incident response plan ensures that all team members know their roles and can act quickly and effectively, reducing the overall impact of security incidents.

Vendor risk management

If one of your critical component suppliers suffers a cyberattack, it can lead to exposing sensitive product blueprints or delaying production due to ransomware. This is just one example of the potential risks lurking within your vendor network.

Managing these risks is essential for manufacturers, who rely heavily on diverse third-party relationships. While these partnerships bring valuable resources and expertise, they also introduce vulnerabilities. Vendor risk management helps you identify and mitigate these risks, protecting your business from disruptions and reputational damage.

Here’s how to take control:

Look for vendors with strong security track records and robust data protection policies. Certifications like ISO 27001 and positive security reviews can indicate a company’s commitment to online safety best practices. 

Transparency is another crucial factor. Vendors should be open about their security measures and willing to undergo periodic evaluations. How do they safeguard data? Do they align with industry standards? How do they respond to and recover from security incidents? A vendor with well-defined processes and transparent practices in these areas shows they take security seriously and are prepared for potential breaches.

Secure document management

Secure document management keeps your sensitive info safe and sound. Think about the parts of your back office that deal with important papers–like financial reports, employee details, or client contracts. These areas are crucial and need the best security measures to handle documents safely and keep your business running smoothly.

Sensitive documents, such as legal contracts or employee information, should have restricted access, limited to only those who need it for their work. Implementing a clear document retention policy is also crucial. Determine how long different types of documents need to be stored and securely dispose of them when they are no longer needed.

Encryption is a key strategy for protecting documents. Especially those that are stored digitally or transmitted electronically. Encryption transforms readable data into a coded format. It ensures that only authorized parties with the decryption key can access the original information. By encrypting documents, you ensure that even if they fall into the wrong hands, the information remains inaccessible. 

Use robust document management systems that offer secure storage solutions, version control, and audit trails. These systems enhance your operations’ security by tracking who has accessed each document, adding an extra layer of protection.

Adopt a security-first culture in your automated back office

Now you know the consequences of automation and the key security automation measures needed to protect your business against online threats. Adopting a security-first culture in back office operations is a top priority. 

To keep your records safe, you need to implement robust access control and regular software updates, perform vendor risk management, and implement an incident response plan. You should also secure your document management and network architecture, train your staff, and backup your data regularly.

So don’t leave your back office exposed! Put these strategies into action and lead your business with confidence on a secure foundation, ensuring that every workflow and business process is fortified.

For expert digital consulting on guidance and tailored back-office software solutions, contact Right Information. We’ll help you build a digital fortress, impenetrable to any threat.