Chatbots are the hottest new digital technology. Advancements in messaging platforms and conversational channels are quickly increasing chatbot development rates.
Gartner predicts that by 2019, 40% of enterprises will be actively using chatbots to facilitate business processes using natural-language interactions.
Many industries across the globe like healthcare, CPG, banking, financial, IT, customer service, retail etc., are adopting artificial intelligence (AI) powered chatbots to automate a range of tasks and simplify business processes.
By 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will spend more per annum on bots and chatbot creation than traditional mobile app development – Gartner
Chatbots offers a tremendous set of opportunities to organizations, thereby promptly breaking barriers of adoption. They help businesses innovate new ways of development, powering the advancement of next-generation digital interactions between businesses and their customers.
Despite all of the advances they promise, there is a lot of speculation surrounding efficiency in chatbot security.
Organizations are concerned about how secure chatbots are, where information is getting stored, how data will be protected, what channels will have access to it, and so on.
As enterprises contemplate adopting chatbot solutions, these are important questions to consider. How then can chatbots overcome cyber-security challenges?
Employees and customers often enter sensitive information during chatbot sessions. This information is prone to fall prey to cyber attackers. Security concerns are a snoozing alarm in the current digital age. The average cost of a data breach will exceed $150 million by 2020, as business infrastructure continues to become more connected than ever. With GDPR and compliance issues around the corner, cybersecurity is now the top priority of every organization.
Conversational data encryption, multi-factor authentication, behaviour analytics, artificial intelligence are some powerful techniques being used to safeguard chatbot usage.
There are two main security concerns that organizations should be aware of:
Threats: Threats are one-off events like Malware or DDoS attacks. Global cyber attacks targeting specific business groups result in a permanent system lock out and loss of access to intellectual property. Beyond this, attackers or hackers can even threaten to expose secure information.
Vulnerabilities: When a system is not maintained with superior standards, it can become open to attack, and therefore, ‘vulnerable’. Attacks can happen due to weak coding, poor protection, through the weakest connection in the chain or user errors.
However, chatbots can offer a solution to these weaknesses. Algorithms incorporated in chatbots are more complex and minimize the vulnerability of a system through highly secure protocols. Thus, chatbots not only offer an effective interface for conversations but also provide enhanced security.
While chatbots do enable acceleration in ROI growth; during the requirement gathering and deployment phases, security measures often go unnoticed. Here are a few techniques to ensure chatbot security:
E2EE system provides secure communication by encrypting messages or the information that is transferring through the channel. Only the sender and the recipient can read the information; no third-party can view or intercept the transmitted data.
Even if attackers or hackers get access to servers where your data is stored, they cannot extract the data as they lack access to the decryption keys to understand the data.
Recently, social networking platforms have incorporated their messaging channels with this capability to protect themselves from cyber attacks.
If enterprises can incorporate this major security practice in chatbot platforms, it will be one of the most robust methods to ensure significant chatbot security.
Two-factor authentication or two-way verification is another method to ensure security. This technique involves requiring users to verify their identity through two separate channels, to access a chatbot.
Verification codes are sent to the registered email or/and mobile number. Once the code is entered, the user is validated and granted access to a chatbot. This can be a precautionary step to verify that the account user is the person accessing the chatbot.
This may seem old-fashioned or traditional, but is most certainly tried and tested, making it a highly effective form of protection. Two-factor authentication is used by many industries, including financial and banking, where security is a high priority.
User ID authentication is the most well-known technique and a basic authentication method in many industries today. Users are provided with secure and unique login credentials, such as username and password. A user can verify his/her identity using these secure credentials.
These credentials are exchanged between the user and the chatbot for a secure authenticated token. Generated authenticated token verifies the user identity and grants permission to access the chatbot.
Intent-based communication is influenced by combining two inputs – state and context. State refers to the chat history while the context is an outcome of the analysis done on the user inputs.
At times, contextual information involves revealing of critical information which needs to undergo a different level of authorization from the backend level.
For example, as of organization’s policy, no employee is supposed to reveal or disclose salary details on a public platform or a conversational interface. So, specific intents related to salary are blocked so that employees cannot access to that data.
Hence, if an employee requests for any data that is related to salary, based on user intent inputs chatbot will reply back as he/she is restricted to access the data.
Using this unique feature, organizations can provide access to critical data for the authorized users only.
Chatbots have a unique convenience of being available in multiple channels like Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Facebook, Slack, etc. Organizations are provisioned with a feature to restrict the use of chatbot in certain communication channels in view of ensuring better security and compliance.
Organizations can leverage the power of enterprise chatbot builder platforms to restrict the usage of chatbots in a specific channel which is convenient and serves the purpose.
According to the newly framed General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws organizations are forced to preserve the privacy of the personal details shared.
For example, during a conversational exchange if an employee shares his/her contact details which can be accessed by the admin is a clear case of a data breach. So to secure such critical data, chatbot platforms are coming up with an extra level privacy restriction. Critical data will not be revealed even from the backend. However, the intents are logged for audit purposes.
Time-based restriction on the usage of the authenticated user can ensure greater levels of security. Access to the authenticated tokens is limited for a certain amount of time. Once the token expires, access is revoked by the chatbot automatically. In some cases, users are asked to confirm if they are active, before closing sessions. A ‘ticking clock’ for right authentication input can prevent a hacker’s repeated attempts to try and guess their way into a secure account.
Biometric authentication process involves biological inputs to validate a user. Users can verify their identity using unique biometric authentication devices, such as an iris or fingerprint scanners to scan retina and fingerprints.
This technology has become quickly popular due to its effectiveness in ensuring security in the personal devices.
By 2019, use of passwords and tokens in medium-risk use cases will drop 55%, due to the introduction of recognition technologies – Gartner
If you have a chatbot that is making digital transactions, it takes personal account information as inputs from the users and processes the transaction. However, users have to consider where chatbots store that information and for how long.
The best way to deal with this situation is to destroy or forever remove the information that is transmitted through chatbot conversation. After a certain amount of time, chatbots should automatically clear all the sensitive information or data that has been provided by the user.
While there are several benefits organizations can enjoy by embracing chatbots and all of their tremendous potential, it is important to first survey the chatbot and its security capacities. It is crucial that there is a robust, comprehensive and multi-layer security strategy in place in order to stay secure.
As AI becomes increasingly popular, chatbot developers should be aware of security and protection requirements, especially when building chatbots for the financial or banking industry.
Is your organization using chatbots? If not, get started today by building your own AI-powered chatbot with enterprise bot builder platform BotCore, which provides built-in security levels of authorization mechanisms for the chatbot.