A quick web search for “chatbots and security” brings up results warning you about the security risks of using these virtual agents. Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll find that this artificial intelligence (AI) technology could actually help address many work-from-home cybersecurity challenges — such as secure end-to-end encryption and user authentication — and ensure that your organization continues to prove its data privacy compliance with less direct oversight.

While many companies rely on chatbots to answer customer questions or step through a process, that same service can be used to help employees connect with security professionals as they work remotely, allowing many security problems to be resolved as efficiently as they would be if the security team were able to come directly to their colleagues’ desks.

Remote Work Has Been on the Rise

Between 2005 and 2018, the number of remote workers grew by 173 percent, 11 percent faster than the rest of the workforce, according to Global Workplace Analytics. And as more employees and management experience the benefits of working from home, more people will demand the opportunity.

Employers know that business continuity is possible when the workforce is doing their jobs remotely. While some workers may find that they are more efficient in a formal workplace setting, others may need more flexibility. Chief information security officers (CISOs) and cybersecurity professionals will have to get creative about how they address work-from-home security issues, such as the need to ensure that employees are using authorized devices and applications or mitigating phishing scams, often while they are working remotely themselves.

Chatbots could be one way for leaders to address these matters without causing a lag in business continuity.

Recognizing the Value of Your Data

Whether you are working from a secure connection at the office or working from home, one of your company’s most valuable assets is its data. Data also tends to be what cybercriminals need to make financial gains, but many organizations still don’t see it that way.

According to a report from Gartner, “fewer than 50 percent of documented corporate strategies mention data and analytics as fundamental components for delivering enterprise value.” However, information is increasingly valued more than services. As a Dataversity article pointed out, a tech company is typically valued at billions more than an airline company because of the data it holds and the way that data is used. Yet many enterprises still aren’t listing data as a corporate asset.

Data security is more important now than ever. Without the same oversight and support that are usually found in an office setting, valuable data is at even greater risk for compromise or theft — but that doesn’t mean it can’t be safeguarded.

How Chatbots Can Add Security Without Slowing Business

One way that CISOs and security teams can keep the remote workforce honest about their security habits is to institute chatbots. The technology can provide oversight that the security team can’t when access occurs offsite. Here are some ways a virtual agent can improve work-from-home cybersecurity.

Support Multifactor Authentication (MFA)

While multifactor authentication should be standard across a company, utilizing it with remote work is particularly important, especially if employees are asked to use their own devices. MFA provides an extra layer of security for connections, making it more difficult for unauthorized people to gain access.

Chatbots can generate one-time use passwords and tokens for login after users log into the messaging system. Another benefit is that MFA via virtual agent is often much less expensive than other methods.

Provide a Traceable Access Path

Security and IT teams can use a chatbot to track logins and users’ activity across the network. If there is a security problem or unauthorized access, the team can track the user’s behavior.

Manage Channel and User Authorization

Just as virtual agents can provide tokens and passwords for MFA, they can also be used to identify users and grant or deny access to certain areas of the network or different channels and applications. The user provides a user ID and password, and if they are authorized, the user will receive a token to continue the login process. If the user does not have access, the token will be denied and the user won’t be able to log in.

This layer of security supports data privacy compliance and keeps unauthorized users from gaining access to sensitive information that isn’t necessary for their job duties.

Enhance Security Awareness Training

It’s difficult in the best of situations to engage employees in security awareness training, but it’s even more difficult when everyone is remote, especially if training sessions involve in-person group sessions.

A chatbot can be designed to promote security training and even improve on it. As long as it’s built in a way that doesn’t disrupt workflows, security teams can send regular reminders about basic security practices that the user can read before going to the next step. A short quiz on the lesson of the day or week could even be used as part of an MFA system. Warnings can be sent out via chatbot to alert users of new phishing scams or security updates, or chatbots could be used to continue regular security training processes remotely.

Protect Transmission of Sensitive Personal Information

Virtual agents can add more security to the information you are sending from your home office or hotel lobby to your coworkers in real time. Chatbots should be equipped with end-to-end encryption that secures the conversation and can even make it safer than holding a phone conversation or sending messages by email.

The AI can also be designed to destroy messages after a predetermined amount of time so that sensitive information cannot be accessed later. This is especially vital for records such as bank account numbers, Social Security numbers and similar personally identifiable information (PII).

Solve Security Problems Quickly

Even though it seems like security teams work 24/7, even they need some sleep once in a while. If you are using a chatbot to answer consumer questions, the same can be done for security questions. A chatbot can walk users through security issues to help them identify and solve a problem, and if more help is needed, the chatbot can generate a ticket to alert the security team. It can also be used to warn the team of a new phishing scam or other security threats targeting employees.

Balancing Business and Security Continuity

Of course, AI as a security tool isn’t just for remote workers. It is a technology that can be utilized at any work location and can be used to promote safer bring-your-own-device (BYOD) connections.

As more and more workers realize how productive they can be while working from home and organizations continue to adapt to keep business going strong with a distributed workforce, the demand for remote work will likely continue to rise. Chatbots may be a solution that can help ensure both security continuity and business continuity.

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