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Ways to Secure Your Chatbot Against Attacks

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Posted on September 21st, 2021 by Beau Peters in Guides, Security

Chatbot security

Chatbots and Virtual Assistants (VAs) are becoming increasingly popular as businesses accommodate the diverse needs of the digital industry. These tools give companies, no matter how small, the ability to answer their audiences, provide assistance, and solve problems, driving traffic during off-hours and with minimal staff.

As a result, chatbots are one of the most effective features you can add to your website. And yet, chatbots present a risk. With the recent surge in cybercrime and ransomware attacks, you need every protection you can get against a hijacked website.

Let's explore the risks posed to chatbots and how you can secure these helpful tools against cyberattacks.

The Risks Posed to Chatbots

A host of risks can threaten the integrity of your site through chatbots. We've seen such risks play out in the data theft and ransomware attacks that have plagued the e-commerce world, creating customer mistrust and leading to massive payouts for the affected companies.

2017's Delta Airlines attack was one such example. When hackers altered the source code of the chatbot Delta used, it left credit card and other personal information exposed for customers numbering in the hundred-thousands. This was all because Delta's VA failed to use multi-factor authentication to secure customer data against attack.

Then, there was the attack on Ticketmaster in 2018. Hackers managed to carry off the personal and credit card data of 40,000 customers through a compromised chatbot, replacing part of its contextual JavaScript with malicious code that redirected payment information. The vendor network left the chatbot vulnerable to attack, and bad actors seized on the opportunity.

These examples demonstrate some of the vulnerabilities in chatbot systems, ranging from the source code itself to the ecosystem surrounding it. If every element of a chatbot or VA isn't secure, hackers will find some way into your network. As a result, you will leave your company and customer data exposed to criminals.

Any data breach can be financially devastating. In fact, IBM estimates that the average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million. For most e-commerce companies, this is a price tag that could put you out of business. Therefore, it's vital to test and secure your website's chatbots against any attack that might come your way, from social engineering to ransomware.

How to Test and Secure Website Chatbots

Many chatbot attacks are surprisingly simple. They make use of minor vulnerabilities, conduct a simple redirect, or infect a site with malware. Then, testing and securing your system doesn't have to be as complex and costly as it might sound. However, your approach to chatbot security should be thorough.

Here are a few ways you can go about securing your chatbots against any digital attack, even in today's dangerous e-commerce environment:

1. Secure your website

Your first step in preventing malicious exploitation of your chatbot software is to secure your website in general. A secure socket layer (SSL) will help you do this. An SSL gives you greater security for your e-commerce site by encrypting the data you receive. Then, the SSL provides authentication only if you have a proper certificate.

This means that most bots are prevented from accessing your site at all, helping to prevent probing from malicious users. Additionally, SSL certificates prevent inauthentic websites from obtaining certification, in turn warning users of the risk.

With a secure site, your chatbots can be protected from many of the attacks that will come your way.

2. Properly train employees

Without proper training for your website administrators, however, your chatbots are still at risk. Research shows that as many as 88% of data breaches are caused by human error, at least in part. This demonstrates how essential proper cybersecurity and digital hygiene practices are for any business.

Ensure that your website operators, designers, and developers are all thoroughly trained in cybersecurity best practices. This includes recognizing phishing schemes, using strong passwords, and authenticating their logins with multi-factor identification.

3. Conduct penetration testing and vulnerability assessments

Penetration testing and vulnerability assessments are invaluable in checking the security of your chatbots against attack. These methods involve exploring vulnerabilities in your system through deliberate probing and testing, both manual and automated, such as via vulnerability monitoring software, which does much of this testing for you. Use these forms of monitoring and testing to explore every access point of your network and your chatbot systems, identifying how the eco-system and data collection elements of your chatbot might leave you open to attack.

Don't forget to explore the potential for chatbot corruption through human influence. Microsoft's Tay AI was a perfect example of what can go wrong by manipulating AI and natural language processing systems that your chatbot might utilize.

4. Invite ethical hackers

In the course of your system assessment, it's a good idea also to invite ethical hackers to conduct their own penetration testing. Ethical hacking is an aspect of cybersecurity in which real hackers are called in to explore vulnerabilities in a system for the company's benefit. With a bounty placed on identifying problems with your chatbot, you can catch problems you might otherwise miss.

Ethical hacking plays a key role in e-commerce protection. It can serve you as an excellent method for catching the ecosystem issues with your chatbot and vendor network through the eyes of a hacker.

5. Apply AI-powered protections

Finally, you need every tool on your side to help catch any inconsistencies with your chatbot system. Fortunately, AI and machine learning methods have advanced to be able to scan access points, analyze chatbot data, and flag potential hacking attempts.

Since chatbots themselves are powered through AI and machine learning, it makes sense to use these tools to add another layer of protection. These technologies can models what common requests and interactions look like to better determine where problems may arise.

By implementing these strategies in securing your chatbot, you can catch any problems with your current setup. This will help you protect your website and e-commerce store against data breaches and malware that have financially destructive consequences. Explore all your options to find the best ways for you to guarantee your customers' data.

Securing Chatbots Against Attack

Facing the modern challenges of the risky digital environment, your business tools need all the cybersecurity help they can get. Even chatbots are at risk of hacking and malware attacks that lead to loss of money and reputation and can even make all the difference in your business's ability to survive harsh economic conditions.

Don't let your chatbot become a liability. Apply everything from a site-wide SSL to AI tools for securing your chatbot. Then, you can bring in more customers who feel safe conducting virtual business with you.

Beau Peters

Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he's learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading and trying new things.

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