Exploring the benefits of immutable logs in RPA systems

Today’s post by George Popa, tech editor at Modex, is dedicated to exploring the potential of blockchain for RPA systems.  

Robotic Process Automation comes with its own set of challenges related to the verification of the activity of software robots. A poorly implemented log management strategy unlocks a Pandora’s box of audit-related issues that can create a myriad of friction points. In this article, we will showcase how Modex leverages its technological layer to create a tamper-resistant ecosystem for RPA logs that removes some of the pressure points and cybersecurity risks companies may encounter on their journey towards automation.

If that premise has caught your attention you’re still on time to sign up for a masterclass we organize with Alin Ifemi, the Managing Director and Co-Founder at Modex, that will take a deep-dive into the potential unleashed by integrating RPA and blockchain.

A primer on RPA log files

A log file is a computer-generated time-stamped document that contains relevant information about user patterns, activities, and operations according to a pre-established logic. In essence, application logs are files that contain valuable information about events that have occurred within a software product. Usually, information stored in log files helps answer the following questions related to data management: who, what, where, when, how, and why?

In an RPA context, log files are a powerful tool that helps system beneficiaries monitor the activity of software robots and detect anomalies. When an error occurs, logs provide an accurate context about what the robot was doing prior to the error. This offers security teams an opportunity to analyze what exactly triggered the error, giving them insight on how to approach and solve the issue. Besides the obvious security and troubleshooting purposes, logs can stimulate business growth through the data they collect. By offering an overview of the areas that a business can improve, a smart log management strategy enhances performance and customer satisfaction.

Identifying the problem

After extensive research on the subject matter, the minds behind Modex reached a startling conclusion that hints at a new wave of cybersecurity vulnerabilities. A large segment of companies that implement RPA services, tend to consider log files as a side note, in some cases leaving them completely empty. In a bid to improve their ROI, these companies focus on delivering new features to end-users, overlooking the game-changing advantages unlocked by smart log management. Furthermore, these organizations neglect the fact that they are exposing themselves to a series of security risks that emerge from a poor logging strategy. In the real world, apps crash, client data goes missing, bugs, and errors that were not detected during the testing phase make their appearance.

RPA has established itself as a powerful instrument through which companies introduce a layer of automation in their operations to streamline processes and unlock new business momentum. As such it becomes clear that companies need to get better informed and allocate more resources to this area. Each organization serves a specific business logic that defines what data needs to be collected, stored, filtered, and handled in its log strategy. Automation for the sake of automation doesn’t benefit anyone. In some cases, it may do more harm than good if it is poorly implemented or poorly managed. In order to bring value to an organization, automated systems need to be auditable and subjected to regular checks. Moreover, it is highly recommended that the people configuring these automated systems should be verified as well, as trust becomes a vulnerability in this paradigm. This is what is commonly known as audit trails.

Balancing challenges and opportunities in RPA systems

Companies and organizations that wish to harness the potential unlocked by RPA systems need to answer a series of data management challenges opened by automation.

First of all, even if software robots alleviate some of the workloads, their actions and results need to be stored in logs for audit purposes. As such, it’s imperative that businesses make sure that data handled and generated by RPA systems is not subjected to unauthorized changes.

Secondly, companies need to rethink their data access and governance policies inside their organization to make them compatible with the new RPA context. The principle of least privilege should be taken into consideration when designing new access control mechanisms. By limiting mobility and access to activity log files, businesses ensure that their data cannot be misused by an unauthorized internal party.

Lastly, the new set of access control policies needs to comply with the regulatory requirements concerning data management, storage, and processing. The General Data Protection Regulation, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act are notable examples.

We live in an increasingly digital society in which data has become the most valuable asset that companies possess. So the way in which companies manage their data can lead to massive benefits and growth or considerable fines especially if sensitive information is involved. Besides financial loss, failure to properly manage audit trails deteriorates an organization’s image and projection of trust in the business community.

Where Modex steps in

A smart audit trail strategy is crucial in helping companies formulate and enact a swift and efficient solution that enhances network visibility. In turn, visibility facilitates the formulation and implementation of next-gen security measures that mitigate potential cybersecurity risks before they escalate. This is what Modex offers with its innovative Blockchain Database (BCDB) solution.

Through its technological layer, Modex unlocks data immutability and integrity, core features that will reshape the way in which companies view data management. Indisputable integrity of user and software robot activity logs revolutionizes and simplifies the audit of human and automated resources. Companies also unlock resources for other projects and investments because the costs associated with audit-related processes is reduced in a blockchain-backed system.

Achieving log immutability through a technological partnership

The data management challenges faced by RPA beneficiaries acted as a foundation for the Modex – UiPath partnership. Through this technological partnership, Modex enhances the security of RPA activity logs by enabling: immutability, real-time backup, and log reconstruction when unauthorized changes occur. The addition of secure access to logs based on permission policies and the presence of advanced encryption mechanisms further strengthens overall system security. Modex BCDB provides an alternative for data security and protection against ransomware attacks, as well as the right argument for data integrity against any possible litigation. As an UiPath Orchestrator plug and play logs module, Modex BCDB is a custom, efficient, and easy to adopt alternative for immutable and secure RPA activity tracking.

How does it work?

Modex BCDB is a middleware software solution that is agnostic from a database engine and blockchain perspective. The solution works by inserting itself as an additional layer between the application server and the database in which companies store logs. Clients that implement UiPath Orchestrator can configure Modex BCDB to tap into the benefits of blockchain-enabled immutability, creating a tamper-resistant ecosystem for their logs files.

The advantages of immutable log files

Companies that integrate with the UiPath Orchestrator and the Modex BCDB logs module gain access to log immutability which reduces overhead and streamlines audit operations:

Log integrity is assured by blockchain’s architecture and data storing mechanism. Once data is introduced in a blockchain network, it cannot be altered without compromising the entire data chain. Any data tampering is automatically detected by the system, which allows companies to pinpoint in real-time the source.

Streamlined auditing – as an append-only structure, blockchain provides an indisputable record history of all the data that has been introduced in the system.

Enhanced efficiency – log immutability enables information traceability and record history which can unlock new business momentum and new opportunities in analytics

Ideal settlement ecosystem – data traceability, immutability, integrity, and a complete record history can reduce costly business-related disputes from months and even years, to a couple of days

Consider the following use case

To illustrate the advantage of enhancing the security of log files with the immutability provided by the Modex BCDB solution, imagine the following use case.

First scenario

Alice works as a customer support representative for a fintech startup that has developed its own money transferring application. As part of her job description, Alice is required to validate any withdrawal requests by verifying the client’s credentials, KYC, history, etc. As the startup grows, the company implements an RPA system that helps verify and validate transactions at a much faster rate, thus increasing productivity.

The problem is that the startup doesn’t implement a logging strategy, and the log files are mostly empty. One day, a disgruntled Alice decides to shut down the RPA robot and validates a series of fraudulent transactions, before she restarts the RPA robot. The supervisors are at an impasse because the absence of activity logs means that they don’t have any evidence to point who is at fault, the robot, or Alice.

Second scenario

In a second scenario, the startup implements a logging system that stores a detailed audit log in a NoSQL database. Again, Alice shuts down the RPA robot and validates another series of fraudulent transactions. But this time Alice, a skilled programmer, accesses the database where the audit logs are stored and modifies them to blame the RPA robot.

Third scenario

The startup decides to enhance their log files with the immutability provided by the Uipath Orchestrator and Modex BCDB combo. As such, they devise a new RPA system that utilizes two software robots. Robot A verifies all the transactions and records its activity logs in the Modex BCDB component which stores the file in a database but also in an immutable format on a blockchain. Robot B has the sole purpose of comparing the entries from the log files from the database with the log files stored on the blockchain. If any discrepancies occur, robot B immediately notifies the system administrator that a fraudulent withdrawal occurred and that future investigation is required. Due to the blockchain’s unique design choice, even if Alice attempts to modify any logs stored on the blockchain, the system will automatically invalidate any changes. This is because the information stored in the blockchain is interconnected through a cryptographic hash that will no longer match.

In conclusion

The above-illustrated use case showcases the damages an individual with sufficient tech knowledge can do to your data. The conclusion is quite straightforward – logs are of vital importance in the security of any company, especially in companies that implement RPA. But to be efficient, log files need to be implemented with a well-thought strategy in mind.

In a society that has its sights set on automation, the RPA log immutability solution provided by Modex helps organizations guarantee trust in their data management. The ability to compare log files with an immutable source of truth removes any doubt concerning the authenticity of the information stored in the system.

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AUTHOR:

George Popa
Tech Editor at Modex

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