You probably already know about chatbots and how they work, but are you aware of the potential risks involved with using them? No? Then let’s jump right into exploring their security dangers.
How risky are chatbots?
Security and privacy concerns arise from every personal data-handling AI-powered software. Chatbots are no exception. Chatbots have only been a regular part of many businesses for a few years. Security steps and standards have started to emerge recently, in response to their rise in popularity. However, this means that gaps in the system can still be found and exploited. Such security gaps are soft targets for cybercriminals. To understand how cybercriminals can turn chatbots into manipulative, malicious, data-stealing machines, we need to understand how chatbots handle and process data.
Chatbot data handling and processing
Data handling and processing are fundamental elements of how chatbots work. They ask questions, then collect and store data from customers. Chatbots use the data to train themselves to become more accurate regarding the quality of their responses.
There are issues that need to be addressed when it comes to understanding how chatbots store and deal with data. Is the data stored locally or in the cloud? Who has access to the data, either to work with it or just to view it? How do the bots train themselves based on that data?
To successfully embrace the potential of chatbots, the way they store and process data will need to be regulated. Those regulations will need to address the nature and amount of data, storage, accessibility, and further usage. Companies will then need to deliver these details to their customers in a transparent manner.
Chatbot data security and encryption
Chatbots handle, store and process a large amount of sensitive data, which comes directly from users. As such, it’s essential that chatbot communication is encrypted as part of maximizing chatbot security. Facebook, for example, opened up its Messenger app to chatbot developers in early 2016. The company also started to test end-to-end encryption for secret conversations, even though Messenger uses secure channels for communications.
There are many authentication methods that businesses can use to keep their chatbots secure and protect their customers’ data. These include biometrics, self-destructing messages, user identity checks, two factor authentication, and fingerprint scans. Above all, companies should never deploy chatbots via unsecure and unencrypted channels.
Be aware of criminal chatbots
Chatbots are relatively new to the market. As such, security protocols and other standards are still in the planning and development phase. This means that companies need to consider the cybersecurity risks of using chatbots and implement ways to make them as secure as possible.
Chatbots use and analyze customers’ personality and behavioral pattern data in order to learn and develop the service they deliver. This type of data is a goldmine for cybercriminals. Jim O’Neill, former CIO of Hubspot said,
“If you think about conversational interactions with bots, we’re naturally going to be giving up more information than we intend to.”
Vulnerable platforms are an easy target for hackers mounting phishing, malware and social engineering attacks.
Potential risks involved with using chatbots
During a conversation with a chatbot, it’s easy to click on a malicious link that directs you to a harmful website. It’s also easy to hand over your private information, as existing cases have already shown. In one online dating app, for example, a chatbot imitated a real female user and directed other users to subscribe to different adult sites.
Sensitive data theft
With every online platform that handles large amount of personal data, hackers try to find a way to break into the system to steal users’ private data. In 2016, a malicious Facebook messenger chatbot tricked 10,000 Facebook users into installing malware through a Chrome extension. Since chatbots are also available in critically private information handling industries like banking, maximized security measures like SSL and TLS are indispensable.
Negatively affected customer decisions
Advanced chatbots have features like taking buyers straight to checkout without them needing to browse the relevant website. However, sometimes chatbots can’t handle the requests that customers throw at them – or at least not as effectively as they need to. In these cases, the chatbots can negatively affect the customer experience.
Lack of empathy
Natural language processing is a key feature of AI-powered chatbots. However, that doesn’t mean that chatbots have their own personality. The lack of empathy can cause rigid and impersonal conversations (despite some chatbots using emojis), which can be offputting for customers. Achieiving a natural, appropriate conversational flow is important for keeping the user experience on an acceptable level.
Customer awareness of suspicious links isn’t necessarily enough in such situations, because the increased trust rate that comes as part of the nature of chatting makes people particularly vulnerable. As an organizational level, these type of attacks could lead to a massive cybersecurity breach.
Tips for chatbot security
Chatbots are integrated into platforms that have their own security responsibilities. The security of chatbots is therefore in the hands of developers and of those existing platforms. Sadly, hackers are always finding new ways to compromise people’s personal data, no matter how secure the systems protecting that data may be.
Chatbots present a new target for cybercriminals. As such, it’s important for those who use them – as well as those who develop them – to be aware of the possible threats. There are security measures you can easily set up to help protect yourself. Never clicking a suspicious link is a good start. You should always check whether the source is trustworthy or not. In addition, avoid giving personal information to a chatbot. In addition, you can take a look at this VPN guide, it is one of the best methods to keep your online activities private and secure. Your online security and privacy should be primary, and it’s up to you to protect yourself.
A technology enthusiast from an early age, and a graduate in mechanical engineering, Peter has spent his career working in the cybersecurity industry. He is an expert in a host of related subjects including VPNs and cryptocurrency. A born “tinkerer,” Peter spends his spare time building and programming gadgets, servers and mining rigs.