What is a chatbot? A chatbot is a software solution that uses machine learning to have a conversation (or chat) with another user online. You’ve likely seen these when you visit a website for a bank, credit card company, healthcare provider, or even a software business.
A few seconds after you land on the page, or sometimes upon arrival, a pop-up will appear that says something like “Hi, how can I help you?” or “Is there something you’re looking for?” If you answer the prompt, your chat with the AI chatbot will begin. Based on your responses, additional prompts may be provided, or you might be redirected to a live representative for more help.
Chatbot technology is all the rage these days. This is because they use artificial intelligence to answer your customers’ online inquiries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even if you or your customer support team are offline. Several companies have created their own chatbots, including Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon, IBM, Apple, and Samsung. In fact, more than 300,000 bots are being used on FB Messenger alone now. Around 80% of people have interacted with a chatbot at some point.
As Chatbots Magazine puts it, the reason businesses are so anxious to use chatbots is that they know that consumers want answers quickly. When a potential customer messages a company, they expect a swift response and if they don’t get answers quickly, they will often move on – which can result in missed sales opportunities. However, chatbots can answer fast on your behalf to provide a positive user experience.
While chatbots can be a really valuable tool, it’s crucial to understand their security issues and solutions that can prevent these risks. Let’s go over everything you need to know.
Whether or not a chatbot is secure is a complicated question because there’s no definitive answer. There are many chatbot options to choose from, and even the most robust and secure systems could have potential vulnerabilities and could be at risk for security threats.
However, there are specific security risks to be aware of.
According to DZone, chatbot security risks come down to two categories – threats and vulnerabilities. Threats that a chatbot could be prone to include spoofing/impersonating someone else, tampering with data, and data theft. Vulnerabilities, on the other hand, according to DZone, “are defined as ways that a system can be compromised that are not properly mitigated. A system can become vulnerable and open to attacks when it is not well maintained, has poor coding, lacks protection, or due to human errors.”
Threats are often one-off events such as malware attacks, phishing emails, ransomware, or distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. There’s also the possibility of cybercriminals threatening to expose customer data, which is believed to be secure, in hopes of getting some sort of ransom. Vulnerabilities, on the other hand, are long-term issues that need to be addressed regularly.
Thankfully, there are security protocols you can put in place to increase chatbot security should you decide to use them. The process is similar to any other system that involves introducing sensitive data in that respect. What you do on the offense can determine the level of security of your chatbot.
The two main security methods to use for chatbots are authentication and authorization. The former refers to user identity verification, while the latter refers to granting permission for a specific user to perform certain tasks and functions or access a portal. Here are some important cybersecurity options for chatbots:
Two-factor Authentication: This time-tested method of security requires users to provide personally identifiable information in two different ways. For example, using a username and password and then also answering a prompt with a unique response that has been sent to the user via email or phone.
Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF): A WAF protects websites from malicious traffic and harmful requests. It can help prevent bad bots from injecting malicious code into your chatbot’s iframe.
User IDs and Passwords: Instead of allowing anyone to use your chatbot, require them to become a registered user to obtain login credentials. Criminals like easy targets. Therefore, just an additional step like registering with a website could deter a would-be bad actor.
End-to-End Encryption: This can prevent anyone other than the intended receiver and sender from seeing any part of the message or transaction. For example, having an “HTTPS” website provides transport layer security or a secure socket layer that ensures encrypted connections.
Biometric Authentication: Instead of user IDs and passwords, you would use things like iris scans and fingerprinting to grant access.
Authentication Timeouts: This security practice places a time limit on how long an authenticated user can stay “logged in.” You’ve likely seen this on your bank’s website.
A pop-up asks you to log back in, confirm you are still active, or simply tells you time has expired. This can prevent a cybercriminal from having enough time to guess their way into someone’s secured account.
Self-Destructive Messages: This is a security measure you can use to make your chatbots more secure. Just like it sounds, after the messaging on a chatbot concludes, or after a certain lapse of time, the messages and any sensitive data are erased forever.
While there is no doubt that chatbots are an innovative and exciting technology to engage with customers, they give hackers one more opportunity to gain access to personal data and sensitive information. Chatbot security, like all aspects of website security, is in your hands. The more layers of security you implement, the harder it will be for cybercriminals to prey on your site and your visitors.
Learn how SiteLock’s website security solutions can help today.