Cybersecurity and Real Estate: What Realtors Should Expect In 2018



There was a time — it’s hard to say exactly how long ago — that cybersecurity was almost solely a concern for retailers, big business and finance. Over time, technology became more prominent in nearly every industry, and data grew as a commodity or form of value. Today, every company, brand, employee and individual generates a data stream of varying content and value.

Even in real estate, modern data can be incredibly lucrative depending on what kind of content is in the mix. A huge list of potential buyer emails, for example, is game-changing for any realty or sales team. Start factoring in more important and sensitive data like phone numbers, current addresses, location info, purchase history, along with credit details and you’re talking about valued content that is also highly susceptible to attack.

As a result, no one is safe anymore regarding cybersecurity and cyber attacks. In realty and real estate alone, attacks can misdirect wire transfers; hold computer systems and company’s hostage, seriously damage customer relations and much more.

The worst part is that the real estate industry for the most part are not familiar with these kinds of attacks and events. Not only do industry professionals misunderstand how and why things are happening, but they are often not equipped with the necessary training, tools and hardware to protect themselves, let alone anyone else. In fact, KPMG conducted a survey and found that 50 percent of businesses in real estate believe that they are not adequately prepared or equipped to deal with a cyber attack.

Only one question stands out: What can you do to better protect your company, personnel and customers from a potential attack? What kind of attacks and events are sure to come throughout the year?

What Realtors Need to Know About Cybersecurity for 2018

Let’s start with protection, which — believe it or not — is simple to achieve and maintain. The first thing you need to understand is that no one is completely safe. No system or network is invulnerable, and no data or target is free from risk. You can significantly cut down on that risk and better protect yourself by adhering to several basic security measures.

Always use strong passwords, and never share accounts — even with people you trust. When and where applicable, apply proper security protocols, including encryption to protect sensitive data, two-factor authentication to protect accounts and systems and secure access or SSL for public connections and transactions.

IT and security teams can handle the bulk of the cybersecurity for a business, yes. But ultimately, protection starts at the foundation. No matter how advanced a security system is, it won’t do you any good if you have an incredibly weak password or passcode that can be guessed in seconds.

As for attacks and events on the horizon that realtors need to know about, here are the three most relevant:

1. Business Email Compromise
A business email compromise is similar to phishing that works to convince a business or authorized personnel to wire funds to criminal bank accounts. The ploy is that criminals pose as business partners, vendors or even real estate sellers.

By itself, this method can be easy to pick apart. However, the criminals use spoofing or cloning to send emails and communications from official channels. You might receive an email, for example, that includes your partner brand’s logo, letterhead and a member of management’s signoff.

The real craft scams come from escrow agents or contractor contacts purporting that a property has been finished or updated for sale.
BEC will become an incredibly popular scam over the coming years, and you’re likely to see it a lot throughout 2018. Ubiquiti disclosed $46.7 million of fraudulent wire transfers that were made thanks to BEC scams. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it won’t happen to you or someone on your team.

2. Ransomware
Ransomware is a particularly nasty form of malware that is capable of several things; the most pertinent of which that it locks down a system or dataset and then demands monetary compensation in return. It effectively holds a system or data — like a directory filled with important documents and files — ransom.

Recovery of the infected content is difficult because the ransomware also uses a secure form of encryption to essentially scramble and lock all that it touches. Encryption is generally used to protect data and systems, but in this case, it’s used to exploit people.

The infamous WannaCry attack of 2017 was a hugely successful form of ransomware, while Petya was another.

This type of attack will only get bigger, badder and bolder in 2018. You better believe that every company, no matter the industry — including real estate — is considered a lucrative target for hackers and criminals. Even more alarming is the fact that a single untrained employee clicking on an email or attachment with malicious code can result in a companywide seizure or control loss.

3. Local Attacks
Though a lot less likely in real estate, local attacks on internal systems and hardware can be a problem. Someone posing as a potential customer or even interested buyer can stop in at your local office and extract data from an unsecured computer or terminal.

The best way to prevent such a problem is to ensure you’re following proper security recommendations to protect your local hardware. Hire a security professional to assess and audit your current setup. Or, subscribe to a cloud provider for your IT needs and let them handle the security and protections of all your affected equipment and software.

Educate Your Real Estate Team 
These major events are concerning, and security and privacy start with you. Invest a little time getting to know how your systems work and what you can do to boost security. Furthermore, make sure you and your team have the proper training to protect all the data you handle. It’s no longer an optional concern for businesses in the modern world, even in real estate. You must be on top of your security game, as should your team members and personnel. Your brand, reputation and customers depend on you.

Photo Credit: typographyimages via pixabay

About the Author: Nathan Sykes is a Realty Biz News Contributor and enjoys writing about the latest trends, news and advice on all things business and technology. To read more by Nathan, on his technology blog.

 

Nathan Sykes About Nathan Sykes

Nathan Sykes is a Realty Biz News Contributor and enjoys writing about the latest trends, news and advice on all things business and technology. To read more by Nathan, on his technology blog

Sign up Now and get our guide on Video Marketing for Real Estate Professionals for Free

Sign up to the Realty Biz News mailing list to get updates from our site and also get our guide to Video Marketing for Real Estate professionals for free