As a real estate business, you process transactions in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. That makes you a prime target for hackers. You need to make sure your real estate cyber security is up to par.
You may have your clients’ social security numbers for credit checks. There’s bank account information on mortgage documents.
If there’s a breach of your clients’ data, you could be held liable. Almost every state has privacy and data security laws that you could be breaking. That could result in a breach of your duties as a real estate agent and get you into more hot water.
If you have international clients, you’re also going to have to be concerned about GDPR.
Security breaches are a part of life online. It’s not so much a matter of if you’ll be hacked, it’s a matter of when.
Keep reading to learn how you can protect your customer’s data and your real estate business.
Types of Hacking Attacks
Realtors have to move at the speed of light to best serve their clients. It’s easier to do in today’s world because technology allows your clients to sign paperwork online and do everything via email.
That can save you time, but it can also leave your business vulnerable to attack.
There are many ways that hackers can penetrate your network. These are the most common methods to obtain sensitive data.
You need to warn your clients about fake emails from anyone posing from a title or mortgage company. Let’s say that your client was looking at Rio Rancho homes for sale.
They decided to make an offer and they’re going through the title process. Hackers will break into a title company’s system, and see that you’re about to close on your new home.
They’ll send a message saying that in order to close, the client needs to wire funds into a specific bank account.
That type of email has cost $969 million in 2017.
Warn your clients that if they receive any such email, they need to contact you or the title and mortgage company before they do anything.
Malware & Ransomware
You keep a lot of data stored on your computer, and all it takes is one click on an unsuspecting ad or email to wipe out your computer or give away sensitive information.
There are a couple of ways that hackers operate in this realm. The first is that they will infect your computer or other devices with ransomware that will lock up the devices completely until you give the hackers money.
Remember that more and more homes have become smart homes. Thermostats, lights, fans, and more are controlled by automation. This can also leave your client’s home vulnerable to hackers.
The other way they operate is to infect your computer with malware. Trojans and other viruses can sift through your computer without you even realizing it.
These programs are hunting form banking information, drivers license numbers, and social security numbers. The hackers can then use this information for ID theft, and to empty out your bank account.
How to Strengthen Real Estate Cybersecurity
While it may seem hopeless to prevent a security attack, there are steps you can take to keep attackers at bay and protect you and your clients.
Keep Devices on You at All Times
Real estate cyber security starts with you. You may have access to a lot of client data on your phone or tablet.
Your responsibility is to make sure these devices are password protected, and you cannot leave them anywhere.
Don’t leave them on the table when you’re stepping away to grab your drink at the coffee shop. Do not leave them charging three tables over while you’re having a meeting.
Change Your Passwords Often
Another rule of thumb is to make sure you change your passwords often and use one that isn’t obvious.
A password like yourname123 is asking to get hacked. Your password should incorporate characters, numbers, and letters. Of course, it should be easy for you to remember.
Update Your Security Software
You also need to be up to date on security software and operating systems. After these systems are released, security flaws are usually revealed, leaving them vulnerable to attacks. Software makers will send out updates to fix these flaws.
If you don’t update your systems, you’re leaving your site exposed to attacks.
One key to keeping your systems intact is to develop real estate cyber security policies. These policies will detail what someone should do when they get a suspicious email.
Employees should always check with someone before they wire funds to a bank account in Nigeria. You should train your employees what these emails typically look like and what the policies are.
Back Up Your Data
In the event of a ransomware attack, you want to be able to access critical information so your business can still function.
That’s why you’ll want to perform backups of your data at least every week. You need to be sure these backups are on a separate system, like an external hard drive.
Invest in Cyber Security Insurance
In the event of a cyber attack, you can lose business that could cost thousands of dollars. That could be enough to completely cripple your business.
Investing in an insurance policy that covers cyber security can give you the peace of mind you need. Some policies will cover business losses, ransom payments, and business interruptions.
Check Your State Laws
If your systems were hacked, then you need to report the breach to the proper authorities. Depending on your state’s laws, you may have to notify your clients and the Attorney General’s office.
If you’re unsure about the laws in your state, you can check with your local real estate board.
Get Your Real Estate Cyber Security In Line
Your business depends on a solid real estate cyber security policy.
Protecting your data is something that you need to take very seriously. Failure to put a policy in place could put your reputation at risk.
If you want to learn more about cyber security, read this article on cybercrime.