Cyber-attacks are a major threat to any business, but they are especially dangerous for the real estate industry. Due to the sensitivity of the information they deal with, such as financial records and personal information, real estate agencies have a high risk of being targeted by malicious actors. In the wrong hands, this data is highly prized, and can cause devastating consequences if used for nefarious purposes.
So it’s important for real estate agencies to have a cybersecurity strategy in place so they can protect themselves from these attacks.
Why are real estate agents targets for cybercriminals?
Real estate agencies deal with a lot of personal data and high value transactions. This makes them an appealing target for cybercriminals.
Real estate agencies are a prime target due to the high amounts of money they handle. Unlike an individual who may only make large transactions once or twice per year, real estate agencies can take part in millions of dollars worth of transactions every year.
Personally identifiable data is also another asset real estate agencies deal with, which can be valuable to malicious actors. Real estate companies need sensitive personal information when carrying out sales or rentals. This can be financial data, such as bank account details, credit card information, driver’s licence, etc. Any of this information can be exploited for malicious purposes and have disastrous effects.
Over the course of time, as cyber-attacks have increased, most industries have become more security conscious, but many small to medium-sized businesses are still relying on basic security tools such as anti-virus software. This lack of security awareness increases the likelihood of a successful cyber-attack against your real estate business.
Cybercriminals have access to advanced technology, but the most successful attacks tend to be more basic and involve social engineering, which plays on the human emotion to trick people. One such tactic is business email compromise, which is mimicking real estate branding or impersonating clients to try and get access to funds through emails.
Another common cyber-attack is ransomware, which tries to lure users to click on links that allows hackers to easily encrypt and lock up data until a ransom is paid for its release. Domain spoofing is another tactic used to alter an email address slightly, so it appears as from a trusted source. Password hacking is also common, as many people tend to use basic, easy to guess combinations, or use the same password for multiple sites, which can be exploited by malicious actors to access networks and systems.
What are the consequences of cybercrime for real estate agencies?
A data breach causes serious harm not just to your business but to the people who are also affected. Without robust data security, your clients’ personal and financial information is at risk of being stolen and used fraudulently.
The serious harm caused by data breaches has been recognized by the Australian Government. On February 22nd, the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme officially came into effect. All businesses covered by the Privacy Act 1988 are obliged to notify the Australian Information Officer and individuals if their private data has been breached.
Any companies operating a tenancy database or selling property have an obligation to protect data they hold, including real estate professionals. Failure to comply with this requirement will cause heavy fines and the risk of legal action, both of which will result in a loss of business and cause reputational damage.
Cybersecurity strategy for real estate agents
Cybersecurity is the protection of digital assets and information, in particular against cyber-attacks. A cybersecurity strategy is a framework for protecting against and responding to digital threats that are intended to exploit vulnerabilities in software, hardware, or networks.
It’s highly recommended real estate agencies adopt a ‘zero trust mindset’ when it comes to their business and have a robust cybersecurity strategy in place for worst case scenarios. This is when partnering with cybersecurity specialists can be vital, as risk assessment and mitigation can be outside the scope of inhouse IT teams. It is critical to oversee the way real estate employees access business data when working off-site, including password controls such as multi factor authentication, and cloud-based security.
A managed security service provider can develop and implement a cybersecurity plan that includes:
Cybersecurity is a necessity for real estate agents. It’s important for you to understand the risks that come with not having a solid cybersecurity strategy for your business. Talk to the cybersecurity specialists at Steadfast Solutions today for a comprehensive security strategy tailored to your specific business needs.