How Important is Data Security for a Real Estate Business?

Posted by Staff Reporter on Oct 24, 2017 08:38 AM EDT
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When one mentions the terms security and real estate together, the first associations are most likely keeping buildings or land secure. The 21st century marks the dawn of a new digital age for many organizations, including real estate businesses. According to the National Association of Realtors, more than 90% of real estate firms now have websites, as home buyers are increasingly going online in their search for properties. Technology is allowing real estate businesses to streamline some of their operations and offer a faster service.

This also means that real estate businesses are vulnerable to cyber-attacks and scams. In 2016, there were 1093 data breaches in the USA, leading to 36 million records being exposed. Falling victim to malware and/or hacking is becoming more common; however, if you take security seriously the risk can be dramatically reduced.

The nature of online security threats and their prevention

Here's what you should be looking out for, as well as some actions you could take. A great start is remembering to use different passwords and keeping your personal and business accounts separate.

- Your online identity can be the first step of an attack, potentially revealing your location if not more. It can be used to target you specifically, not to mention IP-related attacks. To secure your identity, using a VPN (virtual private network) that hides your address, history and data you may be accessing. It can also stop any tracking activity on your person.

-Keep your devices clean and backed up. Use proper security software to keep your machine malware-free. Use trusted antivirus programs (beware of fraudulent ones). One of the most devastating online attacks comes in the form of ransomware. This malware encrypts your data and asks you to pay for it, effectively holding your data and OS hostage to a program. To stop this from breaking loose, make backups of your system often. Back your most important data up on multiple copies and if it's on the cloud, make sure it's also secure. You can also encrypt your own data (on-device or online) for the final layer of safety.

-Beware of phishing attacks - Especially email or chat-related. This is simple advice, but it's often how they get you. Don't have blind faith in spam filters - Use a safe email provider. Stay wary of any person you meet online, especially on messaging software like Skype or Facebook. Criminals are not beyond impersonating your acquaintances or hacking their accounts.

Why are real estate agents at risk?

All businesses, organizations or individuals are at risk, however, there are some signs that attacks against real estate firms are on the rise. The real estate field of work deals with much higher numbers than that of an average profession. Any business that involves large amounts of money and long records of data is likely to be attractive to criminals. Since the real estate industry is still transitioning to digital formats, awareness of cybercrime is (generally) lower than it should be, resulting in potentially easier targets.

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