Digitization has radically changed the job descriptions in many industries, and real estate is no exception. Modern real estate agents do much more than just connect buyers and sellers; they stage homes (both physically and online), hire photographers, manage social media profiles, conduct market research, prospect and carry out targeted marketing.
All of these new activities involve and create data, much of which is sensitive and needs to be responsibly managed. Below are 4 cybersecurity tips for real estate agents to help protect this data and keep their clients' information safe.
Invest in a VPN
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a means for encrypting any data sent and received online and for obscuring your IP address. It is used to provide privacy and added data security and is a tool commonly employed by many businesses, large and small, that do a significant portion of their business online.
Real estate agents can benefit from a VPN because it helps provide their clients' peace of mind, minimizing the risk that any sensitive client financial or personal info will be intercepted and stolen while in transit. Real estate agents are often doing business from their phone and on open networks, which means extra precautions should be taken.
Educate Yourself on Current Cybercrime Statistics and Techniques
The biggest vulnerability with any individual or business when it comes to cybersecurity is a lack of information. Cybercriminals prey on the poorly informed and ignorant, who either don't know what techniques and red flags they should be on the lookout for, or aren't even aware they exist. Cybercrime represents one of, if not the largest financial threats to businesses and will continue to hang over the heads of anyone doing business online well into the future.
Real estate agents should inform themselves on the latest phishing and data theft techniques, how ransomware and malware work, and the kinds of suspicious emails, links, text messages and other scam techniques that are currently making the rounds.
Use a Firewall
In addition to knowledge and a good VPN, any business, independent or otherwise, should have a dedicated firewall. A firewall can help you thwart a devastating cyberattack and are even useful when the majority of your data is stored in the cloud. Firewalls are important for real estate agents with a small team working for them, especially if they work from home or on unsecured networks.
In these cases, a firewall allows you and your team to work with confidence from the office, home, the car, the cafe or anywhere else you might need to be to run a successful real estate business.
Use a Password Manager
Modern real estate is largely a digital affair, which means a host of software and web platforms are necessary to run your business. Whether it is checking new listings, automating your marketing and prospecting, or making sure commission transfers have hit your bank account, you have likely accumulated several different sets of login information that you use for different accounts accessed on a variety of devices.
Trying to manually keep track of all of that authentication information is not only a hassle but potentially disastrous. Keeping passwords written down or in emails you have sent to yourself exposes you to theft and potentially real financial loss. A dedicated password manager and vault such as LastPass helps you safely store all of your passwords in one place and also provides complex randomly generated passwords if you need them.
The internet and digital platforms have made being a real estate agent both easier and more hectic. What clients expect from their real estate agent in 2021 is so much more than what was expected of you in, say, the 1970s, when real estate agents acted more or less as brokers and introduction specialists. The modern real estate agent, in effect, runs their own digital empire and acts as a point of contact for the client and all of the many people involved in the buying and selling process. All of this requires strategies for managing digital risks.