TRUST—one big word you seek everywhere; most especially in the real Estate industry.
However, with the rapidly growing number of cybercrime in this digital age, people are left dubious and skeptical. And, the real estate industry are very well affected by this matter.
Acting as a middleman, agents hold this critical trust-relationship between a buyer and a seller. Such critical relationship entails keeping sensitive personal information of both parties, with security as the topmost priority. But then, this trusting relationship can be shaken to its foundations.
Let’s see what brings adversity to the real estate industry.
WHO ARE THE MAIN TARGETS?
Common to us all, financial firms are the topmost target of cyber attacks because obviously, they have the direct means of overflowing money to cybercriminals’ pockets. History need not prove so, leaving the real estate industry less suspecting of any cyber attacks.
With that, we’ve asked our Quora netizens these questions: “Who are the possible top candidates for cybercrime this year 2018?” and “Are real estate agents on the list?”
Omer Quenneville, Realtor at Real Estate Homeward:
“We all are. I get a call at least once per year from Visa indicating that my card might be compromised. I think Visa does an excellent job of knowing when it is not me using my card and I always appreciate the precautions they take.
I am careful when using my card and don’t let it out of my sight. Yet it manages to get compromised. I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact (that) I am a realtor but I do think it has everything to do with the more you use technology, the more likely you will get nabbed by those cyber crooks. As long as you take reasonable precautions, your credit cards got your back.
My advice, don’t complain about security. It is there for you.”
So it goes to every single individual, regardless of profession. But for this discussion, here’s a list of the top Cyber Liability Risks real estate agents are facing nowadays.
CYBER LIABILITY RISKS FOR REAL ESTATE AGENTS
What do you think are the top real estate cyber liability risks today? Allyson, via Quora, shared this with us:
Allyson Ward, Owner/Broker:
“Closing agents have huge problems with folks getting scammed for their closing funds posing as closing agents. Realtors have to encrypt their emails when dealing with sensitive information. In fact, we deal with posers claiming to be property managers or the owners of the very properties we have listed for rent or sale and stealing money from would be buyers and renters. This means we have to go overboard proving ourselves. We have jerks searching for pretty agents and requesting showings at houses with them so they can assault them. We have our pc’s at risk every day for viruses and worms. We have people snooping on our cell phones.”
Additionally, here are the top four for us to discuss today.
Personal information of various people ranging from the humble real estate property owners to luxurious estate of several billionaires is as valuable as gems to cyber crooks. They want it and they crave for it.
And, as notorious in the cyber field, cybercriminals exploit different methods of cyber attacks—by hook or by crook—to get this information. They would do everything to hijack every single information to achieve their goals: the extravagant amount of easy money, sell information to the darknet, spy on people, take revenge, or even just for the taste and joy of having fun at someone else’s expense.
Phishing, hacking, spamming, and spreading malware are just some of the few tactics they use.
Data breach is one big catastrophe any real estate agent can experience after a successful cyber attack. No matter how watchful agents are of their client’s data, just a single data breach could jeopardize the hard-earned trust agents gain from their clients.
It only takes one email-related security breach to cause inadvertent disclosure of sensitive client information. A single data breach can trigger audits, fines, panics and customer backlash. Cyber attacks are “crimes of opportunity.” If it’s easy for hackers to gain access to your data, you are an easy target.
And that brings us to this next cyber risk every single real estate agent faces 24/7.
- Document Management
Paperwork is inevitable in real estate markets.
Piles upon piles of documentation are generated per transaction which obviously requires efficient and effective document management, making sure every detail has been accounted for.
Since real estate agents are always on the go, missing just one document during transactions is a BIG NO-NO; and much more is losing all documents.
But of course, that’s not all.
Emails should be taken into account as well. Not only do documents pile up during the daily transactions, emails rapidly grow, too.
Email usage is the default of every agent in the communication process, that’s why collecting email conversation and threads is important as a precautionary action in case legal concerns arise.
There are many compelling reasons to stop using email in the workplace and one is that it is actually bringing businesses more harm than good.
Historically, it is through email that data breach, spamming, and malware spread happen to millions of people across the globe. The infamous ILOVEYOU virus, MyDoom, and CryptoLocker are just a few examples of email threats that caused great damages all over the world.
Check out this infographic on the Biggest Data Breaches in Recent History
In pursuit of efficient document management, real estate agencies leverage the services offered by numerous software like Dead Drop Software: a cloud-based tool that comes with unlimited storage and is more than capable of storing documents, photos, forms, and other data that a real estate agency deals with on a day-to-day basis.
If effective document management is neglected, all real estate efforts will go in vain; some go in courts.
- Stolen Devices
According to the statistics, 94% of people age 18-29 and 89% with ages 30-49 use a smartphone.
This statistic result is just what we’ve expected it to be, knowing that smartphones are indeed, every man’s buddy in this digital age.
Real estate agents are always on the go. They constantly juggle all demands of numerous clients. They almost do not have weekends, as those days are when the business goes especially at peak.
With this kind of job, making everything as handy as possible is the common goal. A mobile-ready access to all necessary data makes a great deal of difference.
Smartphones paved way for this need. Smartphones are handy and pocket-sized, so real estate agents use it in their day-to-day transactions, communicating with clients, getting on top of meeting schedules, and in maintaining contact information of various people they meet along the way.
But, there’s a problem with that.
Yes, smartphones have remarkably helped the human race become even more productive than before. However, as handy as smartphones are, agents sometimes mix work and personal data all in one device.
That could mean higher chances of a data breach, which could cause data loss.
Stolen devices is one thing. Data loss due to stolen devices is another. How much more is compromising client’s data due to the carelessness of one’s device? Talk about disaster!
That’s why it is highly recommended for real estate agents to encrypt ALL data, not just the sensitive ones. Better be safe than sorry.
According to Cyber and Data Security Risks and the Real Estate Industry, a report published by the American International Group (AIG), “80 percent of data breaches reported in 2012 happened to organizations that did not rely on the Internet as a core piece of their business.” Meaning: data loss happened offline because physical devices were stolen.
A lawsuit may arise if this simple act is neglected. It can also bring about terrible financial woes to the company the real estate agent works for. Count in negative, untrustworthy reputation to the agent himself. Worst is getting blacklisted from the list of trusted agents in the industry.
Lack of cybersecurity practices and proper safeguards of accumulated information from clients is negligence on the agent’s part.
It is his responsibility to get educated on cybersecurity practices in his profession.
- Data Security
The cloud or cloud-computing is a form of storage that does not reside in just one place. It pertains to data centers scattered all over the world so that no one can have an inch of access to the data stored in it.
Most companies have already been enjoying the benefits of using cloud-computing services in running their businesses.
Although there’s really nothing to be afraid of, concerns still exist until today.
Issues such as confidentiality/security, and losing control over data and updates are among the many common myths and apprehensions of businesses in migrating to cloud computing applications and platforms.
But why do most businesses move to the cloud? We shared this list via Cloudsmallbusinessservice.com:
- IT costs are lower using the Cloud
- The Cloud is scalable
- Collaboration is smoother in the cloud
- Cloud computing offers flexibility
- Security is stronger in the cloud
Now, let’s talk about the cloud’s security. Is having a third-party vendor really that scary after all? Do you really need to be afraid of losing much control over your data and software updates?
Fact is, the cloud-computing data centers are created like Russia’s toughest prisons: they are extremely secure.
Take this security of Amazon Web Services (AWS) data center for example:
The Environmental Layer is dedicated to environmental considerations from site selection and construction to operations and sustainability. AWS carefully chooses our data center locations to mitigate environmental risks, such as flooding, extreme weather, and seismic activity.
We are continuously innovating the design and systems of our data centers to protect them from man-made and natural risks. Then we implement controls, build automated systems, and undergo third-party audits to confirm security and compliance. As a result, the most highly-regulated organizations in the world trust AWS every day.
Mark Crosbie, Dropbox:
“We split each data file into chunks – a process called sharding, and these chunks are then separately encrypted and stored in different places, so if someone did manage to break in and decrypt the data they’d only get access to random blocks.”
It’s hard to earn a person’s trust in the world we live in today. Real estate agents know that full well.
But this is our world.
Either we overcome and stay on top of it or get beaten by the fear of what can possibly happen.
Let’s conquer the downside of this digital generation. There are many tools created by great heroes of today just waiting for us to finally tap help, and there are many ways to counter these cyber attacks.
Bring back the essence of humanity; restore the trusting nature of every person.
Over to you—what are the cyber liability risks you are facing today?
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