The 5 Most Severe Real Estate IT Cybersecurity Threats Plaguing The Industry Today
Once upon a time, real estate professionals focused exclusively on client needs, making money, setting sales records and building solid reputations. Those days are history due to hackers who have left no industry untouched.
The RE market has not escaped the scourge of cyber attacks that run the gamut from wire-transfer hacks to compromised identity data related to clients and personnel files. There is no perfect way to avoid these risks, but you can take advantage of contemporary real estate IT security measures to lessen your risk.
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Begin the process of building a secure environment by staying abreast of trending cybersecurity measures recommended to thwart hackers. Pay particular attention to the five avenues hackers use most often to penetrate computer systems in this industry. After all, you want to buy and sell properties, not spend time worrying about your vulnerability or searching for cybersecurity measures to protect your interests.
Threat #1: Business Email attacks
There is no shortage of criminals pretending to take an interest in real estate. They masquerade as vendors, sellers, shoppers and investors. Their MO? They pretend to be interested in doing business with you, but what they really want is to gain access to files using nefarious methods–including manipulating wire funds. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the real estate industry has suffered over $3 billion in losses as a direct result of these attacks.
Typical of these scams is the one perpetrated against Ubiquiti. Stealthy criminals stole $46.7 million from their coffers via fraudulent wire transfers. Don’t assume that you are so well protected by firewalls and real estate IT security measures that you can’t fall victim, too.
Threat #2: Ransomware attacks
Ransomware assaults can come from many directions, including compromised operation systems, physical systems and trojans. In the first, malware invades the system, encrypts data and holds it hostage until a ransom is paid. The 2017 WannaCry and Petya attacks are examples of situations in which someone at both businesses thoughtlessly opened a benign-looking e-mail, exposing all company files to a malware attack.
Physical ransomware threats are so insidious, they can infect sophisticated systems via internet-enabled devices. One physical ransomware case involved a luxury hotel’s operating system that was penetrated when an infection breached the building’s electrical system. Had IT professionals not acted fast, the hotel could have been forced to close its doors.
The final risk in this category is the implantation of Trojans onto operating systems. One cleverly-imbedded Trojan penetrated a bank and stole personal information and banking credentials while cleaning out account balances. Be on the lookout for all three as criminals continue to develop more sophisticated types of malware.
Threat #3: Cloud computing vendor attacks
Has your business put its most sensitive data into the hands of the cloud provider you chose because you were eager to stow all of your sensitive data in one place? Cloud providers aren’t exempt from being hacked and if you rely upon one to safeguard your data, you could put yourself and your holdings at risk.
Not only could your data be compromised but you could find yourself liable for the loses your company incurs. Before you sign a contract, have your attorneys examine all aspects of the cloud vendor’s business practices so you don’t fall victim to a hack. Up-and-up cloud services should be happy to provide you with the reassurances you seek.
Threat #4: Wire transfer vulnerability
As mentioned earlier, if your business depends upon wire transfers to underwrite deals, you don’t have to leave yourself vulnerable to a cyber attack if you put into place a two-step protocol that gives you a second line of defense against the theft of money and information.
What constitutes this second line of defense? It can be a mandated phone call to the party at the other end of the transaction, but that phone number should not be one provided by the e-mail sender requesting the wire transfer. As one industry professional said, a phone call is the only way she knows to make sure the transfer gets where it’s supposed to without coming to rest in some hacker’s Malta bank account!
Threat #5: Becoming complacent
It can be easy to slack off on security measures a company has employed over time when there have been no system penetrations by hackers. But this can lead to complacency. Train all of your employees to be vigilant while working on the office system so they don’t inadvertently expose your files to a cyber risk. Instruct them to be cautious about opening Emails unless they know the identity of the sender. No staffer wants to be the cause of a data breach. By promoting vigilance, you protect employees, too.
Failure to back up systems methodically and regularly is yet another way your company can put data at risk. Imagine having valuable files on your system that haven’t been backed up expeditiously. What would your company pay to get those files back if a ransom is demanded–especially since no other record of them exists?
There’s one more precaution you can take to avoid falling victim to these five scenarios: invest in cybersecurity liability coverage. It can mean the difference between an inconvenient business interruption, taking a financial hit or–worst-case scenario–experiencing both of these catastrophic consequences.
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