Data security has become increasingly important for the real estate industry in 2015, as cyber criminals have turned their attention to small real estate businesses, agents, and their clients.
Although news coverage tends to focus on security breaches at large companies like Target, JP Morgan, and the U.S. Postal Service, the majority of cyber attacks happen to small businesses.
Without access to vast technology and legal teams, unsuspecting small businesses are easy targets for hackers.
Your reputation and wallet are at risk
A data breach can significantly impact real estate businesses and their clients, according to NAR. Businesses are likely to incur catastrophic financial harm and face legal repercussions in the form of client lawsuits. Public disclosure of the security breach will likely affect the businesses’ overall reputation, and make recovery difficult.
Commercial properties with automated or building control systems are also susceptible to hacks. Information can be plucked directly from the system and used to compromise those living or working in the building.
What are hackers looking for?
When cyber criminals hack company data, they are searching primarily for information that will identify specific individuals. With access to credit cards, bank account information, login credentials, email-address, social security numbers, and more, hackers can drain client accounts and ruin credit. Within a matter of days a person’s whole life can be turned upside-down.
Hackers may get this information directly from business accounts, or they may try to scam clients into giving up information and money. One wire scam in particular has greatly affected the real estate industry over the last few months.
To execute the scam, hackers infiltrate agent email accounts to get information about approaching real estate transactions. When clients are ready to close on a property, the scammer will send an email requesting a wire-transfer of funds. Of course, emails are created to look like they are from the agent or title company, and clients are often fooled.
What you can do to fight back
Explain how the business makes financial transactions, and urge each client to call their agent immediately if they notice anything outside of this norm.
Agents can improve their data security by staying up to date on legal regulations. Most data security laws are created at the state level, so there is no uniform policy across state lines. Agents must be responsible for staying in tune with any regulations that affect their business.