The escalating prevalence of data breaches around the globe, across all industries, underscores the importance of digital trust and data security, this is especially important in the real estate industry where real estate agencies hold substantial amounts of sensitive customer data.
Mark Cohen, Vice President of Product APAC at MRI Software, emphasised that estate agencies could lose their clients' trust and ruin their business reputation if they fail to adequately safeguard their data from the latest cyber threats. Amidst a surge in data breaches and cyber attack reports, even within the Real Estate Agents industry, the preservation of digital trust has become fundamental to successful business operations.
Cohen, who has been advocating the need for digital trust within the real estate industry, is set to present at the annual Business of Real Estate (BizRE) Conference on the Gold Coast, Australia from 11th to 13th of September and has also recently hosted a webinar "Cyber Security for Real Estate Agencies" on the 22nd of June. He said, “When you’re buying or selling a house, there’s a huge amount of trust that you’re putting into this person with the biggest asset in your life,.” He went on to say, “What’s changed now is trust and cyber security have become the same thing.” He stresses that trust now extends across all digital elements, encapsulating the safety and security of personal details such as names, addresses, banking details, contact information and identification documentation.
The Real Estate Agency industry is becoming a prime target for malicious threat actors, especially given the extensive customer data that real estate agencies hold, posing significant risks to customers and potentially severe damage to the reputation of businesses if they fail to adequately protect their customers' data. “Basically, you can follow the money whenever it comes to fraud like this,” Cohen suggested. “What we are seeing is some very sophisticated attacks, coming in from all kinds of attack vectors. Really what they are doing is that they are chasing the dollars. They are trying to figure out how to get into trust accounts and steal cash.”
The focus on digital security and trust should start with heightened vigilance and the recognition that no business is immune to cyber attack, especially those who hold data that could be considered valuable to attackers. It is of paramount importance that Real Estate Agents conduct regular staff training on cyber security protocols, policies, and typical indicators of phishing attacks. Other crucial measures include only collecting necessary client data, undertaking regular review of cyber security practices, comprehending obligations under privacy laws, and understanding regional regulations. Transparency in how client data is used and shared is also vital, by informing customers about the types of data held, its retention period, and who can access it, agencies can build and maintain trust within their client base. By extension, if they can highlight that their business maintains a high standard of Cyber Security through Cyber Essentials or Cyber Essentials Plus, this can also go a long way to maintaining a trusted relationship with customers over the data that is being held.
According to a 2022 report, UK (United Kingdom) businesses are targeted by a cyber attack on average every 1 minute & 81% of those businesses who are targeted are small to medium-sized businesses. Out of those businesses that suffer a cyber attack each year, it is estimated that 97% of breaches could have been prevented if those businesses had modern cyber security solutions in place.
One common attack vector that is used to target businesses is the use of Email Phishing, either through Brand Hijacking, Identity Impersonation, or more complex social engineering attacks. Unfortunately, these succeed as many businesses do not have adequate email security processes or solutions in place and they do not provide training to inform their users of common threats that they face or signs to look out for. Advanced Email threat protection can protect businesses from email attacks, using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to monitor for unusual activity, suspicious language or requests, malicious files or links to websites designed to capture your personal information or account details that could be used to launch further attacks or sold on the Dark web for potential use in further attacks.
Compromised account credentials are another common cyber threat vector, the 2021 US Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack which caused the company to shut down operations along the US East Coast was caused by account details that had been leaked on the dark web and had not been secured. However, 99.9% of these types of attacks could have been avoided if businesses had adequate Dark Web Monitoring or required Multi-Factor Authentication on accounts such as their business Microsoft/Office 365, Servers, Workstations, and other critical accounts. All essential business accounts, such as; 365, Customer Management Portals, Social Media Accounts, Financial Accounts and even Servers should be protected by Multi-Factor Authentication. This is to ensure that if malicious individuals do gain access to your account credentials, without your Authentication codes, they cannot access your accounts.
It is also essential to remind businesses that the damage caused by a cyber attack or data breach can extend beyond financial losses – attacks such as these can have a significant impact on the reputation of your business. It is essential that real estate agents understand their obligations to minimise their risk and ensure they have comprehensive cyber security solutions and strategies in place and maintain digital trust with their customers.
We have been working with Estate Agents throughout the UK for more than 20 years, we understand how the Real Estate Agency industry operates and the essential practices that businesses must follow to ensure that they are protected from cyber threats.
As part of our support of real estate agencies we currently provide;
If your business would like to speak with us about how we can provide industry-leading IT Services and Cyber Security contact us today. We can assist you with a Cyber Security Health Check where we will cover all the aspects of a comprehensive Cyber Security solution, including;
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