Technology has streamlined our daily lives, but it’s also left us vulnerable to attack from unsavory parties. As we become increasingly aware of cybersecurity vulnerabilities, packs like the Equifax breach, we must wonder if our personal data is secure.
Real estate is not exempt from the cybersecurity concerns. Brokerages handle crucial information for individuals, like bank account information, Social Security numbers, addresses, and more. Now we have new technological “play toys” like big data, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence. With the increase in online platforms and cloud-based computing, how can real estate brokerages keep the data safe?
Security requires a multiple dimension approach. It’s not enough just to have a firewall or an encryption. According to a study by Oracle, 80% of data loss is actually caused by insiders. It’s not just disgruntled employees to worry about. Your legitimate users can leave critical systems open and vulnerable.
Real estate teams need to access certain data to complete their jobs. They need tools like back-office software, marketing, and MLS access. This means firms must manage access control. Set data permissions for all your accounts. Ask, “who needs access to what data?” For instance, a bookkeeper likely needs administrative access to all financial data, but not to a brokerage’s marketing software. Conversely, an agent doesn’t need to see the accounting for the entire team.
Password fatigue is a real thing. To compensate, sometimes individuals simplify their passwords or use the same password to do the multiple tasks on the same system. For example, they could use their dog’s name, “Spencer,” to log into their work computer, email, brokerage accounting software, and database. Sometimes the breach is as simple as someone leaving a written list of passwords out in the open.
As brokerage teams grow, increased user size create presents challenges to security management. You want the software to be manageable and integrate with other systems, but you also want to protect your integrity. Anything you use should be able to adapt to your team’s needs.
Real estate agents work on the go. Sometimes a breach is as simple as the theft of a tablet or a laptop that has crucial data. These hard devices need to be encrypted and protected from intrusion. Another problem comes from actual hackers that break into your system. Your most vital data should be on a separate network from something like Wifi guest access.
How to prevent a breach
Take a multi-tier approach to security. It starts with a control, both physical devices and with staff. It goes without saying that brokerages should background check all potential employees before hiring. Put a system in place to designate who has control over what data. Not everyone needs to see their brokerages general ledger nor does is everyone potentially need MLS access.
It’s important to train all staff about password security and to require more complicated passwords with special characters and numbers. Additional measures to consider include data encryption, authentication, and network encryption. At CommissionTrac, multi-level permissions are one way we keep data secure.
Hackers are smart and constantly evolving their techniques. It’s our job in the real estate world to conduct due diligence, stay up to the date with the latest cybersecurity measures, and do everything possible to deter data theft.