Cybersecurity & Data Protection in Real Estate
By Mohan S Real Estate January 2, 2023
The real estate industry is going through digital transformation with the rapid adoption of new interconnected technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and mobility.
With the adoption of proptech, real estate companies are collecting large amounts of personal data about individuals in order to enhance the experience of building occupants.
A KPMG conducted a study which found that 30% of organizations had experienced a cybercrime in the past two years. The study also showed that only half of the organizations surveyed felt that they had sufficient resources to prevent or minimize the impact of a cybersecurity incident.
It’s important for real estate businesses to regulate and protect the sensitive data their systems now contain.
Cyber Threats to Real Estate
Hackers can use emails, texts, adverts, social media pages, and websites in a phishing assault. Hackers with malicious intent use social engineering to get users to open a malicious link or file.
By doing so, the criminal hacker can access the victim's computer or mobile device and any connected networks and systems. They may use information such as a person's name, address, and phone number provided to a malicious hacker for illegal purposes.
Malware, short for "malicious software," is a program or file that is designed to cause harm. It is often spread digitally and can infect, investigate, steal, or perform any other action its creator desires. In addition, there are multiple vectors for malware infection due to the wide variety of malware out there. For example, criminals can steal victims' banking credentials and empty their accounts using banking Trojans(A form of malware).
Identity thieves can access critical information about your employees or tenants via other forms of malware. These attacks continue to target commercial real estate with sensitive information about its employees, tenants, or large bank accounts.
To prevent malware attacks, use antivirus programs and secure authentication methods.
BEC (Business Email Compromise)
Fraudsters use BEC assaults to break into business email systems. In a business email compromise (BEC) attack, the perpetrator poses as an employee of a target company to steal money from the company and its clients.
Cybercriminals will likely keep employing similar strategies to access real estate companies. Zillow and similar online real estate platforms may become increasingly attractive targets due to the volume of information they provide, should an assault be successful.
To prevent BECs:
Secure your domain
Recheck email addresses
Don’t use free email accounts
Enable 2-factor authentication
Social Engineering Attacks
Social engineering assaults pose the greatest cyber threat to the real estate industry. In this category, you'll find CEO fraud, phishing emails/calls, and wire transfers of sensitive data. To acquire access to sensitive information, a hacker can pretend to be a vendor or a new hire. Or the hacker could pretend to be a firm executive and send out a fake email asking to view sensitive information like payroll.
To prevent social engineering attacks:
Enable 2-factor authentication
Don’t give away data to an unauthorized person
Secure your servers and systems
Reject help requests
Ransomware is a type of malicious software used by hackers to take over a computer system. The first step in a ransomware attack is gaining access to an organization's systems, which you can do by exploiting weaknesses in the company's cybersecurity measures or convincing an employee to open an attachment containing malicious software.
Once ransomware has been distributed throughout an organization's network, criminal hackers have gained complete access. From this vantage point, they may easily cause havoc within the company's networks and even completely shut them down. The information of the company is likewise vulnerable to theft.
The hacker can hold the company hostage until it pays a ransom to get back into its systems. They could demand money by threatening to leak confidential information unless it is protected.
To protect yourself from ransomware, use antivirus programs and enable 2 factor authentication.
Third-Party Vendor Risk
Outsourcing data to another vendor, such as a cloud provider, poses the danger that a hacker could steal your data if the provider falls victim to a cyber security assault.
You need to thoroughly investigate potential vendors and partners in the real estate industry to guarantee that they have adequate cybersecurity measures to protect the confidentiality of your projects and transactions.
To prevent third-party vendor risk, install antivirus programs on the vendor’s computer.
Protecting Client Data in the Real Estate Industry
Attacks on real estate firms by cybercriminals have not decreased. Despite this, there are several measures that businesses can take to safeguard themselves and their constituents. Here are some ways to protect client data in the real estate industry.
Conduct a Cybersecurity Inspection
According to a KPMG survey, only half of real estate companies are adequately equipped to avert or minimize cyber threats. When a company does a cybersecurity audit, it gains valuable insight into its cyber threats and, in turn, can devise effective strategies to address those dangers.
Locate Effective Safety Measures
There are a wide variety of security options, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Find a real estate security system that will last by researching the field.
Think about implementing a security system that complements the measures already in place at your company. This way, you can ensure the solution's seamless integration into your existing processes.
Offer Cybersecurity Awareness Training
Employees can learn to recognize cyber threats, assess the dangers they bring, and take corrective action through a cybersecurity awareness training program.
Maintaining an up-to-date awareness program that accounts for the most recent developments in cybercrime and related threats is crucial.
For personnel to properly respond to an attack, they should receive awareness training at least once a year and renew it as needed.
Handling a Cybersecurity Breach
Here are 4 Steps for Handling a Cybersecurity Breach:
1. Stop the Breach
A company must act promptly after discovering a breach to stop the breach and restore security. The clock is ticking.
Depending on the specifics of the assault and the compromised systems, the company's response to the breach will vary. To stop the breach from affecting the entire network, you should isolate compromised system(s). Closing down the targeted division or removing access to the compromised accounts can help if that is the attacker's strategy. Locating and isolating the assault is greatly facilitated by a multi-layered, complicated security system.
Once confined, you must eradicate the threat to prevent any more damage. Again, eradicating an attack can be done in various ways, such as by blacklisting the IP address from which it originated or reformatting the damaged assets and restoring them.
2. Assess the Damage
Once the threat has been neutralized, an investigation into the incident and an assessment of the harm it caused can begin.
To stop such attacks from becoming successful in the future, it is important to understand how this one took place. Also, it's crucial to look into the compromised machines to find any malware the hacker may have left behind.
3. Notify Those Affected
The investigation into the data breach allows companies to identify everyone who was affected and who might have been.
As soon as the investigation is complete, you should notify authorities, affected organizations, and affected individuals.
4. Prepare a Recovery Plan for Future Attacks
It's crucial to get ready for the next attack after an assault and subsequent recovery. If you've previously been assaulted once, there's a good chance you'll be attacked again, either by the same group of attackers who were successful before or by another group using the same or similar tactics.
Regardless of size, organizations in the real estate industry are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. These businesses must make concerted efforts to discover cyber dangers and strengthen cybersecurity in real estate measures. Specifically, they need to prevent data breaches that could hurt their customers' trust in them and their ability to buy from them in the future. Also, they must focus on data protection in real estate.