Know your cyber risks and stay alert

19 July 2022

Cyber-attacks are on the rise and an increasing number of unsuspecting real estate agents are being tricked into redirecting funds and disclosing private information.

Real estate agents know property, but when it comes to cyber security it’s a different story, with many agencies outsourcing to IT providers and relying on their expertise. Many agencies, particularly smaller agencies, tend to believe “no one’s going to bother to hack us because we’re too small”. But it’s not true. Agencies of all sizes are susceptible to cyber-attacks.

Take a moment to think about the sheer bulk of data held by your agency, including personal information, financial details, contracts, communications and more. This data is a veritable treasure trove for hackers and is far more exposed than most suspect.

Now, more than ever before, we’re working in an online environment and use a range of digital systems. While these systems offer many benefits, they also increase exposure to a wide range of cyber security risks because so much sensitive data is potentially accessible by hackers.

Hackers enjoy learning as much as they can about their victims and take the time to research their targets. They’re happy to gather the information they need over time and then lay in wait for the perfect time to attack. For example, in the case of a property sale, they’ll sit on the sidelines until it’s time to transfer funds and then imitate the person they’re hacking to redirect the funds to their own account.

More and more, consumers are becoming aware of the cyber threats, particularly when it comes to buying a property. Hacked emails and stolen deposits are giving consumers a justifiable headache.

As agents, we’re in a position to take steps to protect consumers and, in doing so, enhance our service offering and build trust in the real estate process.

One way we can disempower hackers is to take transactions off channels such as emails and phones, and instead use encrypted platforms. Not only are these platforms far more secure and infinitely less vulnerable to cyber-attacks, they also offer convenience and transparency to consumers.

And this is just one example. Measures such as password security, two-factor authentication, staff training and more need to be considered when it comes to cyber security.

As agents, we need to be more vigilant than ever before, and elevate our awareness and preparedness in this critical area.

We’ll be talking a lot more about cyber-security in the coming months. REINSW is committed to ensuring members have access to the information and training they need, so you can put processes in place to minimise the risk of a cyber-attack and deal with any fallout should a hack occur.

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