By Devin Partida, Editor-in-Chief, ReHack.com
In the modern world, businesses across all industries increasingly rely on the internet, and real estate is no different. Agents, homeowners, buyers and sellers, property managers, and landlords handle valuable information and transactions online. While digital tools are useful, efficient and accessible, they also increase the risk of cyberattacks.
Cybersecurity should be a priority for every real estate business to ensure company and client data is always safe. New challenges arise every year, so anyone involved in real estate should watch for these latest cyber-risks in 2023.
Phishing is when cybercriminals send emails, texts, social media posts or advertisements to people in the hopes that they will interact, granting the criminal access to a secure system. For example, an employee opening an attachment from a suspicious email could allow a bad actor to covertly hack the entire company’s network.
Rather than using software or hardware to forcibly take over a system with technology, phishing and other social engineering schemes target humans. Phishers attempt to trick people into providing sensitive information, like passwords, or granting access to a secure network.
Real estate agents may be targeted with emails about fake properties they cannot sell, while property owners might get offers that aren’t real. Interacting with these cons is unsafe and could put all data at risk. Every agent, property manager or homeowner should stay aware of phishing scams and how to distinguish dangerous messages from legitimate communications.
2. Malware and Ransomware
While employee judgment and human error are major points of vulnerability for real estate security online, many hackers don’t wait for workers to make a simple slip-up. Instead, they implement software that attempts to break into a network without any assistance from people on the inside.
Malware is any program designed to attack a network, client, computer, server or other information systems. For real estate companies, that means stealing data, freezing assets, accessing sensitive client information and interfering with financial transactions.
Ransomware is one of the most common types of malware. It locks users out of their own files, forcing them to make a payment in exchange for restored access. However, cybercriminals are untrustworthy — even if someone pays, there’s no way to ensure hackers will return the files or haven’t already leaked data to other sites.
3. Stolen Property
Many cybersecurity methods focus on protecting intangible digital assets online or in the cloud, which is clearly a valuable effort. However, real estate businesses should not forget to safeguard the physical devices agents and clients use to create and access that data — computers, phones, tablets and any other objects people utilize to interact with the network. Even a piece of paper with passwords written down can fall into the wrong hands.
Stolen computers give bad actors direct access to sensitive and confidential information — no need for phishing scams or malware downloads. Real estate partners should take the necessary steps to protect their physical devices and files, even when disposing of old tech.
4. Data Breaches
Information about the real estate market is valuable. In fact, despite record inflation around the U.S., the housing market is booming. Houses are always in demand and property is a tangible asset, making it a popular investment even during economic downturns like inflation. That means hackers are eager to steal data about the industry and use or sell it for their own benefit.
Real estate produces massive amounts of paperwork, financial documentation and communications, so many property managers and companies use professional third-party services to store their data. Managers should always ensure these external parties are trustworthy and secure against potential data breaches.
5. AI Threats
As technology rapidly advances, so does the risk it will be used for malicious purposes. The next generation of threats includes artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR). AI can be used to bolster cybersecurity, but hackers on the other side can utilize AI programs to search for weaknesses in a system’s defenses.
Virtual reality likewise introduces a new world of risks that real estate companies must face. VR is an innovative way for agents or potential buyers to tour a property online rather than visit it in person. However, VR technology is relatively new and vulnerable to hackers who may blur the line between what is real and what isn’t, including monetary transactions or a property’s value.
Staying Aware of Real Estate Cybersecurity Risks in 2023
The housing market may be booming, but that means digital data about real estate is more valuable than ever — and hackers will do anything to get it. Agents, companies, landlords, property managers, homeowners, buyers and sellers are responsible for keeping information safe with the latest cybersecurity measures.
Devin Partida is an industrial tech writer and the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com, a digital magazine for all things technology, big data, cryptocurrency, and more. To read more from Devin, please check out the site.