nov_cybersecDid you know? October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and with companies connected to our industry making recent headlines after reporting data breaches (Equifax, Gmail, Verizon and the California Board of Realtors), it’s a good reminder that cyber crime is a growing and ever-changing worldwide problem.

An increased use of technology in our business to manage data and complete real estate transactions means an increase in digital security threats. The more connected we become, the more vulnerabilities and checkpoints exist. Email phishing scams, ransomware and wire transfer fraud and theft are all serious threats when conducting a real estate transaction, and it is our job as a title company to be one step ahead of these ‘scammers.’

Small real estate businesses, agents and their clients are increasingly becoming the targets of sophisticated cyber scammers, according to the National Association of Realtors. In recent months, real estate professionals have reported an upswing in a particular wire scam, where a hacker breaks into an agent’s email account and obtains information about upcoming real estate transactions.

With new threats emerging, now is a good time to evaluate the strength of your company’s cyber security plan. Here are some tips for protecting your network and valuable data, your clients private and financial information — and your reputation.

  • Use modern software and update it regularly. Any business conducting real estate transactions should be on the latest version of their operating system and automatically apply updates.
  • Protect your network with advanced firewall security and encrypt sensitive data.
  • Regularly backup data that is stored on computers and/or networks.
  • Use secure Wi-Fi networks and avoid public Wi-Fi networks when accessing certain emails and documents.
  • Use unique passwords and change them frequently. Admin, administrator or the name of your website domain should be avoided as usernames.
  • Consider implementing multi-factor authentication for access to certain email and online accounts, as well as access to your network through wireless devices.
  • Use a secure email server and avoid free email services. While cloud and free email services are convenient for business, they are never completely secure.
  • Set up a procedure with home buyers and sellers in the beginning of a transaction that indicates how funds will be disbursed. Ensure that every party in the real estate transaction knows to communicate changes to funds transfer instructions either in person or through a dedicated phone number.
  • Educate all employees on your company’s cyber security policies and the importance of verifying wiring instructions; implement a cyber security response plan in the event of a breach.

Despite your magnitude and infrastructure, no business is completely immune from cyber attacks in today’s world. There are, however, effective strategies and precautionary steps you can take to significantly reduce your risk and protect you in the event of an attack. At Novation Title, we take extra measures to protect our clients from any cyber/wire fraud during a real estate transaction.  Be careful and BE AWARE!

-The Novation Team