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Is Cybercrime a Threat to Real Estate Agents?

The threat of cybercrime has fast become an everyday reality for small businesses across Australia, with real estate agents increasingly a hot target for cyber attacks. Find out how real is the threat is and what immediate steps can you take to protect your business from future attack.

By definition, cybercrimes are crimes which are directed at the operating function of computers or other digital devices (for example, hacking), and/or where computers or other devices are involved in the offence (for example, online fraud or identity theft).

Common types of cybercrime include hacking, online scams and fraud, identity theft, attacks on computer systems and illegal or prohibited online content. These can result in theft or corruption of your data, viruses or malware infecting your system and denial of service leaving your system inoperable until a ransom is paid.

Australia’s strong economy along with high rates of internet and new technology adoption  has made the country and in particular SME’s a lucrative market for attacks.  In fact, 33% of businesses have experienced a cybercrime, with $276,323 being the average cost of a cyber crime attack to a business according to the Australian Government’s ‘Cost of Cybercrime to Australia’.

So why are real estate businesses, in particular, exposed to cyber attacks and data breaches?

PERSONAL INFORMATION MAKES REAL ESTATE VULNERABLE
Real estate agents hold a considerable amount of confidential, personally identifiable information such as names, birth dates, addresses, passport or driver’s licence details, bank account and credit/debit card numbers, as well as credit reports in some circumstances, which is precisely the kind of information that cyber criminals are looking for, and is the exact reason they are targets of hacking, phishing, malware and ransomware attacks.

NEED FOR CULTURE OF SECURITY
Real estate agents heavily rely on computers, laptops and mobile devices to do business and it’s likely that these devices contain confidential information that can be easily compromised if they fall into the wrong hands if lost or stolen.

A North American report published by AIG titled ‘Cyber and Data Security and the Real Estate Industry’ found that 46 percent of lost laptops contained confidential information, with only 30 percent of those being encrypted, and 10 percent having anti-theft technologies.

THIRD-PARTY DATA BREACHES
More and more businesses are outsourcing their IT support, data storage and data protection to save on costs and resources, but with it comes a growing problem with third-party data breaches. And outsourcing your IT services does not eradicate your responsibility to protect your client’s data.

According to the same AIG report, 63 percent of data breach incidents investigated in 2013 were due to security deficiencies with third-party IT system administration, support, development and maintenance.

HOW CAN I PROTECT MY BUSINESS?
According to Professor Jill Slay, Director, Australian Centre for Cyber Security a lot of issues with cyber security are poor management and poor communication.

There are a number of steps you can take to minimise the chances of your business being exposed to a cyber attack and data breach, these include (and are not limited to):

  • Putting a cyber security policy in place
  • Installing the latest antivirus and security software
  • Ensuring your portable devices are encrypted and never leave them unattended
  • Be aware of current threats and how they could impact your business
  • Have a plan to respond to any incidents (this includes ensuring your business does regular backups).

Even with the best plans and procedures in place the reality is cyber criminals are becoming more intelligent and finding new sophisticated ways to access systems and data, and with the number of small businesses expected to experience a cyber attack increasing it’s time for small business owners to consider how they would recover from such incidents.

Cyber Liability Insurance can act as a safety net when all else fails. It can cover your business against the expense and legal costs associated with data breaches after being hacked or following the theft or loss client information, including investigation and data recovery costs, extortion costs, fines and penalties, and business interruption costs.

It can also cover PR and crisis management costs to help you salvage your business reputation, which has most likely taken you years to build.

Surprisingly, cyber insurance policies don’t cost as much as you think and if you’re considering a policy for your real estate business the best way is to shop around or use a comparison site where you can compare policies.


Source information for article provided by BizCover.

BizCover is Australia’s no. 1 business insurance service. They have simplified the process of purchasing insurance for Real Estate Agents. You can compare quotes instantly, select and buy a policy from some of Australia’s leading insurers in a matter of minutes, saving you time and money so you can focus on what’s really important – selling real estate. For more information visit bizcover.com.au


Photo credit: christiaan_008 via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

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