Internet Security Tips for Realtors

It’s no mystery that there are countless ways for people to access information on the internet.  There are entire companies built on monitoring and protecting against identity theft, aisles of software at Best Buy to keep your computer protected, and a variety of businesses making a fortune on restoring lost data.  Unfortunately one of the most vulnerable populations for security breaches and data compromises is REALTORS®. 

With so much sensitive information on hand, not only theirs, but their clients’ as well, the target on any REALTOR®’s network and devices is a big one.  However, with these four best practices for internet and information security, that target can shrink dramatically.

Configure Your Mobile Devices for Security and Keep Them Updated

Mobile is becoming a bigger player in every facet of life, and real estate is no different.  Access to information, answers to questions, and a more interactive experience make mobile devices like smartphones and tablets an ideal tool.  Leverage these simple security measures on your mobile devices:

·         Use all available encryption features.

·         Set Bluetooth to “hidden” (or disable).

·         Limit the use of third-party apps not developed by reputable companies.

·         Look at tools for virus protection, firewall implementation, lost device safety (remote tracking, wiping, and relocation).

Create Strong Passwords and Use Encryption

Creating a password that features letters, numbers, and punctuation, and is at least eight characters long is the best strategy.  You should also change your password every 120-180 days (if not more often).  Using password management software or opting for a platform to “remember” your password is not ideal.  Should a device be lost, stolen or accessed, your passwords can easily be compromised.

For the information stored on your hard drive and server, encryption is a necessity.  Encryption transforms information that anyone can read to an unreadable code that can only be translated with the right access and key.  So even if someone did compromise your files, the information would be useless to them.

Install and Maintain Anti-Virus Software

Whether you use a Mac or a PC, the latest version of anti-virus software is a must.  Protecting your computer and other devices from malware, worms, viruses, and Trojan Horses will limit the amount of exposure you have to potentially harmful files and schemes.

Be Aware of Phishing Attempts 

One of the most common internet scams is phishing.  This can occur in a number of ways, and while the above mentioned tactics and tools can prevent some of the avenues for which phishing is executed, this can still be a dangerous threat for REALTORS®.  “Ghost” accounts, doctored email addresses, and seemingly innocent referrals are all tactics that phishers use.  The most effective attempts are disguised to appear legitimate. 

·         Email addresses with a familiar name

·         Email addresses that seem to be from a reputable company

·         Messages disguised as authentic business transactions

It is important to be diligent when you receive any correspondence like the ones mentioned above.  Anyone asking for personal information or money on behalf of a company should raise a red flag.  Cross reference any communication or email address from someone by researching their contact information, or reach out to them directly.  Here are some other measures to prevent phishing attempts in your inbox:

·         Check and monitor your email settings.  A compromised account will often have an altered “forwarding” setting.

·         Maintain and delete any unneeded emails.  A regular purge of your inbox lowers the chances of something going unseen or unnoticed until it’s too late.  Securely save any important emails.

·         Avoid using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection.

·         Avoid emailing sensitive information.   Use a secure file sharing platform instead.

While technology makes business easier and more efficient, it also presents new challenges and threats.  However with some due-diligence, and the right tools and practices in place you can keep your and your clients’ information safe and secure.