While technological advancements have helped simplify business processes, it has opened real estate agents and consumers to threats from hackers.

Technology is amazing, isn’t it? Advancements in technology have helped simplify and automate seemingly every facet of daily activities.

Technological advancements, however, have also left many consumers exposed to fraud and security issues. For real estate agents, protecting clients’ information is priority No. 1.

“Security is the main thing. You need proper, updated firewalls and people that understand security,” said Jim Hastings, owner of Hastings Brokerage. “Also, you need to install anti-malware software and keep it updated. Computer security is a gift and you need to find people that have it.”

An article by Finextra noted that a recent survey found half of the businesses in the real estate industry are not prepared to handle a cyberattack.

“Federal law requires some industries, like hospitals and banks, to have some type of security in place for things like that, but the real estate industry is quite vulnerable,” said Robert Siciliano, author of the Finextra piece.

Siciliano spotlights one common type of cyberattack: business email compromise (BEC), in which a business or person is tricked into wiring money directly into a criminal’s bank account. The FBI has found that multi-billions in business loans can be attributed to BEC.

“That’s scary enough, but the FBI also says that real estate companies are specially targeted in these attacks, and every participant in the real estate transaction is a possible victim,” Siciliano said.

Hastings explained that speed and security are the two IT issues he is looking to solve. He added that his office has installed a 100-by-100 fiber connection and coax (cable modems), which describes as “like driving on the road whereas fiber is like taking a plane.”

“In five years from now, fiber will be the norm. We use external and internal firewalls. It is important to plan for mobile devices and rats (trojan URL links, etc.),” Hastings said. “It is important to educate your staff as to current internet security issues and make sure they report unusual activity.”

Hastings added that his office regularly backs up data both onsite and offsite.

The Finextra piece says another threat to real estate is ransomware—a type of malware that makes data on your device unavailable until you pay a ransom.

“Ransomware doesn’t just target computers though. It can target any device that is connected to the internet including smart locks, smart thermostats, and even smart lights, which are gaining a lot of popularity in American homes. When digital devices get infected with ransomware, they will fail to work,” the report states.

Nancy Braun of Showcase Realty said it is important to keep operating systems updated, and most recently switched out all of her computers that were using Windows 7.

“Windows 7 is no longer supported and not receiving updates, so it is an invitation to hackers to attack with viruses and malware,” Braun said.

She also added her team is working to switch from having a server to a share point or cloud service to store all shared documents.

“We now can work anywhere and communicate with the team with windows business essentials,” she said.

Braun added that all employees should have antivirus and malware software installed and kept up-to-date. Additional tips from Braun include using a PW manager instead of sharing passwords publically and using website-generated passwords instead of using a “predictable” one.