Technology is constantly improving, which means that cybercrime is on the rise. As an agent, it’s more important now than ever before to protect yourself from the dangers of cyberspace. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has created a checklist that lists cybersecurity measures you can take to keep yourself and your business protected. Here’s an overview of what it has to say.
Email and Password Hygiene
You most likely use your email and a variety of other services everyday to conduct business, which means that your accounts might contain a lot of personal and confidential information. It’s easy to forget about securing your accounts when you access them day in and day out, but this is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself from cybercrime.
According to NAR, your login credentials are especially important to protect. You should carefully guard login and access information to your email and any other service platform you use during the transaction, while also making sure that the usernames and passwords are different for each account. For example, if a hacker accesses one of your accounts, you don’t want them to easily access any others using the same login information. In addition, your passwords should be long and complex, with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols that would be hard for any person or computer to guess. Finally, NAR recommends using two-factor authentication to give your accounts that extra level of security. This requires you to give two forms of identification to access your accounts so that hackers can’t get in, even if they know your password.
When it comes to general email hygiene, NAR recommends that you be careful with both the information you send and the information you receive. When sending emails that contain sensitive information, you should use encrypted email, a transaction management platform or a document-sharing program to protect your information from being easily stolen. If you receive an email that contains any unknown attachments or links, don’t click on them––they could contain malware that infects your device. And whether you’re on the sending or receiving end of an email, NAR recommends that you avoid doing business over unsecured wifi, where hackers can easily access your personal data.
Other IT-Based Security Measures
While it’s a good idea to secure each of your accounts, it’s equally important to protect your devices’ operating systems and software. NAR emphasizes that you should always keep antivirus software, firewalls, operating systems and programs active and up-to-date to receive the highest level of protection. It’s also a good idea to regularly back up the data on your device. By doing this, it will be stored in a safe place in the case that a virus infects your device or someone hacks in and erases your information.
Another way that NAR suggests securing your device is by avoiding any suspicious links or applications. If you receive a text message from an unknown sender that contains a link, don’t open it or your information could be stolen. If you’re downloading an app, make sure that it’s legitimate by researching it beforehand so that it doesn’t breach your privacy or infect your system. And if you ever need an IT provider, work with an attorney to review their policies and contracts before allowing them access to any of your devices.
Law, Policy and Insurance Considerations
So far we’ve talked about some everyday measures you can take to improve your cybersecurity. But there are larger considerations you should also keep in mind to make sure that you’re protected in the long-run. According to NAR, your attorney can help you develop a written disclosure warning clients about the possibility of cybercrimes resulting from their transaction. In this disclosure, you can recommend certain steps for sellers and buyers that will protect their personal information and finances. In addition to a disclosure, NAR recommends that you also develop policies relating to document retention and destruction, cyber and data security and breach notifications and responses.
NAR believes that you should stay up-to-date on those documents and coverages you already have––for example, your insurance coverage. Ask your insurance agent about additional options you can add to your plan, such as cyber insurance and crime protection products. In addition, remember to stay up-to-date with your state’s laws regarding personal information, cyber and data-related business policies and other legally required security-related business practices. This will all help you and your clients stay protected and will save you time and stress in the long run.
It’s easy to put off the small steps that can protect you from cybercrime, but don’t wait! Unfortunately, it’s only becoming more common in today’s digital space. If you don’t start protecting yourself now, you could be a hacker’s next victim at any moment. By implementing the items from NAR’s Cybersecurity Checklist, you can begin living with peace of mind that you and your business will stay protected.