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  • Mal McCallion

Digital drama: 5 ways to protect your business from hacks

A digital tremor shook the property world this week when CTS, a significant tech backbone for the legal profession, fell prey to a 'cyber incident'. This unfortunate event disrupted services for around 80 conveyancing clients, directly hitting estate agent sales. Not much else is known about what's happened - or when/whether it's going to get fixed - but it's had a real impact on many homemovers, with some distressing tales to tell already.

It was a stark reminder of the cybersecurity threats looming over estate agents, too, in this digital transaction era.

Estate agents heavily lean on IT providers for their daily operations. CRM systems like Reapit and Alto are at the heart of their business. A cyber attack on these systems can not only bring operations to a standstill but also put sensitive client information at risk. These incidents underline the digital vulnerabilities of estate agents and the need for robust cybersecurity measures.

So, how can estate agents shield themselves in this digital age? Here are our top five cybersecurity tips:

  1. Regular Data Backups: Regularly backing up all critical data, including client information and transaction records, is a primary line of defence in cybersecurity. Opt for a mix of on-site and cloud-based backups for redundancy. Regular backups ensure swift business recovery without significant disruption in case of data loss due to a cyber attack.

  2. Update and Patch Systems: Cybercriminals often exploit outdated software vulnerabilities. It's crucial for estate agents to keep their CRM systems, along with all other software, up-to-date. Regular updates and patches seal security gaps and protect against the latest threats. Automating these updates can ensure they're not overlooked.

  3. Employee Training and Awareness: Human error is a significant factor in many cyber incidents. Regular training sessions for staff on cybersecurity best practices are essential. Teach them about recognising phishing emails, the dangers of clicking on unknown links, and the importance of maintaining strong, unique passwords for different systems.

  4. Implement Strong Access Controls: Restricting access to sensitive data is critical. Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add an extra layer of security and implement the principle of least privilege, ensuring employees have access only to the data necessary for their role. This reduces the risk of internal breaches and limits the damage if an employee's credentials are compromised.

  5. Develop a Cyber Incident Response Plan: Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Having a cyber incident response plan helps manage and mitigate damage swiftly. The plan should outline immediate steps after a breach, communication protocols, and a roadmap to resuming operations.

In today's digitally-driven real estate market, cybersecurity is not just an option, but a necessity. The recent cyber incident at CTS is a wake-up call for all estate agents to evaluate and strengthen their cybersecurity posture.

Review your cybersecurity strategies today. If you lack in-house expertise, consider partnering with cybersecurity professionals. Remember, protecting your digital infrastructure is protecting your business's future.

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