Should property professionals worry about cybercrime?

Cyber security is not all about encrypting data, securing servers and worrying about hackers as a lot of the danger comes from within. Take someone leaving your letting or estate agency. Your financial team will work out how much pay is due and file a P45 with HM Revenue & Customs. Colleagues will sign a card and maybe have some drinks. The line manager will write a reference and collect key cards. But the cyber security checklist should come into play as well. IT staff should delete the leaver’s login to the firm’s computer network and change any passwords that would give them access to sensitive business and customer data.

Property is a main target for scammers

Don’t forget logins and passwords on tablets, smartphones and any software apps.

Property has always been a magnet for fraudsters and technology makes their work easier.

Small scams can net large sums of money for little effort.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has highlighted email hijacking as one of the main scams targeting property firms and lawyers.

Hackers intercept open text emails between property firms and clients and scan them for bank details and passwords. Around a thousand times a year, the crooks try to access other people’s bank accounts by diverting emails to ask for updated account details.

A comprehensive insurance policy will pay to defend and settle claims made against you for failing to keep customers’ personal data secure.

Easy to fall victim to cybercrime

In a busy office, someone could easily overlook cyber security rules and pop the passwords or account numbers back to the fraudster who is posing as the lawyer.

The example exposes another often-overlooked cyber security flaw – encrypting emails.

It’s not much good if the office network is bolted down tightly, but emails are still open for anyone to read.

The result of letting a former colleague or scammer have sensitive data can be catastrophic.

Not only does the hack mean a security audit, the risk of prosecution for breaching data protection rules and paying compensation to business contacts or clients, but the firm’s reputation suffers as well.

Comprehensive insurance cover will offer practical support in the event of a data breach from legal advice to notifying customers or regulators.

Reducing cybercrime threats

Reducing the risk of falling victim to cybercrime is mostly common sense:

  • Regularly change passwords
  • Back up data regularly
  • Run antivirus and antimalware software
  • Keep software ‘patched’ ie up-to-date
  • Set security levels for data access
  • Monitor logins
  • Secure emails
  • Limit access to and from the internet
  • Don’t forget to secure all IT devices, such as tablets and iPhones
  • Guard against phishing attacks for personal or financial data

Find out more about cyber threats to letting and estate agents

More advice is available about securing a business network and data from the government’s National Cyber Security Centre.

The NCSC has guides with information about backing up data, dealing with malware and securing email

Another threat that sees a rising trend is ransomware.

The global Wannacry cyber-attack on businesses, government and the NHS network in May 2017 raised awareness of the threat that can cripple a business for days.

Hackers can drop malware into an unprotected network that locks technology until a ransom is paid online or spyware that can seek out and transmit critical data to someone outside of the network.

Comprehensive professional indemnity insurance will protect you if a hacker tries to hold your business to ransom by covering the ransom you have paid and helping you manage the situation.

How professional indemnity cover helps

Comprehensive professional indemnity insurance for letting and estate agents has the option to include cyber insurance to pay out in the event of a cyber-attack.

The policy is triggered in several ways, such as business interruption cover in the event of ransomware, crisis containment to mitigate reputational damage or legal and financial assistance from issues arising from a data breach.

Premiums start from £12.60* a month

*Based on £100,000 worth of cover. Plus insurance premium tax (IPT) currently at 12%.