The real estate industry, like all other industries, is highly vulnerable to cybersecurity risks. The best way for those involved in this industry to stay on top of cyber attacks is to understand the potential threats and create a plan. Real estate transactions involve personal information such as social security numbers, financial data, driver’s license numbers, insurance information, passport numbers, and passwords. What increases the risk of a cyberattack is that this information is being stored in the cloud. Additionally, real estate firms deal with many different vendors. Therefore, a careless mistake by one of the vendors can be an opportunity for a hacker to launch their attack.
Moreover, many real estate companies pay little attention to data security and privacy. According to a study by KPMG, 30% of organizations had fallen victim to cybercrimes in the past two years. The study further revealed that a mere 50% of organizations said they had sufficient resources to avoid or mitigate a cybersecurity event.
Owing to the cybersecurity threat targeting the real estate industry, firms should have strong IT safeguards and include physical and administrative safeguards in their data security plan. These safeguards include awareness training, access management policies, vendor assessment, management plans, and equipment inventory. Although it is essential to have safeguards to prevent cybersecurity breaches, you should also be prepared to respond to a data breach.
Understand Risks And Vulnerabilities
The type of risk a real estate firm is likely to encounter will depend on several factors. These include the type of business, the area where that business is situated, and the type of personal information that is used in the business. Additionally, the level of risk a company is exposed to will also vary depending on the prevention and mitigation measures it has put in place. For example, the IT staff at an organization may be skilled in systems management but are not familiar with the latest cybersecurity attack methodologies.
Develop And Practice An Incident Response Plan
Real estate firms should create an incident response plan before a cybersecurity incident occurs. The stages of developing a plan are as follows:
- Create an internal team. These are people in the leadership sector, human resources, and information technology department. These are people who will respond to any data breach. Their responsibilities will include deciding on how the company will respond to a cybersecurity threat.
- Create an external team. These are experts who are recruited from outside of the company for a specific purpose. They include forensic investigators, legal counsel, public relations, and notification vendors. You should identify the external team members beforehand to increase the chances of a successful data response plan. This will avoid spending a lot of time identifying third-party service providers when a breach occurs.
- Seek the counsel of cyber insurance carriers or insurance providers to determine the coverage options for cyber events. If there is coverage, you should engage an insurance carrier when a cyber breach occurs.
- Consider all the contractual and legal responsibilities that will impact the response process.
- Make sure you clearly state the roles and responsibilities of all members of the response team. For example, some members’ roles are related to discovering the incident, while others may be involved with third-party inquiries and others with coordinating with law enforcement. Some members should also be assigned the role of continuous monitoring so they may be able to detect security and compliance risks within the company’s infrastructure. The company should clearly define the decision-making process to ensure good choices and prevent delays.
- All members of the response team may not have experience dealing with a data breach response. Therefore, after creating the data response plan, the organization should simulate a breach in action so members can gain experience in navigating different breach response stages. This will increase the company’s chances of addressing an incident efficiently.
Create Awareness Throughout The Organization
An essential part of addressing cybersecurity risks is creating awareness. This includes:
- Educating employees on how to identify attacks and other types of data breaches
- Instructing employees on how to respond when they identify an attack. For example, they should know who to notify.
- Instructing employees on what they should not do. For example, they should not delete files or restore the system to an earlier time.
Preparedness is crucial when it comes to addressing cybersecurity threats. An incident response plan should also be accompanied by employee awareness. Employees need to be aware of the risks involved when handling sensitive data and the steps required to prevent or mitigate a cybersecurity incident. It is also worth noting that the cyber risks that are likely to affect one company will not necessarily apply to another firm. Therefore, understanding the risks that apply to your company is essential in creating a formidable data breach response plan.