While it has been brought to light before, it is worth remembering as we make plans and resolutions for the year ahead to be vigilant and have procedures in place to protect against cyber-attack. This is according to Paul Offley, Compliance Officer of The Guild of Property Professionals, who says that he continues to hear about more and more new cyber-related cases impacting estate agents.
“It seems that the property sector is a prime target among cyber criminals and every few weeks we hear of more cases where businesses have been hacked and someone has got into their system and is trying to defraud consumers. The criminals who are behind these cases seem to be intelligent individuals who can mirror emails and make it look as though the information that is sent by them to consumers appears to be legitimate and as if it is coming from the business. These types of cases are on the rise and is something that I believe will continue to increase as we go into 2022,” says Offley.
He adds that aspects such as the increase of remote working has acted as a catalyst and has made many smaller businesses more susceptible to cyberattack. “In the past large-scale corporations with strong cyber defences have fallen prey to hackers, so how much more vulnerable are smaller businesses and remote workers connecting to their networks. Often small businesses and remote workers have a less robust cyber defences making them easier targets, which in turn is pushing the number of cyber-related crimes up,” Offley comments. “Given the sensitive nature of the information that estate and lettings agents have in the possession, the rise in cybercrime is a particular concern for the sector, and agents should be taking all possible measures to prevent a potential incident.”
The Guild is able to offer its members access to free Professional Indemnity and heavily discounted Cyber-crime insurance to ensure they are protected should an incident arise, but Offley strongly recommends that all agents review their level of cyber cover with their own insurance brokers. Not all professional indemnity policies offer full cyber cover, or the same benefits of a standalone cyber policy.
According to Offley statistics reveal that over 95% of cyber insurance claims are due to human error. “It could be a simple matter of selecting the incorrect name when sending an email, which might contain some personal information or confidential data. It could also be because someone in the office has shared their password with someone they should not have, even if they are a colleague. No password should be shared with anyone within your organisation other than the person in your business responsible for data protection. In addition, passwords should be complex, so they are difficult to try and replicate. Agents should also ensure that they have processes in place that deal with someone leaving the business, all of their passwords and access to personal and company data has been removed.”
In conclusion, Offley says that while no-one is immune to a potential cyber-attack, it is best to have preventative measures in place to prevent any risk. If an incident does occur, ensure that you have got some kind of protection in place