Cybersecurity and the Real Estate Market:
The author will be writing a monthly article throughout 2019 on Cybersecurity across various market segments. Be sure to watch for it to see how your business may benefit from this important information. Good reading and see you next month.
Although real estate businesses have vulnerable information and systems that make them a focus for potential cyber attackers, there is no federal law that requires the real estate market to comply with cybersecurity requirements.
The FBI has established that more than $3 billion of losses in the real estate sector have been attributed to business email compromise (BEC). In a BEC scenario, a cyber attacker will send an email from a phony account that appears to be from inside the targeted business. This email tricks the business into wiring funds to criminal bank accounts by pretending to be colleagues such as vendors, agents, or sellers. While any business can be subject to a BEC attack, the FBI states that the BEC scam “targets all participants in real estate transactions.” Because of frequent wire transfers in the real estate industry, BEC scams will remain a significant threat to any business engaged in real estate transactions. 
Now that real estate businesses are a target of cybercriminals, they must implement protections that will reduce the chance of an attack and will allow for the ability to respond quickly to minimize damage to the business information and systems. There are a few actions that can be taken to help mitigate the risk; developing a wire transfer protection policy, employee training to recognize email deception, backup of data systems, and acquisition of cyberliability insurance that covers risks like BEC scams.
It is plain to see that real estate organizations have become a target for cyber criminals. Improving cybersecurity controls and managing risk through proactive actions should be a priority for every organization in the real estate industry.
 Stein, G., “Top Five Cybersecurity Threats to Real Estate Businesses”, National Real Estate Investor, Sep 2017.
A. Elisabeth Tolsdorf is author of this article and the Director of NIST SP 800-171 Compliance for Hawk Technologies, a woman-owned firm located in Houghton, Michigan. Hawk is the Upper Midwest’s primary source for NIST SP 800-171 Compliance services. Additional information about NIST SP 800-171 and Hawk’s CAD services capabilities can be found at www.hawktechinc.com.