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Is the real estate industry safe from cyber-attack?

Home Business Management Disaster Management Is the real estate industry safe from cyber-attack?

By Antonie Goosen: Principal and Founder of Meridian Realty

The short answer is no. Although we don’t often think of real estate firms being at high-risk of cybercrime like finance, healthcare, or manufacturing, real estate does see its fair share of cyber-attacks. When you consider the large amounts of money and personal data involved in real estate transactions, it makes perfect sense that real estate companies could become easy targets.

When it comes to cybercrime density South Africa ranks right up there with the likes of the UK, USA, and Canada. Why? I imagine those at the top of the list being more lucrative targets, but could it be that companies here are more vulnerable to attack?

According to a recent survey by World Wide Worx 40 percent of companies are spending more than they budgeted for on cybersecurity. This raises the question: could organisations have been under-resourced in terms of cyber-crime prevention until recently.

World Wide Worx CEO Arthur Goldstuck who was the principal analyst on the research project said, “The game of cybercrime is cat and mouse. One could argue that there is no such thing as being over-resourced. However, under-resourcing not only exposes companies to risk, but also poses an existential threat. A major breach can bring down a company. Budgets must catch up to the significance of the threat,” Goldstuck said.

This almost confirms the assumption that we could be more vulnerable due to under-resourcing and that corporates are exceeding their budgets to catch up. What is more alarming is that the property industry has notoriously been targeted by cyber criminals, not only because of the vast amount of personal information criminals can access, but also due to the large sums of money that change hands when property ownership is transferred. Getting on the bandwagon with these sorts of transactions can prove lucrative for cyber criminals and devastating for the victims.

On a positive note, even before Covid-19 and working from home became a norm, estate agents have been doing business from various locations for many years. This places estate agencies in a good position to know how to secure end point devices, manage transactions securely and store and secure data. The reality is, however, that as organisations evolve so too do cyber criminals and the race is on to always be a step ahead.

SA reality firms acutely aware of cyber security

The real estate industry is acutely aware of the risk they face and along with other South African businesses are investing in cyber security. Some reality firms have even created their own secure payment portals to limit email communication exchanges of confidential information like banking details for property deposits, ID numbers and the like.

The majority of attacks on the real estate industry seem to stem mainly from phishing, which is also the most prolific type of cybercrime worldwide. Realty companies need to keep in mind the principals of prevention, detection and how they would respond in the event of a cyber threat. How you respond in the event of an attack is paramount, and almost all of respondents in the World Wide Worx study acknowledged that disaster management is essential.

Dell Technologies recently announced new cloud solutions to easily store, protect, and control data and applications across a number of platforms and locations. Dell APEX Cyber Recovery Services, which will soon to be available here, simplifies recovery from cyber attacks.

For smaller companies, Vodacom and Accenture offer cybersecurity-as-a-service to SMEs and cover assessment, protection, detection, and response.

Buying a home could be the single biggest investment a buyer makes, and loss of a deposit could be devastating for both the buyer and the agency. Cybercrime is an ever-evolving landscape that needs to be navigated in an ongoing fashion. That companies are investing more in security is encouraging and necessary given that we are high up on the list of countries at risk of attack, and reality companies need to stay at the forefront of securing transfers and safeguarding transactions.

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