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Is Technology Fragmentation Leading to Security Vulnerabilities in Real Estate?

Security vulnerabilities and scams, such as phishing and wire fraud is on the rise in the residential and commercial real estate industries. These may be so sophisticated even a technology expert can be fooled. Below is a link to a video outlining a specific type of phishing/wire fraud scam from Brandon Wells, chief technology officer of The Group Inc. in Fort Collins:

http://www.realtor.org/articles/urgent-alert-sophisticated-email-scams-targeting-the-real-estate-industry

By Travis Saxton, vice president of technology

Notice the level of sophistication in this combo phishing and wire fraud scam. It’s such an issue that some firms have halted wire transfers and will only permit old-fashioned bank checks. The goal is to help the consumer avoid the headaches that go along with fraud. It can dramatically impact a transaction and have a domino effect on the next home as well. It can slow down the transaction in an already lengthy process. In a fast-paced market where contingencies are looked at as a major inconvenience, every minute counts to the seller on the other end of that transaction.

The National Association of Realtors® has also been watching this trend and has posted several articles on the subject. This article outlines prevention, go to http://www.realtor.org/articles/urgent-alert-sophisticated-email-scams-targeting-the-real-estate-industry

Finally, RE/MAX of Reading, Penn., has put in place layers of security to prevent this type of fraud. Information Technology Operations Manager, Tavia Ritter offers some valuable insight into their setup. “We have been using Mimecast since February 2016,” says Ritter. “It works with Office 365, the G-Suite (if enterprise) and self-hosted servers. It blocks spoofed emails based on the preferences we set, so it helps to minimize the chances of these [fraud] situations that we have heard so much about.” Mimecast also provides email continuity during outages and is flexible enough to allow each user to create his or her own allowed and blocked sender lists while still allowing such lists at a global level.

In addition to the Mimecast for email filtering (which also scans URLS within the email against an always-updated list of bad URLS), Tavia has a firewall and a three-tier software program on each person’s computer. The three-tier process works like this: First, a program called N-Able pushes necessary updates to Windows machines. Second, Webroot, a malware software, tracks the behavior of programs. If something isn’t operating within certain perimeters, Webroot notifies Tavia (ransomware-like behavior.) Finally, a DNS Umbrella is constantly scanning user web traffic against known issue lists updates in real time.

In a day where many brokerages are using multiple email platforms or relying on sales associates to take care of these issues on their own, you are in dire risk of being scammed. If you find that technology or email fragmentation is leaving you vulnerable, it’s time to take action. The Innovativ Group, a REAL Trends CTO group, is pushing one of the largest transaction technology companies to implement a two-step verification authentication for computer sign-ins. Avoidance
is key. While some insurances cover some of these attacks, the process is likely to be lengthy.  

 

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This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of the REAL Trends Newsletter and is reprinted with permission of REAL Trends Inc. Copyright 2016

 

 


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