Cyber crime in the real estate industry
Why Cyber Criminals might target Real Estate Agents, and how you can protect your business.
Cyber crime has been estimated to cost the Australian economy $42 billion per year, and a few aspects of real estate businesses make them a particularly appealing target. Below we provide an overview of what cyber crime in the real estate industry entails, how agents can prepare their businesses, and how Cyber Insurance can help.
Why are real estate agents at risk?
Firstly, you’re likely to hold a lot of personal information on your clients, including bank account details and forms of identification. This type of information is valuable for cyber criminals as it provides them with an easy avenue for identity theft, where cyber criminals steal personal information to, generally, steal money or gain other benefits.
Another reason for real estate businesses being a lucrative target is their involvement in facilitating high-value transactions, with large amounts of money passing through various accounts through settlement platforms. In addition, small businesses tend to be an easier target for cyber criminals as they may not have the resources to protect their assets and data compared to larger organisations.
The combination of these factors has created the ideal environment for cyber criminals to hone in on unsuspecting real estate agents in their attempts to infiltrate their networks and systems.
What could go wrong?
To demonstrate a few examples of how real estate agents may fall victim, here are a few of cyber attacks on Aon’s clients1:
An employee at ABC Real Estate2 received an email which looked like it was from their energy provider. When the employee clicked on the link in the email, malicious malware in the email proceeded to lock down the agency’s computer network.
Homey Real Estate2 sent an email to their client asking for bank account details to transfer money for a deposit. The agency received an email that appeared to have come from the client with bank account details and transferred the money into this account. It turned out that the email chain had been compromised by a hacker in the US, and the money had in fact been transferred to the hacker’s account.
Steps for prevention
Aon’s real estate insurance expert, Peter Lynch outlines three sensible measures to reduce the likelihood or severity of cyber crime:
- Network Security – this is the first line of security that any computer system must provide to stay protected from malicious attacks. It covers the way computers are connected to the internet and protects all network-connected equipment including laptops, servers, printers even smartphones. Common features of network security are firewalls which regulate how internet traffic can be handled or blocked from third parties.
- Staff Education - educating staff during the onboarding process and at regular intervals can help them understand the importance of cybersecurity, recognise potential threats, and adopt good security habits to help protect themselves and the company from cyber threats.
- Multi Factor Authentication – a security mechanism that requires one or more additional verification factors on top of username and password. This is an extra layer of security, making it more difficult for attackers to access sensitive information.
How can Cyber Insurance help?
Cyber insurance is designed to help protect businesses against financial losses arising from cyber crime and is important to consider for any small business with digital exposure. Every company’s insurance needs are different, so it’s essential to carefully review the potential cyber risks that your business faces.
Aon is proud to be a partner of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ).
Get a quote online or call 1300 734 274
Learn more: aon.com.au/REIQ
1 Based on real claims from Aon clients
2 Names anonymised for privacy reasons
© 2023 Aon Risk Services Australia Limited ABN 17 000 434 720 AFSL no. 241141 (Aon)
The information contained in this article is general in nature and should not be relied on as advice (personal or otherwise) because your personal needs, objectives and financial situation have not been considered. Before deciding whether a particular product is right for you, please consider your personal circumstances, as well as the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (if applicable) and full policy terms and conditions available from Aon on request. All representations in the article in relation to the insurance products we arrange are subject to the full terms and conditions of the relevant policy.
Read more about what you can do prevent cybercrime here.
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