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SMBs Including Real Estate, Watch Out for these Cyber Security Threats!

There used to be a time when hackers only targeted retailers, but these days, they can target almost any business in any industry, especially those that are not aware of the best cyber security practices.

cyberattack

One of these groups is the real estate industry, and according to a recent survey, approximately half of all businesses in real estate are not prepared to handle any type of cyberattack. Though Federal law requires specific industries, like banks and hospitals, to have security in place, the real estate industry is not one of them. If you work in real estate, here are some common cyber security threats to keep an eye out for.

Business Email Compromise – BEC

A BEC, or business email compromise, is a type of cyberattack that tricks a company into wiring cash into the bank account of a criminal. Hackers do this by “spoofing” email addresses, and then then sending messages to recipients that look like they are coming from someone they trust, such as the CEO or the head of accounting.

This happens a lot; the FBI has found that billions of dollars have been lost due to BEC scams. Yes, this is pretty scary, but there is more. The FBI has also said that those in the real estate industry are targeted, and anyone who participates in a real estate transaction is a possible victim.

Wire Scams During Mortgage Closings

There are also scams during closings. Here’s how it works. Before the sale of a home is complete, the buyer gets an email from their Realtor, a title attorney, or another trusted person in the industry with the details of the date, time, and locations where the closing will take place. Scammers know this, so they create a different email that tells the buyer where to wire the money. But it’s right to the bank account of the scammer. Within minutes of the transfer, the money is pulled out of the account, and the scammer is gone.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center, part of the FBI, shared statistics that from 2015 to 2017 there were more than 10,000 victims of these scams, and the losses here totaled more than $56 million…and it’s growing all of the time.

Ransomware

Another thing that those in the real estate industry need to be aware of is ransomware. This is a type of malware that shuts down a network or a device so that you can’t get into it until you pay up. This is a very profitable scam for hackers, and it is becoming very popular year over year. All it takes is one person on your team to click on a link, and the entire network could be compromised.

Keep in mind that ransomware attacks don’t just target computers. These attacks can target any devices that connects to the internet, including smart thermostats, smart lights, and smart homes. When a digital device gets a ransomware infection, they stop working.

Malware

Though most people have heard about ransomware, there are other forms of malware, too. For example, you have likely heard of spyware or Trojans, which are still out there. Specifically, these are used for cybercriminals to spy on those they are targeting. They can get access to a victim’s bank account, or even steal their email inbox. Hackers also use malware to steal personal info or employee information, and they can get things like personal client information Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, and more. Just knowing this, you can understand why those in the real estate industry are targets.

Cloud Computing Providers

If you work in the real estate industry, your livelihood is at risk thanks to cloud computing. This, you might know, is a more economical way to backup information, so while it is necessary, there are risks. However, hackers can get into these “clouds,” and if they do, they can get access to all of the data in there.

It may seem that by using a cloud computing company that you are actually lowering your risk of becoming a target, but the truth is this: there is still a risk because your devices are likely not as secure as you think, and your passwords are probably not as strong as you think. This means making sure you’re not using the same passcode for any other accounts and enabling two factor authentication for everything.

Don’t Let Your Real Estate Company Become a Victim of a Cyberattack

Now that you know your real estate company can be a target of a scammer, you may wonder how you can lower your risks. Here are some great tips:

  • Write New Policies – One thing you can do is to write new policies to keep things safe. For instance, when you think of BEC scams, if you have a policy in place where you ban wiring money to someone based only on information from an email, you won’t have to worry about BEC scams any longer. Instead, make it a rule that you must talk to the person sending the email, and you must be the one to make the call to confirm. Don’t call the number that is in the email, though. Confirm that it is correct. It could be the number of the scammer.
  • Teach Your Staff – You also want to make sure to have better training for your staff. Most of the attempts at hacking come from email, so when you train your staff to stop blindly opening attachments nor click on links in emails, you can protect yourself from these scams. You also should look into a Cyber, Social & Identity Protection Certification This is where you can learn more about the methods and strategies that you can employ to cut down on any incidents. You can also learn about developing procedures that help keep your clients safer.
  • Teach Your Clients – Speaking of clients, you want to help them, too. All wire scams having to do with closings can be prevented in most cases. Make sure your clients know that in the process of selling or buying a home, there are going to be a lot of emails floating around, including those from Realtors, mortgage companies, insurance companies, home inspectors, real estate attorneys, and more. Make sure they know that before clicking on anything or wiring money that they should first call their Realtor. They should never, ever send money unless they get the go-ahead to do it, and then they still need to make sure to confirm that the transfer is going to the right place.
  • Back Up Your Devices and System – Always make sure that everything is backed up, including your devices and your network. This way, if you do get hacked, you won’t have to pay a ransom, and the information is easy to get back.
  • Check on Cloud Computing Contracts – It is also a good idea to look into what you are getting from your cloud computing provider. They don’t like to take responsibility for a cyberattack, and there might even be something in your contract with them that says they won’t. So, you should start your own negotiations with the company in question about what you can do about something like this.
  • Buy Cyber-Liability Insurance – Finally, you should consider getting cyber-liability insurance. This could definitely help make things less risky for your real estate business. There are all types of different policies out there, so do some research or speak to a professional.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

This is What a Scary Psycho Cyber Stalker Looks Like

Ryan is a stalker. Ryan was arrested on charges of cyberstalking in October 2017 after it was discovered that he was cyberstalking his former roommate, a 24-year old woman, along with her friends, family, and other acquaintances.

cyberstalkingThe victim claims that Ryan was involved in hacking and cyberstalking since April 2016. She says that he began hacking into her accounts and stole her photographs, personal diary entries, and personal information. Once Ryan had this information, she says that he sent it to her friends, family, and acquaintances.

On top of this, the female victim also says that Ryan created online profiles using her name and photos, and then used those accounts, pretending he was her, to find sexual partners. She claims that because of Ryan’s actions, strange men began showing up at her home, as Ryan would give them her address. Ryan also did things like use the victim’s photos and information to threaten others, and even went as far as claiming that she was going “shoot up” a school.

Many people like Ryan believe that they can use the internet anonymously to terrorize others. They also often believe that they are smarter than law enforcement and will get away with these crimes. The Department of Justice has announced that it is focused on not only identifying and arresting stalkers but prosecuting and punishing them for these actions.

Ryan created a huge cyber stalking campaign where he hacked and harassed his victim. This, of course, was terrible for her to go through, but it also used up law enforcement resources, which was totally unnecessary. Too many people see hacking and cyber stalking as a prank or even as harmless, but it is far from it. It is very scary, and it causes the victims to become very frightened. No one should feel unsafe in their school, home, or workplace, yet Ryan made sure that people did, especially his victim. It is the hope of law enforcement that Ryan’s arrest will stop others from doing similar things. But it won’t.

Protect Yourself:

  • Do background checks on roommates. Although this may not find anything
  • Get references. Just like shopping on eBay or Amazon, check the “reviews”
  • Cover your tracks online by using various privacy and security software
  • Password protect all your devices
  • Install a Home Security system
  • Take self defense
  • Consider firearm training if you face a significant threat
  • Get a protection dog
  • If you can afford it get a body guard
  • Freeze your credit and get identity theft protection. Even though this doesn’t stop a stalker, it makes the victim and less appealing target.

Though Ryan was arrested in the state of Massachusetts, cybercrimes like hacking and cyber stalking fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. All sentences are giving by a federal district court judge, and the sentences are based on both federal sentencing guidelines and other important factors.

Ryan is in jail. He was sentenced to 210 months, over 17 years in prison and five years of supervised release, after pleading guilty in April 2018 to seven counts of cyberstalking, five counts of distribution of child pornography, nine counts of making hoax bomb threats, three counts of computer fraud and abuse and one count of aggravated identity theft.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

Survey Shows Most People Back Up…But Not as Often as They Should

According to a new survey, we now have a good idea of the habits of the regular person in regard to backing up their devices. The survey, which covered almost 3,000 people, looked at people around the world. What it shows is that 91 percent of people back up their devices and their data. But, 68 percent of people still lost data because of a different reason. These include accidentally deleting the data, software or hardware failure, or even because they hadn’t backed up their data recently. The truth is, only 41% of companies and people back up each day, which leaves most of us…and most businesses…vulnerable to data loss.

surveyThe data from this survey stress how important it is to implement some type of cyber protection strategy for a business, which includes backing up data several times a day, and using the 3-2-1 backup rule. This is creating three copies of your data (a single primary copy and two backups), storing your copied on two different types of storage option, and then storing one of the copies in the cloud or remotely.

Change the Game with Cyber Protection

With more cyberattacks happening all of the time, the traditional methods of backing up our data is no longer working. We simply cannot rely on only backing up our information. It is way too dangerous.

Cybercriminals will target backup software with their own ransomware, and then try to modify the files, which makes it even more important to protect your information.

Recommendations for Cyber Protection

There are a number of different ways you can protect your personal or company’s information. Here are just five things you can do to ensure that your data is relatively safe:

  • Create a backup of your most important data…always – Keep a number of different copies of your backup locally and in the cloud. You want to do it locally so you can access it quickly and frequently, and you want to save it in the cloud to make sure that even if there is a fire, flood, or other disaster, your data is safe.
  • Ensure your OS and applications are all the current versions – If you are not updating your OS or apps, it means that they are much more vulnerable to getting hacked. These updates often contain patches and fixes that can keep cybercriminals out.
  • Beware of any suspicious links, emails, or attachments – Most ransomware and virus infections are created by using social engineering, and they trick unsuspecting people into opening these infected attachments or clicking on a link that installs malware to the device or network.
  • Install anti-virus, anti-ransomware, and anti-malware software – While you are doing your automated updates for your apps and OS, you should also be using all of these different software options, too.
  • Consider using an integrated cyber protection solution – You want to choose an option that combines anti-ransomware, anti-virus, backup, patch management, and a vulnerability assessment all in a single solution. This type of solution increases efficiency, ease of use, and the reliability of your protection.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

 

Working from Home Due to COVID-19? Protect Yourself from Cyberattacks

As we start to get used to living in a world where COVID-19 is changing everything, one of the differences that many have people are doing is working from home. With so many people now working on their home networks, cybercriminals are stepping up, and they are hoping to take advantage of people making security mistakes and doing more searches, specifically on COVID-19. This is a great opportunity for these thieves to target their victims.

COVID-19

Keep in mind that most people who are working from home are not working on a very secure network. Cyber attackers know this, and its important that both individuals and companies take the steps to protect themselves from COVID-19 and their information.

What Can Companies Do?

During this time, managers, owners, and supervisors should be setting clear expectations about how their businesses are going to work in these new environments. When these changes come down, they should come from the top. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You Must Understand the Threats – Business leaders should understand what threats are likely and prioritize protection methods based on that.
  • You Must Release Clear Guidance – It is also important that your organization’s at-home policies are easy to understand for all employees. This should include informing staff to communicate with security teams in the case of suspicious activity.
  • You Must Offer the Right Security – All business leaders should ensure that any company-owned devices are equipped with the best security capabilities. This includes the following:
    • The ability to connect securely to a business-owned cloud, and access to video teleconferencing apps that are important for remote workers.
    • Endpoint protection for all mobile devices and laptops including VPN tools and encryption.
    • Enforce the use of multi-factor authentication.
    • The ability to put a block on malware, exploits, and other threats using the best types of software and hardware.
    • A plan to filter any malicious domain URLS and stop any phishing attacks.

What Can Individuals Do?

People working from home should also take steps to ensure that they are remaining safe when working remotely.  Here are some things to do:

  • Create Strong Passwords – You should always create strong passwords and consider a password manager to facilitate multiple passwords opposed to the same passwords across multiple accounts.
  • Update Software and Systems – Install any system updates or patches as soon as you see them.
  • Make Sure Your Wi-Fi Access Point is Secure – Look at your Wi-Fi access point and make sure to change the passwords and default settings.
  • Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) – A VPN is a good way to create a safe connection between a home computer and the worker’s organization.
  • Be Smart About COVID – 19 Scams – There are a ton of scams out there, including fake apps, so be smart.
  • Don’t Mix Work and Personal Tasks – Use your work device for your work and your personal device for personal tasks.

By taking these steps into consideration, either as a business leader or an employee, you can help to address some of the most common risks that you might face when working from home. Keep all of these tips in mind, and if something seems a little weird or strange, it’s probably best to report it to your company’s IT professional.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.