The number of estate agents being targeted by criminals via cyber attacks is to increase this year, a leading industry body has warned.
The Guild of Property Professionals regularly gets reports from firms hit by hackers trying to defraud their clients, while the increase in remote working has made many smaller agents connecting to their networks more susceptible to cyberattack, says compliance officer Paul Offley (pictured). He predicts incidents will rise even further this year.
“Often small businesses and remote workers have less robust cyber defences making them easier targets, which in turn is pushing the number of cyber-related crimes up,” says Offley.
“The criminals who are behind these cases seem to be intelligent individuals who can mirror emails and make it look as though the information that is sent by them to consumers appears to be legitimate and as if it is coming from the business.”
According to The Guild, more than 95% of insurance claims over cyber attacks are due to human error, sometimes caused by using the wrong name when sending an email, which might contain personal information or confidential data.
Sharing passwords – even with a colleague – can also cause a breach. “No password should be shared with anyone within your organisation other than the person in your business responsible for data protection,” he adds. “Agents should also ensure that they have processes in place that deal with someone leaving the business, and that all of their passwords and access to personal and company data has been removed.”
The Guild offers members access to free professional indemnity and heavily discounted cyber-crime insurance and Offley advises all agents to check whether their own professional indemnity policies offer full cyber cover.
Read more about recent cyber hacks on the property industry.