Cybercrime is a hot topic at the moment, but for too many real estate agents in Australia it’s seen as a problem that doesn’t affect them.

In reality, Australia is a major target for cybercrime and, given the information held by real estate agents, our industry is at risk.

Cybercrime not only affects Australian business and real estate agencies, but it does so in a huge way. The simple reason is that Australia is a rich country, which makes it a high-value target.

“...the average cost of a cybercrime attack is $276,323”

Common kinds of cybercrime include identity theft, fraud, online scams and computer or website hacks.

According to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, cybercrime costs the Australian economy $1 billion a year. The government's Stay Smart Online initiative says the average cost of a cybercrime attack is $276,323 and that it takes an average of 23 days to resolve an attack.

As well as direct costs, indirect costs such as business disruption, information loss and productivity issues all have an effect on an agency and its clients.

Who could be a threat to your business?

There's no simple answer ‒ it could be an individual trying to get lucky or it could be an organised group looking for a payday. Some criminals are looking for financial gain, whether through you directly or indirectly through your data.

There is also a small chance that it could be a competitor or a client you work with, but this is the most unlikely case.

There have also been reports of former or current employees who look to cause damage. This is why it's a good idea to change the password for social media accounts regularly.

Why cybercriminals might be interested in real estate agents

Cybercriminals scour the internet to find a weak link to gain access to their targets. Often they'll do mass attacks on thousands of websites, trying a certain method to gain access to information wherever they can.

We often hear news reports of major sites having breaches, but often businesses don't know they've been attacked until it's too late. Simple things like having basic 'admin/password' login details or having out-of-date website technology can cause problems.

Even if you don't think your agency is much of a target in itself, it has something extremely valuable: the information of property investors.

As many property investors are seen as wealthy individuals, they make an obvious target. Even something that seems like a small detail ‒ their phone number, date of birth or personal address ‒ can be highly valuable to a cybercriminal.

As well as your clients' data, all your business documents and employee records could be vulnerable.

Keeping this type of information safe and secure should be a top priority for every agency.

How cybercriminals get access to your data

The most common way that businesses are at risk is through hacks, most likely of your email system or website. This can be done by brute force (a computer program that simply guesses password after password) or it could come through another hacked website (if you use the same email and password combination for more than one account).

How to protect your agency against cybercrime

According to Michelle Price, CEO of AustCyber, the best first step for anyone to take is to take password security seriously.

One thing that anyone can do is to create strong, difficult-to-guess passwords that are different for every site and account you use.

The other is to use a password manager, such as LastPass or 1Password, which safely stores your details and stops people getting easy access to them.

These are simple steps that we encourage all agencies ‒ and all agents ‒ to take, and as a first line of defence it can make a real difference.

You can find more information and tactics on the government's AustCyber website. And if you’d like more protection, talk to us at One Agency head office about cyber insurance.

"It’s not what you make, it’s what you keep that counts."
‒ Paul Davies, Founder and CEO

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