Over the last few months, the real estate industry has been the target of several attempts at cybercrime, including phishing attacks and email spoofing. Because real estate professionals deal with the personal information of buyers and sellers, the profession is often viewed as a desirable target for cybercrime.

In order to prevent these sorts of crimes, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, Adrian Goslett, encourages both agents and the public to familiarise themselves with these sorts of scams and to be aware of the best practices to follow when it comes to cyber security. “These scams can often be avoided as long as safe internet habits are followed and recipients are aware of what could be potentially harmful content,” Goslett explains.

To help inform the public of the possible dangers, the IT Department at RE/MAX of Southern Africa provides some expert advice on cyber security:

Explaining Phishing and Spoofing
Because people are more likely to open an email from a legitimate or familiar source, hackers use email spoofing, which is the forgery of an email address so that the message appears to have originated from someone or somewhere other than the actual source, to get recipients to open and possibly even respond to a solicitation. A phishing attack is when a hacker uses email spoofing to retrieve sensitive information for financial gain. When the recipient opens the email and is tricked into clicking a malicious link, they accidentally install the malware embedded by the cybercriminals which freezes their computer and allows the cybercriminal to obtain the necessary information. To guard against this, you should only ever sign into your inbox through your email providers’ usual login site and delete emails that request you to “sign into your email provider to unblock messages”. 

How do I prevent cyberattacks?

1. Develop better password habits

Just about everything requires a password these days, so it is understandable why some choose to use the same password across platforms. But, doing so allows hackers to access all your data with just one password. To make it easier to remember your various passwords, add subtle variations to the password for each account. For example, if your password is 123, your next account could be 123! And a third account could be 123a. Then, always be sure to log out of these accounts when you’re done using them, or your good password habits will have gone to waste.

2. Update your anti-virus across ALL devices

People often forget that mobile devices require the same kind of anti-virus protection as laptops and desktop computers – especially if you are using these devices to receive emails and to log into other applications that contain sensitive data. Make sure that you allow for regular system updates on these devices and keep your anti-virus programs as up-to-date as possible.

3. Be cautious of free Wi-Fi & Apps

Be very weary of free Wi-Fi networks and apps. Always read through the terms and conditions carefully before signing into these things, as you never know what kind of access to personal data you might be granting to the network or app. Free public Wi-Fi networks are also much easier to hack into than private networks, which makes them an ideal target for cybercriminals. If you are using a free Wi-Fi network, avoid logging into any apps that could reveal personal or sensitive data, such as email accounts and banking apps.

As a final piece of advice, Goslett recommends that real estate professionals and the general public alike remain alert for potential threats. “When it comes to IT, I would always err on the side of caution. Never assume that a link from an unverified source is safe or open an email that you have reason to believe to be suspicious. If you are ever uncertain, rather flag the email with your IT support team or email provider before responding to it,” Goslett concludes.