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Cybersecurity for Real Estate Agents

by Jane Ginn
Recently I’ve been delivering short training sessions for real estate agents on how to harden their computer defenses against online computer crime.  Real estate agents and brokers are especially vulnerable at this time because they often operate as small business people, each maintaining their own websites, mailing lists, contact lists, and prospect and client databases.  Through these cyber activities they are especially vulnerable to malware (viruses, Trojans, spyware, worms) and phishing attacks.  They are also vulnerable to various scams like the Mr. Ding Lin scam (a supposed real estate investor from China), the various 419 scams (modeled after the infamous Nigerian person who needs someone offshore to handle a large sum of money) and various eBay and Craig’s list scams that target real estate agents, buyers and sellers. According to Scambusters.org auction fraud accounts for roughly 48% of online fraud reports to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Real estate agents are also very busy with their own core business process and rarely have time to monitor their computer systems and networks to ensure they have the latest and greatest bells and whistles to keep them safe online.  For this reason I’ve been giving a series of in-person training sessions.  My intent is to provide them with enough up-to-date information on the magnitude of the problem, how various activities they engage in during the day can make them vulnerable, and how to employ “countermeasures” to avoid being victimized.

Figure 1 – Business Process

Figure 1 shows the basic model I am using to break down the various online exploits into bite-sized pieces for non-technical adult learners.  I walk the class through each of the exploits that can happen at any stage of their business process.  In addition, I show how the networks themselves can be penetrated which, in turn, can make them vulnerable.

Importantly, I explain how people who are unprotected by a virus protection program and a personal firewall can have pieces of computer code planted on their computer that will connect them to a remote server for distributed denial of service attacks and other Internet-wide malfeasance.  I jokingly call myself an “Botnet Terminator Evangelist” because I’m trying to spread the word far and wide at the source of the problem, the uninformed user.

At the end of my training I provide a collection of resources for small business people to use to help them harden their own security and learn more about the various exploits that are wrecking havoc in business due to cyber crime.

If your real estate group would like to schedule an in-person or web-based training session, please contact me at: jane (at) sedonacyberlink (dot) com.  I have a sample of my PowerPoint training at my SedonaCyberLink SlideShare channel.