During the REAL Trends’ Gathering of Eagles event in May, this question was asked by Brandon Wells of The Group Inc., “When is it appropriate to include security into the annual budget?

 

In the past few years, our industry has seen tremendous electronic growth. With home searches, e-mails and transaction paperwork and management all online, the process of buying and selling homes is easier than in the past and, arguably, more productive for many brokers.  However, there are a few obstacles to overcome. One such obstacle is a compromised sense of security. I reached out to Wells to further pick his brain on the subject as The Group Inc. provides top-notch security for its brokerage and real estate professionals.

 

If you think your company should incorporate security strategies, the suggestions below may be a good place to start.

 

  1. Use a Secure Server. Urge those in the company to use their company e-mail if it is connected to a secure server. It’s common to see agents conduct their business with their personal e-mail addresses for convenience. However, as a broker, you should be concerned about the delicate information that is being sent back and forth through unsecure means. Encourage agents who work from a home office to take adequate steps to secure their home server. “We’re dealing with the largest transaction a person may make in his or her lifetime,” says Wells. “Security continues to rest in the hands of independent contractors [real estate professionals] who never had to be concerned with data breaches, identity theft and wire fraud.”

 

  1. Communicate Security Concerns. Wire fraud and phishing scandals are in the news daily. The complexity and sophistication of these scams is frightening. If agents and clients don’t know what to look for, some may fall victim, especially when the e-mail format makes it look like the it’s coming from a reliable, vetted source. Be transparent about this concern as it’s important to stress that agents take this seriously.

 

  1. Vet Your Vendors. If you have a preferred vendor list, ask your agents to recommend these vendors to their customers, family and friends. This is especially important if your company does not have an in-house mortgage, insurance or title team.

 

  1. Amp up E-mail Security. Explore an amplified e-mail security with an outside vendor. Vendors such as Mimecast, Cisco, ProofPoint, McAfee and others offer cloud based e-mail security. “They offer the ability in real-time to prevent and stop malicious phishing attempts which is the No. 1 way these wire fraud scams are starting—in a real estate professional’s email.”

 

Even if you’re working with a restricted budget, consider budging for a security allowance. We’ve witnessed large corporations who have immense security procedures set up continue to struggle with keeping up with sophisticated hacking and phishing attacks. “Our industry is a ticking time bomb, and the lowest hanging fruit for a smash-and-dash attack by hackers,” said Wells. It’s best to be proactive when it comes to the security of your brokerage.