As real estate and property management moves toward a more comprehensive digital experience, both real estate agents and clients have to take steps to protect digital information. Large data breaches have affected companies and consumers across America, but smaller companies are not immune from attacks. Here are some steps you can take to protect your digital assets and communications from hackers and accidental data breaches.
Protect Your Office Network
Whether you work from a home office, brick and mortar office, or out of your car, your primary computer and internet connection is the first place to look for digital security weakness.
If you use wireless internet, ensure that you use a strong password for both your network and your router. Most users setup a password for their wireless network when they setup their router, but few change the default password for the router itself.
Each brand uses a different default user and password for routers. Commonly, both are set to use “admin” as the default. This leaves you open to hackers who can access all information on connected devices, and savvy hackers can even see all internet traffic passing through the network. You can easily plug this hole by accessing your network interface. The most common way to do so is type your router IP address into your browser bar. The default for most networks is 192.168.1.1. Popular brand defaults can be found here. Not only should you change the router’s admin password, but you should also change the admin username to something else.
Encrypt Sensitive Communications
Email is generally safe and secure, but you can go a step further making sure all email traffic and email communication is encrypted and protected.
If you use a web based email client like Gmail, your emails are encrypted when traveling between the server and your browser automatically. To make sure your traffic is secure, look in your browser bar to make sure your connection starts with https, not http. The S on the end stands for secure, and indicates that secure socket language (SSL) is used for your connection.
Taking this one step even further, you can setup an encrypted partition or drive on your PC or Mac that requires a password to decrypt and access. Place all your client documents and files in that encrypted partition. Both Mac and Windows operating systems’ built-in disk manager tools allow you to create an encrypted partition and mount it like a drive.
Use Secure Passwords
Just using a password does not make your digital information safe. You need to use a strong, secure, unique password for every site to stay clear of the bad guys. Never use any dictionary words or simple number strings as passwords. Instead, use fully random alphanumeric passwords for each site using uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. The longer the password, the better. Try using a phrase or sentence as a password with upper and lowercased mixed in with numbers and symbols. While you want to have a strong password, it also needs to be memorable.
To help you achieve this, you can use of a handful of free tools. My favorite, and the one I use myself, is Lastpass. A premium version is available for $1 per month (paid annually) that includes full smartphone support for Android or iOS.
If you use the same password, or just a few variations, you are setting yourself up for identity theft or fraud if any of those sites are ever breached. Protect yourself with strong passwords so you don’t have to worry when your favorite website falls victim.
Be Smart with Data and Relationships
Whether you are a new and growing real estate agent or on the lookout for a new agent to help you with your next real estate transaction, always stay smart with your data and relationships.
Keeping your data secure is just one small piece of the greater real estate picture.