Tech surge makes cybersecurity awareness a must for Realtors®, homeowners 

Cybercrime isn’t something that happens to someone or somewhere else. The Tri-Cities has and continues to see its share. Each October since 2004 has been designated Cybersecurity Month.  

RICK CHANTRY
2022 NETAR President Association Spokesperson

The National Association of Realtors© (NAR) offers these reminders that can help keep their members in a safe zone: 

  • Never click on unknown email attachments or links, as doing so can download malware onto your device. 
  • Use encrypted email, a transaction management platform, or a document-sharing program to share sensitive information. 
  • Carefully guard login and access credentials to email and other services used in the transaction. 
  • Regularly purge your email account and archive important emails in a secure location. 
  • Use long, complicated passwords such as phrases or a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. 
  • Do not use the same password for multiple accounts. 
  • Consider using a password manager. 
  • Use two-factor authentication whenever it is available. 
  • Avoid doing business over public, unsecured WiFi. 

NAR also urges members and brokers to: 

  • Keep antivirus software and firewalls active and up to date. 
  • Keep your operating system and programs patched and up to date. 
  • Regularly back up critical data, applications, and systems, and keep backed-up data separate from online systems. 
  • Don’t download apps without verifying that they are legitimate and won’t install malware or breach privacy. 
  • Don’t click on links in texts from unknown senders. 
  • Before engaging any outside IT provider, review the applicable privacy policies and contracts with your attorney. 

Another important reminder for both Realtors® and their clients is to assume that everything they say and do during a showing could be on video. That means keeping important “likes, dislikes, and discussions about negotiations” in a safe place where they can’t be overhead. 

The World Economic Forum’s State of the Connected World found that the use of connected devices increased dramatically during the pandemic. It delivered many benefits and an increased volume of threats. 

Here are a few examples of household items most vulnerable cited in a 2021 State of the Union address from President Ursula von Der Layen.

  • Smart TVs 
  • Video doorbells and intelligent security systems 
  • Robot vacuum cleaners 
  • Smart garage door openers 
  • Smart baby monitors.  

Each of the devices shares the same vulnerabilities. They are not connected to the Internet of Things but are part of a home’s WiFi network. 

A recent survey found that almost half (42%) of homeowners use smart home devices. And 98% of them are aware of and worry about privacy threats because, all too often, smart devices have weaknesses that make them vulnerable to attack.  

The Forum offers these reminders to help reduce smart device vulnerabilities at home. 

  • Connect devices with an ethernet cable instead of WiFi when possible 
  • 2. Use strong and unique passwords 
  • 3. Always change the default name of your WiFi network after it’s installed 
  • 4. Use two-step verification 
  • 5. Keep your devices updated and turn them off when you are not using them 
  • 6. Always complete the device set-up when you use it for the first time 
  • 7. Don’t buy cheap connected devices. 

NAR recommends that homeowners have: 

  • Main network 
  • Guest network 
  • Surveillance camera network 
  • Internet of things smart device network. 

It’s more complex to configure, but it’s work the effort, according to David Nguyen Regional Manager for Linksys Business Products. A detailed article on his and other suggestions for keeping a smart home security can be found on Realtor© Magazine at https://www.nar.realtor/magazine/real-estate-news/technology/keeping-your-smart-home-secure 

It’s reasonable to see that home cybersecurity checks have earned a place with things like a homeowner’s annual winterization and pest control maintenance.  

There’s no argument that the technology surge that began during the pandemic has made many things more convenient. Many have become a fact of life, making increased cybersecurity awareness part of that fact of life.  

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It is the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region, representing over 1,600+ members and 100+ business partners involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Weekly market reports and information for both consumers and members are available on the NETAR website at https://netar.us