The Center for Realtor Technology of the National Association of Realtors today released a new software tool to enhance the security of real estate data.

The new software product, reCaptcha 1.0, is a package that can determine whether a computer has been under attack by a remote computer programmed to intrude secretly and capture private data from Web sites. The product is designed to assist system managers to develop countermeasures to protect computer systems from a form of data theft called “scraping.”

Scraping is the capturing of information covertly from systems or programs that contain such data as property listings, private passwords, billing and financial information.

“Risks of compromise, corruption and even theft of data continue to grow. Since pirates and intruders often program computers to search the World Wide Web and collect information in a stealthy, covert fashion, being able to detect and identify the source of such attempted intrusions is one important step in making computer usage secure,” said Mark Lesswing, NAR vice president and director of CRT.

“By using this tool, Realtors can reduce the risk of listing piracy, ensure better protection of their business assets and sellers’ privacy, and avoid paying questionable referral fees,” Lesswing said.

ReCaptcha has just been released in its beta version, and is intended primarily to serve real estate companies and Multiple Listing Systems, as well as real estate associations.

“The reCaptcha package is one in a series of tools that CRT is developing to maintain the integrity of real estate data and to ensure its security,” Lesswing said. In the last 60 days, CRT released NoScrape, a related data security product developed by CRT that makes listing theft more difficult and helps prevent others from stealing members’ listings by unauthorized copying. Lesswing said CRT is also preparing white papers, scheduled for release in early July, on how to defeat scraping.

ReCaptcha is an open source product; that is, its source code is not proprietary. NAR members can obtain more information on reCaptcha and download a free copy at http://www.crt.realtors.org/projects/reCaptcha/index.html.

ReCaptcha is based on work published by the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science CAPTCHA Project and on work by the late British code breaker Alan Turing. CAPTCHA technology is already widely used at ticket sales sites, banks and free e-mail Web sites to discourage automatic programs from accessing such systems.

CRT is a division of the National Association of Realtors that provides advocacy, implementation and information on technology to the real estate industry.

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