Just hours after announcing its latest real estate rankings, Real Trends 500 announced that it was the victim of a deliberate digital attack that brought down part of its website.

Steve Murray

Real Trends President Steve Murray announced the hack Wednesday afternoon in an email, saying that “someone who didn’t want you to have access to our REAL Trends 500 report hired a hacker to attack the REAL Trends 500 website.” Murray did not identify the hacker, but said that “we will be rebuilding the website which will likely take a few days.”

“This was a planned, vicious denial-of-service attack on the premier ranking report in the industry and an attack on our company,” Murray also said. “The timing lets us know it was not a random attack but one that was planned to disrupt the ability of the industry to access this valuable information.”

Asked how he knew the attack was planned, an not simply random, Murray told Inman in another email that “it was timed within minutes after we launched that cannot under any circumstances be coincidental.” He also noted that the hackers didn’t attempt to steal any information, and he mentioned having already consulted with outside sources about the incident.

Murray also vowed to get to the bottom of the attack.

“We will find out [the] source no matter how long or how much it takes,” Murray said, “and we have plenty of time and [resources].”

As of mid Wednesday afternoon, much of Real Trends’ website was still functional. But the section devoted to the Real Trends 500 — a widely respected and cited list that ranks real estate firms by number of transactions — directed users to an error message.

The hack was announced just hours after the real estate consulting and analytics firm announced the Real Trends 500 rankings for 2019. For the first time ever, HomeServices of America took the top spot on the list, while long-time champion NRT fell to second place.

Despite the hack, Murray said in his initial email that the rankings are still available because the attackers apparently “forgot that you can still have the information via the PDF.” The email included a still-functioning link to the PDF version of the ranking report.

The hack comes as real estate companies face increasing threats from cyber attackers. A report last fall indicated that real estate firms are prime targets because they deal in high-volume transactions and conduct much of their work online. The report also found that real estate companies had suffered an average of 277 cyber attacks between the third quarter of 2017 and the same time a year later.

One of the most high-profile recent cyber attacks involved hackers stealing information related 1 million StreetEasy accounts. The company learned of the hack after discovering that account information was for sale on the dark web.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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