More and more Russian hackers are looking to unleash cyberattacks across the world. Keep yourself and your clients safe with these strategies from cybersecurity expert Robert Siciliano.

This April, one of Inman’s most popular recurring theme months returns: Back to Basics. All month, real estate professionals from across the country share what’s working for them, how they’ve evolved their systems and tools, and where they’re investing personally and professionally to drive growth in 2022. It’s always smart to go Back to Basics with Inman.

Author Robert Siciliano is CEO of Credit Parent, head of training and security awareness expert at Protect Now, a No. 1 best-selling Amazon author, media personality and architect of CSI Protection Certification, a cyber, social, identity and personal protection designation for real estate agents and their brokers. 

The recent events in Ukraine have definitely shown us some of the worst visuals in recent years. Millions have been pushed out of their homes and thousands of innocent people have died. World leaders are hesitant to push back too hard, and on top of all of that, as the bullets and bombs are flying through the air, Russian hackers are out in full force. 

According to the White House, there are more and more clues that Russian hackers are looking to unleash cyberattacks across the world, but to those who are at the forefront of digital security, this is something that happens more often than we might want to admit. 

The attacks that could come are certainly going to be focused on tearing down critical electronic infrastructures, including water suppliers, electricity suppliers, financial systems and, of course, the internet as a whole. All of this is part of the wider supply chain, including the very food that we consume. 

Real estate wire fraud is just one of many frauds and scams to be aware of and continues to be one of the most prevalent cybercrimes in the U.S. Reports of mortgage wire fraud attempts rose 1,100 percent in the past five years and that’s increasing daily according to data from the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers have lost over $1 billion in real estate transactions.

What can you do to protect your data, devices, yourself and your clients today? Here are 14 strategies:

  1. Always back up your data and make sure that you have an offline backup, as well. 
  2. Use modern security tools, including password managers and biometrics on all devices. 
  3. Encrypt all data so that even if it is stolen, it is unusable to hackers. 
  4. Take a look at information from your local FBI field office to be aware of any active cyber incidents or threats. This is very important if you own or manage a business. Your office’s IT leaders should know where to find this information. 
  5. Always use multi-factor authentication on every device and account you have; this makes it much more difficult for hackers to gain access to your information. 
  6. Focus on a long-term cyber security plan for yourself and your company.
  7. Talk to cybersecurity pros to ensure that all of your company systems are fully updated and protected against any potential vulnerabilities. 
  8. Change passwords for anything and everything. Never use the same password twice, and consider using a “password manager” software that facilitates a different password for every account. 
  9. There are modern tools out there that can check for any potential and known issues. This is called “vulnerability scanning” and the tools are administered by your CIO, CISO or your managed security service provider. Consider adding a “virtual chief information security officer” or vCISO that can perform all these various functions remotely. 
  10. Protect your customers and your company’s intellectual property by building security into your network from the start. Don’t tell yourself you’ll come back and add it later. 
  11. Make sure your office Wi-Fi is password protected. Whenever out and about using your laptop or mobile phone, either use your carrier’s data plan or, when connecting to free Wi-Fi, use a “virtual private network” software that encrypts your data on unencrypted Wi-Fi. 
  12. Provide security awareness training to your staff, and make sure that your team knows and understands the most common tactics that hackers use to steal information. Encourage your employees to report findings if their devices begin acting strange, including if they start slowing down or begin to crash over and over. 
  13. You also want to introduce the security practices that are found in Improving our Nation’s Cybersecurity, a May 2021 Presidential Executive Order. 
  14. Check and recheck to ensure that an emergency plan is in place in case of a cyberattack, and make sure that your staff knows what to do if they suspect something unusual. 

Author Robert Siciliano is CEO of Credit Parent, head of training and security awareness expert at Protect Now, a No. 1 best-selling Amazon author, media personality and architect of CSI Protection Certification, a cyber, social, identity and personal protection designation for real estate agents and their brokers. Follow Robert Siciliano on Twitter.

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