COVID-19 has forced millions of people across the country, including REALTORS®, to work remotely while sheltering in place. This situation creates opportunities for hacker attacks on data security and consumer privacy. It is crucial that America’s workforce maintain cyber security procedures.

“Cyber attacks had been on the rise even before the pandemic. COVID-19 has only created more opportunities for scammers and hackers to infiltrate computers of the many workers who are telecommuting,” said Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR).

SILVAR shares these helpful tips from National Association of REALTORS®’ REALTOR® Benefits Program partner, CyberPolicy, to help REALTORS®, brokerages and other employees keep their business secure while working away from the office:

Use a secure, password protected Wi-Fi connection. Many homes have secure Wi-Fi, but some older installations or shared connections may not be protected. This can be an issue when multiple people connect to a shared router.

Ensure that your computer and antivirus software are up to date. Make sure all security and antivirus software is up to date. This includes privacy tools, add-ons for browsers, router firmware, and phone apps used for business.

Back up all files and data regularly. If a hacker or piece of malware makes its way into your system, all is lost without a backup. Set up a backup schedule, and stick to it.

Do not mix work and leisure activities on the same device. It is crucial to keep personal emails and messages on computers separate from those used for work. Personal shopping, gaming, and logging onto video streaming accounts should also be a no-no on work computers.

Lock all devices when not in use, and use a password manager. This should be practiced at all times, whether working from home or not.

Be on the lookout for phishing emails mentioning COVID-19. These emails may request confirmation of renewal of login credentials and passwords. Delete and do not click links or open files in any email from a person or business that you don’t know.

Consider Cyber Liability Insurance. Consider investing in cyber insurance, a business insurance designed specifically to protect your business in the event of a hack, data breach, or system failure resulting in data loss or financial damages.

To the above Groth adds:
Use two-factor authentication. This will help mitigate hacking especially when using a free email account, such as Yahoo or Gmail and others. 

Don’t use free Wi-Fi without a Virtual Private Network. VPN allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the internet.

Better yet, avoid free web-based email accounts altogether. Establish a company domain name and use it to establish company email accounts.

“Technology has proved beneficial in helping real estate and other businesses continue services during the pandemic, but the increased amount of data collected and used by businesses has made their computers and other technical devices vulnerable to hackers,” said Groth. “It is critical for REALTORS® and consumers to stay ahead of criminals by ensuring their data is protected.”