Safeguarding the sale: Cybersecurity best practices for estate agents

Cybersecurity is more critical than ever for estate agencies looking to safeguard client data and property information. As property transactions and communications have moved increasingly online, sensitive client financial information, property details and listing data have become vulnerable to cyber threats. 

Recent high-profile data breaches in the real estate industry have highlighted the need for better security measures and protocols to tighten the security of property transactions. For estate agents, a breach of confidential client data or sensitive property information could be catastrophic — not just financially, but could seriously damage client trust and the company’s reputation. 

Adopting cybersecurity best practices has therefore become essential for real estate professionals. Robust security measures are needed to encrypt data, secure networks and devices, control access and monitor for potential threats. For agencies looking to step up their cybersecurity, here are some best practices to follow. 

Encrypt sensitive files and data

One of the most vital cybersecurity steps for estate agencies is encrypting sensitive client and property files. Encryption converts information into coded form that cannot be read without a decryption key, providing an essential layer of security should files fall into the wrong hands.

Designate an encryption solution that aligns with your tech environment and needs, while making sure it integrates seamlessly into agents’ workflows. Whenever you’re dealing with things like purchase agreements, financial records, property appraisals or listings and client personally identifiable information, robust encryption is a must. Businesses need to make it a policy to encrypt all sensitive files and data, both digital and physical. 

Monitoring for threats

Estate agencies must be proactive in monitoring networks and systems for potential cyber threats. One of the most effective ways to manage potential issues is with managed detection and response tools that use AI to identify suspicious activity and anomalies that could indicate a breach. Agencies should also conduct regular penetration testing to probe your network for any weaknesses that bad actors could exploit, and work with managed security providers to monitor continuously for malware, unauthorised access attempts and known attack signatures. 

It’s critical that estate agencies maintain event logs from firewalls, endpoints and other security tools for forensic evidence if incidents occur. Make sure you have an incident response plan ready, stipulating internal procedures and external reporting requirements in case of a confirmed breach. Lastly, evaluate cyber insurance options to transfer some data breach costs to underwriters. Robust threat monitoring and planning empowers agencies to respond effectively when cyber risks materialise.

Secure network and devices

In addition to encrypting sensitive data, estate agencies must also secure their networks and all devices that connect to them. Cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities in networks and endpoints to gain access to systems and steal data, so implementing robust firewalls and endpoint security software is critical. 

Firewalls serve as barriers between your network and external threats, while endpoint protection defends all devices connected to the network. Employ next-gen firewalls with advanced threat detection capabilities. Choose end-to-end endpoint security tools as well, such as antivirus, email filtering and intrusion prevention systems.

With tight access controls, robust perimeter and endpoint defences and stringent password policies. Estate agencies gain significant protection against data breaches, malware, ransomware and unauthorised access with these systems in place. 

Vetting vendors and partners

Estate agencies frequently work with third party vendors who may handle sensitive data. It’s critical to vet these vendors thoroughly for cybersecurity before partnering. Conducting due diligence on potential vendors like title companies, appraisers and inspectors will ensure that your digital security extends beyond your individual business. Review their data security, policies, incident response plans and any past breaches before working with them. 

It also helps to formalise relationships through contracts binding vendors to strong security practices and protocols, so you and your clients can be confident that all necessary precautions are in place. Include cyber liability and indemnity clauses holding them accountable if a breach occurs. By diligently vetting and formalising vendor relationships, agencies reduce third party cyber risks that could lead to data compromise.

Securing virtual viewings

Virtual home tours and open houses have become standard in real estate today and they’re one of the most effective ways to showcase value during market changes. However, while providing convenience and access, virtual viewings introduce cyber risks that agents must mitigate. For all virtual showings, agents should enable passwords, meeting locks and waiting rooms with controlled admission. Agents need to ensure they never share unprotected tour links on websites or social media, and that they vet registrants and limit sharing of sensitive property details until identity is confirmed. 

For video tours and live streams, disable recording features to prevent unauthorised copies and watermark materials with agent contact info and warnings against illegal use. With thoughtful security controls and training, agencies can conduct virtual viewings safely and prevent data misuse.

Training staff on security

A strong cybersecurity posture requires the entire estate agency team be trained on security protocols and aware of threats. Conduct regular cybersecurity training to teach best practices for secure data handling, email security, password hygiene, phishing detection and other topics. Ensure everyone understands encryption, access control, BYOD and other policies so that they’re able to implement your security systems safely. 

Periodic training updates will also accommodate new hires and keep knowledge fresh as technology evolves. Designate an internal team member as a security leader to coach co-workers and ensure adherence to policies. This will help to promote a culture of collective responsibility where the team proactively safeguards data and identifies potential risks. Proper training and accountability at all levels is key to translating cyber policies into daily practices and behaviours.

As you can see, there are several steps for estate agents to create an actionable cybersecurity blueprint to safeguard their business by outlining best practices from encryption to training personnel. A proactive security approach is essential for property professionals to protect client data, secure sensitive property information and prevent breaches in today’s digital landscape. By implementing robust security measures, agencies can strengthen client trust and their reputation as cyber threats continue evolving.

Written by Agency Express guest writer Annie Button