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Vigilance, Not Just Systems, Is Key to Bulletproof Cybersecurity

December 13, 2018 | John Salustri

By John Salustri

“Don’t look now, but someone’s watching,” writes IREM President Don Wilkerson in his latest column for NREI. He’s talking about cyberhackers, an invisible ilk of criminals that, he says, costs businesses collectively some $6 trillion a year. What’s worse, he says, is that “There are few protections against their intrusions that they can’t breach.”

And worst of all, he goes on, quoting Gregory Stein, vice chair of the data privacy and information security group at the law firm Ulmer & Berne LLP, in another NREI column: “Unlike for banks and hospitals, there’s no federal law requiring real estate businesses to implement security programs to protect information and systems. That’s led to real estate businesses having vulnerable systems and being the focus of potential attacks. Criminals are using a wide variety of attacks that threaten real estate businesses.”

“The way I see it,” Wilkerson writes, “there are two problems with implementing a bulletproof cybersecurity system. First is cost and second is understanding. Figures I’ve seen put the first-year cost of network security software at around $1,400 — not bad, but not surprisingly, that’s for a basic, no-frills package, adequate for only the smallest of organizations. Obviously, prices balloon up from there. And those prices don’t include the costs — much higher still — of a person to navigate that system and respond to new hacker threats, preferably before they appear.

“Which brings us to the second issue — understanding,” he continues. “We’re property management people. Even if there’s an inclination to solve the issue ourselves, it is best left at the doorstep of a professional, be it in-house IT expertise or a consultant.”

Jeremy Rasmussen, chief technology officer at Abacode, spoke on the subject of cybersecurity at IREM’s Hollywood, Fla., Global Summit, and Wilkerson references some of his advice in his NREI column.  You can access Rasmussen’s takeaways here. Most important of the advice he offers is that, “the entire organization be involved.”

But, as Wilkerson points out, IREM is also tackling the issue head-on with “our recently formed Technology Advisory Board, whose mission is multifold: to determine IREM’s strategy for addressing pertinent technology issues, including data security and cybersecurity; to identify and recommend critical topics and subject-matter experts for editorial content, research and knowledge products, such as webinars, courses and seminars, white papers, JPM articles, conference sessions and blog entries; and to provide guidance in identifying and implementing technology projects, collaborations and partnerships.”

In all, the IREM president compares cyberhackers to “a virulent strain of virus that can grow beyond our attempts at immunity. As Jeremy Rasmussen indicated, vigilance is a keyword in the prevention of cyber loss, and everyone on the team has to get involved. Only through such vigilance can we ensure some degree of protection.”

Read the full column here.

About the Author
John Salustri is editor-in-chief of Salustri Content Solutions, Inc., a consultancy focused on enhancing the web and print content of clients around the nation. He is a regular contributor to JPM Magazine and a frequent blogger for IREM. Prior to launching SCS, John was founding editor of GlobeSt.com, the industry’s premier real estate news website, where he managed the daily output of 25 international reporters, and prior to that, he was editor of Real Estate Forum Magazine. John is a four-time winner of the National Association of Real Estate Editors’ Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Top Five Cybersecurity Threats to Real Estate Businesses.

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