Real Estate Journal — Owners, Developers & Managers — February 24 - March 9, 2017 — 3B


M id A tlantic

O wners , D evelopers & M anagers By Anupam Goradia, CPA, CISA, CITP, WithumSmith+Brown, PC Cybersecurity and Your Real Estate Company


ybersecurity is a risk well known to busi- nesses and individuals

ing the digital footprint of the industry. When real estate companies use such systems or provide their tenants access to such systems, they expose themselves to the risk that a hacker can intrude and gain control of the equipment and start operating it to the detri- ment of tenants, clients and the business. 4) Huge technological ad- vances have been made around energy conservation as we aim to lesson our carbon footprint and decrease costs. There is a documented cyber attack regarding Smart Light Bulbs

that were connected digitally and not secured. The hacker was able to gain access through the Smart Bulb and make their way to other systems. 5) Much of the software used by real estate companies is cloud-based. The software con- tains important business in- telligence on market rentals, potential and current tenant information, etc. which could expose those people and compa- nies should an unwanted party get their hands on it. 6) Ransomware attacks can prevent access to a company’s information systems. Imag-

ine being in the middle of a transaction and suddenly the systems are being controlled by a remote computer. Unless a required sum of money is paid, access to systems will not be granted. What can be done? Cybersecurity is an ongoing risk and needs to be man- aged. There are a number of measures that a real estate company can take to mitigate this risk: 1. Educate and train your employees and tenants. Just as friendly neighborhood policies exist, make your tenants aware

of the information you collect, how you store it and how they can help keep it secure through complex passwords to your systems 2. Just as you have fire drills, conduct a “cyber drill”. Have ethical hackers conduct phish- ing email tests and see which of your tenants and employees fall prey. Then use the results of the tests to educate your personnel. 3. Conduct external penetra- tion tests of your systems and devices. 4. Perform a risk-based continued on page 5B

alike. The fact that someone can enter into your IT sys- tems or any o t h e r c o n - nected devic- es (i.e. cam- eras , v ideo conferencing,

Anupam Goradia

HVAC systems, printers, etc.) to your digital marketplace and disrupt your operations or collect information, damag- ing your business through loss of stakeholder reputation is not a new risk. Well-known companies like Target, Yahoo and State and Federal govern- ments have been victims of cyber attacks. While real estate companies have not yet hit mainstream media headlines for cybersecurity attacks, your business contains a wealth of information assets that make it a solid target for those trying to attack operations or collect sensitive drafts or engineering specs through a cyber attack. What are some of the risks special to real estate industry? Any organization that stores information digitally or uses some form of information equip- ment as simple as a smart phone is prone to a cyber at- tack. What makes an attrac- tive target is the nature of the information and how easily it can be acquired. Below are some examples of such informa- tion that real estate operations would collect: Tenant-Related Information: 1) Residential real estate companies receive personnel data about their current or future tenants at the time of their application process. It is also common practice among these companies to collect and update tenant data annually. This information includes So- cial Security numbers of the tenants, annual income details, who they share their apartment with, the make, model and li- cense plate information of their cars, etc. 2) In this day and age of electronic payments, real estate companies may keep credit card information or bank account numbers of the tenants who sign up for electronic payments. Risk to Operations: 3) Mobility! Real estate is now more mobile than ever. Remote control of heating and security systems is spread-

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