We get the notifications and hear it on the news every day – another website has been hacked and sensitive information, like usernames and passwords, has been compromised. When part of your business plan involves having a credible online presence, these kinds of disruptions can be detrimental to any real estate agent. Below, we’ll cover three basic steps you can take to start to help protect your online identity and keep information more secure.
Enable 2-Step Verification
You may be familiar with this concept already, and it’s one of the simplest steps any real estate agent can take to protect online accounts, including email. What is 2-step verification? Typically, when you go to login to your email account or any site online (like Facebook), you enter in your username or email address and your password, and you have access. Enabling 2-step verification, also known as two-factor authentication, on that account adds in another step. Once you’ve entered that username or email address and password, you’ll usually be sent a code to your phone via text message, voice call, or mobile app. (Sometimes, there’s a security key you can insert into your computer’s USB port.) What this does is protecting against the occasion when someone may have access to your password, but doesn’t have access to your other devices. Adding this extra layer to your most essential sites adds a level of security that’s become increasingly necessary in this day and age.
Use a Password Manager
These days, every site requires a password and, even worse, may prompt you to change it after a certain amount of time. Remembering all those different passwords, what you’ve used, what you haven’t, can become extremely difficult, and many agents even rely on the old “keep all the passwords written down on one sheet of paper” trick to try and keep track.
Sometimes, people use the same password for multiple sites. While this makes those passwords easier to remember, it can compromise all of the sites if one of those websites gets hacked and someone steals your password. It’s better to have a unique password for each website you use.
So, how to keep track of it all? One of the best and easiest ways to is to invest in a password manager. There are any number available on the market, but the most popular are 1Password, LastPass, and Dashlane. Password managers work by securely storing all your various passwords in one place, which you’re able to access with one master password. Usually, there’s an add-on you can use in your favorite browser as well that allows you to autofill information, including usernames and passwords, as well as an app for your mobile phone and tablet. Password managers are supposed to sync automatically, so your data is more readily available. Many managers also have the capability of storing secure notes and even information like credit cards, passports, and driver's licenses, so you know you can always access them.
Arguably the best feature of password managers is the ability to randomly generate new passwords for each site that requests your information. While you’ll still have to choose your username, having the ability to cycle through and create new passwords lessens the chance that you will get hacked in the first place and, if it is, also diminishes the probability that other sites you belong will be affected.
Several password managers also will alert you when there are known security breaches on any website, and they will prompt you within the system to immediately update and change information. While many of these will require a monetary investment of some kind, ask yourself this, “What price your online security?”
Ensure Your Online Storage is Secure
Dropbox is probably one of the most popular online storage systems for many people in the United States and the world. It’s user-friendly and simple to access, plus it affords many different storage capacity options. Really, what’s not to love?
Well, you may want to check with your local real estate association’s lawyer to confirm that keeping confidential information – a client’s bank account information, identifying details such as social security numbers, etc. – is allowable on a system like Dropbox. It’s best that, before you store any potentially sensitive client information online, that you make sure that your chosen online storage system fits with your state or local association’s recommendations. You may want to consider cloud storage systems that go beyond server-side encryption for your real estate client files. Ask your local or state association whether a system like SpiderOak may be a better choice for what you’re trying to save online.
By starting to implement these three steps today, you’ll make giant strides toward not only protecting your own online identity but also the information of those most important to you – your clients. We take technology seriously here at CENTURY 21 Redwood Realty. If you’re interested to learn more about our technology trainings and tools we offer, drop us a line!