PHISHING, WI-FI AND USB DRIVE VULNERABILITY
“The Department of Homeland security had told Equifax they
needed to update their software, but they didn’t, and hackers
exploited this vulnerability. Today’s hackers aren’t looking for
complicated systems; they’re looking for opportunities. You
want to stay on top of security tasks that are easy to do—like
virus protection, like not accessing your bank on a public Wi-
Fi. If you do the basics right, chances are you’ll have covered
Piliouras explains that once a virus infects your computer,
it could spread to whomever uses your website or your email.
Phishing emails, which could affect your computer, are looking
more and more realistic every day, but you can still usually tell
if an email or a hyperlink doesn’t look legitimate. If you’re sus-
picious, don’t click.
“They’re waiting for you to do something stupid,” she says.
“Don’t open emails that you don’t know; don’t click on links you
aren’t sure of. Don’t store data that you don’t know how to protect. Don’t use a USB drive to create backup and then misplace
it. A major problem was created when a company left out a box
of used USB drives for people to help themselves: They were all
infected with a virus.
“As new breaches come up, new products and techniques will
be invented to counter them. Be sure you have active antivirus
protection, and be very careful of your Wi-Fi network, because
that is a real vulnerability. You don’t want to use an open Wi-Fi.
You want intrusion protection devices: a sophisticated firewall.
That will cost you a couple of thousand dollars. If you have a lot
of assets to guard, if you want 24/7 monitoring, you could spend
up to $100,000 a year on cybersecurity.”
Many people create security hazards by mixing their private
lives with their business lives, for example, by doing their per-
sonal banking, or project research, on a company computer.
And even if you have virus protection, you can still infect a net-
work—so be sure your network is protected as well.
“You can get insurance for cyberattacks,” Piliouras adds.
“It’s not that expensive, and I can’t imagine any company
not having it. The Hartford sells a product called cybersecurity and business continuity insurance. It’s incredibly reasonable at first, but if you’re hacked many times, your rates
will go up, so do what you need to do to protect yourself.”
CYBERSECURITY HAS BEEN A PROBLEM FOR PROPERTY
MANAGERS SINCE THE INDUSTRY ENTERED THE DIGITAL
AGE IN THE 1980S. As property management has become
more and more computer-driven, cyber criminals have become
more sophisticated and aggressive. Protecting your properties
from hackers is a never-ending struggle, since criminals are constantly finding new ways to breach security walls.
A clever hacker can invade sensitive correspondence, interfere
with financial transactions (and clean out your bank account),
or hold your building for ransom by controlling its mechanical
systems. But by staying on top of their techniques and adopting
the latest countermeasures, property managers can usually foil
a hack attack.
The industry recently got a wake-up call when Equifax, one
of the world’s largest credit reporting agencies, suffered a data
breach that exposed sensitive personal information from an estimated 143 million Americans.
What are some of the main cyber risks to property managers,
and what should be done to prevent them?
Teresa Piliouras, Ph.D., CEO of the Weston, Conn.-based
software development firm TCR, notes that today’s hackers
tend to be more sophisticated and more malicious than the previous generation. But simply knowing the basics and attending
to them will usually render your data secure.
“We used to think of hackers as people like the teenager
in the movie War Games: people who are just trying to prove
they’re clever,” she says. “Now, you have legions of hackers and
cyberwars. People who think they’re safe are deluded. A hacker
could infect your tenants’ computers with malware, or put in
secret surveillance software to monitor you.