The Guild of Property Professionals is urging estate agents across the UK to be on high alert as cyber attacks targeting the property sector continue to surge. Recent incidents of cyber attacks impacting conveyance and law firms that have brought thousands of property transactions to a standstill, highlights the need for heightened cybersecurity measures within the industry.
Cyber attacks and claims are on the rise, and estate agents need to be prepared, warns Paul Offley, Compliance Officer of The Guild of Property Professionals. Offley notes that the property sector continues to be a prime target for cybercriminals, with an alarming number of cases where businesses have fallen victim to hackers attempting to defraud consumers. The sophistication of these attacks, including email mirroring techniques, poses a serious threat to the integrity of property transactions.
Amongst other things, the rise in remote working has acted as a catalyst for increased vulnerability, particularly for smaller businesses in the sector. Offley emphasises that the shift to hybrid working has made many businesses more susceptible to cyber attacks, as smaller entities often lack robust cyber defences, making them easier targets. Given the sensitive nature of information held by estate and lettings agents, the escalating cybercrime trend is a significant concern for the industry.
Offley recommends that if they haven’t already, property professionals should take proactive measures to protect themselves against potential cyber incidents. The Guild offers its Members access to free Professional Indemnity and heavily discounted Cyber-crime insurance to ensure comprehensive protection. However, Offley strongly advises all agents to review their cyber coverage with their insurance brokers, as reform within the sector has led to all PI insurers deciding not to cover cyber, so it is now largely excluded from all PI policies. “Many agents may believe that their PI insurance would protect them against cyber attack, however, over the past 18 months there has been a lot of reform in the sector with PI insurers deciding to no longer cover cyber attacks, so agents now require separate cover and protection,” adds Offley.
Statistics reveal that a significant percentage of cyber insurance claims result from human error, emphasising the importance of education and training within estate agency teams. Simple mistakes, such as selecting the incorrect recipient when sending an email or sharing passwords improperly, can lead to significant security breaches. Offley stresses the necessity of implementing stringent password policies and ensuring that departing employees have their access promptly revoked.
“Unfortunately, the reality is that no one is immune to potential cyber attacks, but having preventative measures in place with offer protection. In the event of an incident, having adequate protection is crucial,” Offley concludes.