The property management sector has seen a significant increase in cyber attacks in recent years. The UK Government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022 reported that over a third (39%) of UK firms suffered a cyber attack, over the last year alone. The property sector has undergone a surge in digital transformation which, to nobody’s surprise, has paved the way for this profound increase in cybercrime.
Cybercrime looks set to stay increasingly rife going into 2024 if the UK’s estimated victims per million statistics are anything to go by. With global cybercrime damage predicted to exceed £10 trillion per year by 2025, it’s pivotal that the most at-risk sectors – property included – implement changes to stay ahead of the curve, protect their assets, and secure their infrastructure.
The Growing Threat Landscape
No property business is immune from cyber risks. Many aspects of a property rental agreement or purchase exchange now occupy the digital terrain, with landlords, agents, and vendors all completing time-saving and productivity-enhancing tasks like electronic document signatures, virtual property viewings, and many others.
Unfortunately, this increased reliance on technology comes with an increased prevalence and ferocity of common cyber attacks. This isn’t even accounting for the growing trends in smart home technology which rely on IoT (Internet of Things) connectivity, which, if not secured, can expose sensitive personal data to malicious actors. Some of the most common threats facing the industry include:
- Phishing attacks – Fraudulent emails impersonating trusted sources to trick people into revealing passwords or installing malware.
- Ransomware – Malicious software that encrypts data and systems until a ransom is paid, often threatening exposure of sensitive or potentially incriminating information.
- Data breaches – Sensitive information like tenant financial records can be exfiltrated and leaked publicly if defences are inadequate.
- Vulnerability exploitation – Poorly patched antivirus software and proprietary systems and programmes lead attackers to exploit known vulnerabilities easily.
The evolving threat landscape demands a more advanced, intelligence-led approach to security. Basic antivirus and firewall protection is no longer sufficient. With valuable tenant data and financial information at stake, it’s crucial that property management companies take specific proactive steps to monitor their digital assets and defend against threats.
Implementing managed detection and response (MDR) solutions is one of the most effective ways to achieve robust 24/7 cyber security. These solutions allow property managers to obtain a holistic view of their systems and the risks that could befall them.
The Benefits of 24/7 Monitoring
Around-the-clock cyber monitoring provides persistent oversight of your networks and data, from the in-house computers and devices connected to your business WiFi network, to all the connected software or assets that facilitate exchanges between your firm, your vendors, clients, tenants, and suppliers.
Unlike periodic audits or manually driven security processes, 24/7 cyber monitoring tools enable:
- Real-time threat detection – Suspicious activity is spotted as soon as it occurs, allowing for faster and more decisive responses.
- Expert analysis – Skilled third-party security analysts continuously hunt for risks specific to your infrastructure as well as its wider sector(s).
- Minimised dwell time – The time from an intruder breaching defences to being discovered and ejected is reduced, which, until recently was alarmingly high.
- Rapid containment – Incidents can be isolated before spreading widely across networks and compromising connected devices.
- Proactive threat hunting – Many unknown threats are proactively searched for and identified, rather than reacted to once an incident occurs.
- Prioritised alerting – The most critical incidents are escalated quickly, reducing alert fatigue and prioritising the most time- or resource-intensive tasks.
- Post-incident investigation – Detailed analysis provides insights to enhance defences against repeat attacks.
Components of Effective 24/7 Cyber Monitoring
To gain the most value from around-the-clock monitoring, property management companies should consider implementing a few essential capabilities in their bespoke, deployed programmes. This can include, but not be limited to:
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)
Monitoring endpoints like servers, PCs, and mobile devices for suspicious activities using automation, AI (artificial intelligence) and behavioural analysis technologies. This provides a deeper and more expansive view of networks and infrastructure.
Network Traffic Analysis
Inspecting all network data in real time to detect threats like communication with malicious domains, data exfiltration, and internal reconnaissance by attackers.
Centralised correlation and analytics of log data from all critical systems to identify anomalies not visible from a single data source.
Continuously scanning networks internally and externally to detect unpatched software, misconfigurations, and other weaknesses attackers could exploit.
Application Security Monitoring
Tracking access and changes to business-critical SaaS (software as a service) platforms like email, document storage, and property management systems.
Dark Web Monitoring
Searching underground cybercrime forums for threats specifically targeting your brand, executives, or tenants, then notifying them appropriately.
Incident Response Retainer
Pre-agreed access to an expert incident response team to contain and recover from confirmed intrusions swiftly.
Is a Property Management Cyber Security Solution Enough?
To complement your 24/7 monitoring capabilities and round out defences, companies should also implement a few other essentials. These will harden resilience against cyber attackers and foster a more aligned, prepared culture of consistent cyber threat awareness and basic security skills.
Management firms should follow industry best practices and compliance frameworks to ensure their systems maintain adequate security year-round. Robust updates and patches should be rolled out and tested for effectiveness, while due diligence assessments of their vendors, suppliers, contractors and clients should also be conducted to validate their readiness.
All processes for maintaining property management operations and data during disruptions or incidents should be clearly and decisively outlined with no ambiguity. Firms should consider investing in cyber insurance policies to cover costs that may arise post-incident, from rebuilding systems and rolling out backups to legal fees and regulatory fines such as those imposed through GDPR for sensitive information leaks.
Most importantly, ongoing cyber security awareness training should be initiated to enable staff to recognise and avoid potential attacks. These may range from overt malware and ransomware attacks to innocuous attempts at phishing and social engineering. The more prepared your team is, the better your cyber security posture will be, especially considering most cyber attacks occur due to lapses in human judgement or manual error. Not only should regular training be initiated, but refresher courses should be embraced to cultivate a stronger, better-informed firm.
For most property management companies, building in-house teams to deliver 24/7 cyber threat monitoring solutions, with response strategies, is not only impractical but also unfeasible.
Therefore, partnering with specialist third-party cyber security firms that can leverage enterprise-grade capabilities in accordance with relevant security frameworks and standards will be your best bet. This can liberate your IT and management team to focus primarily on serving clients, tenants, and managing vendors, along with growing the business with full peace of mind and reassurance that all networks and data are being safeguarded.
It’s clear to see that despite the increasing number and severity of attacks that impact the property industry, proactive, multi-layered approaches to cyber security remain valuable to businesses.
By deploying proactive solutions that can safeguard systems, networks and data, while continually monitoring all incumbent devices, PCs and software, property management companies can strengthen their cyber defences and address more of their specific risks. In turn, reputations, information, and finances will be protected with confidence.