For real estate agents, working today means using the internet constantly. This can come with potential dangers, so it is more important than ever to know how to protect your information from potential hacking.

According to a CNBC report, hacking of major websites seems to be on the rise and hackers are getting more aggressive.  In the report, Quincy Larson, the founder of Free Code Camp, an open-source community for learning to code, noted the importance of securing your personal information and protecting it from “attackers.”

“When I use the term ‘attacker’ I mean anyone trying to access your data whom you haven’t given express permission to. Whether it’s a hacker, a corporation or even a government.”

Larson offers some basic steps that anyone, agents included can use to guard against becoming a victim.

Use Signal or WhatsApp to send text messages. A typical agent will be texting constantly, and these apps can help. Signal is free and available for the iPhone and Android.

Avoid clicking on unfamiliar links or documents and always be sure to complete software updates. Agents can fall prey to phishing schemes where attacks are spread through malicious email attachments and links.

By doing frequent updates, you will always have the latest software updates that may correct any vulnerabilities they have detected. Outdated software can contain security flaws. Antivirus software also can make you less vulnerable to attack.

Larson also notes that while your phone may be in your pocket, your computer is a treasure trove of information. Agents can protect their computer’s hard drive with FileVault or BitLocker and back up all of their data to an online service or external hard drive.

Passwords can be a potential stumbling block to digital security. Creating strong passwords and never using the same password across sites is one of the easiest things that any real estate agent can do to guard against hacking. Busy agents can use password managers that can help store passwords with one master password. Some examples are LastPass, KeePass and 1Password.

Agents use email regularly and it can be an area of vulnerability. However, you can increase your defenses in this area with two-factor authentication.  With two-factor authentication, anyone who tries to sign in to your email from a new device will have to get through a secondary layer of security: a code that is sent to your phone via text message.

To guard against various forms of surveillance and hacking, agents can use a browser plug-in called HTTPS Everywhere. It also is important to know whether the Wi-Fi network you are using is secure.

To increase your digital security, you can use a VPN to shield browsing information and encrypt all of the data coming to or leaving your computer or phone. This also will hide your location. Some VPNs are free, and others require monthly subscriptions. VPNs create an encrypted path for your data. This means that computers or other devices on the same network can’t make sense of it. For busy agents, this can provide an additional layer of defense when you have to use public Wi-Fi networks.

Next, just because Chrome, Safari and Firefox have an “incognito” option, that doesn’t mean you are invisible. Ass this option really does is prevents your computer from keeping a record of where you go.

For real estate agents who may conduct sensitive searches, DuckDuckgo may be the perfect search engine.  One drawback, is the very way that Google collects and analyzes information about your searches is the thing that makes it so useful. As Larson explains, Google was built on the hacker mentality and at times principle has been placed above the bottom line.

“People all the time who are extremely skeptical of any large software organization, and I think that’s reasonable.”

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