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Cybersecurity for Property Managers

Chris Adams
April 21, 2023

Property management companies operate across a diverse portfolio with unique requirements, from commercial real estate like office spaces and retail units, to multi-unit residential apartment buildings. Property managers handle everything from vetting tenants to selecting lightweight flooring systems, and it's unfortunate that cybersecurity for most property managers is far from a number one priority.

This leaves property management companies open to significant cyber risk should they fall victim to a data breach. The quantity of sensitive information they are charged with securing has only increased, as have the challenges in the modern era. The days of tenants' personally identifying information (PII) being locked safely in a drawer with a physical access log are over now that nearly all data is stored using cloud-based solutions. With the ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT), something as simple as remote access into the HVAC system can be the source of a devastating cyber attack that ends up costing hundreds of millions of dollars to recover from. Just ask Target.

What Is at Stake?

If you're one to prefer hard data, then let's take a look at a few raw statistics. Sixty percent of small businesses leave within 6 months of a cyber attack. Over 70% of cyber security incidents target enterprises employing less than 100 people. Looking at a 12-month time frame between 2015 and 2016, over 50% of small and medium-sized businesses were attacked, and every single data breach resulted in the loss of at least 5,000 individual records. Those victim organizations spent an average of $880,000 to recover from the attacks and suffered damages to just under $1 million each. Is it any wonder that so many are unable to continue business operations afterward?

Proactive Steps to Better Secure Your Business

The U.S. government has even seen the need to emphasize the importance of cybersecurity for property managers. NIST has published guidelines for securing property management systems that highlight some key tenets you can implement regardless of the property types you are managing. Things like zero trust policies, rules of least access, role-based authentication, and tokenizing credit card data are fantastic additions to any cybersecurity program. Still, we have a handful of other recommendations to ensure you cover as many threat vectors as possible.

Educate Your Staff

When you walk through your office, do you see sticky notes with confidential information like client information or login credentials posted on desks, calendars, or computer monitors? What about your IT assets; are they secured or just tucked away in an unlocked room? Those are failures of education. If your personnel were aware of the security implications and provided with the right resources to correct the deficiencies, it's unlikely that they would go out of their way to continue such behaviors. It's your first duty to impress upon your staff the importance of cybersecurity and the likely attack vectors a cybercriminal would take advantage of.

Managing the Intersection Between IT and OT

Operational technology (OT) presents its own cybersecurity risks as it is increasingly connected to IT networks. While this makes managing OT remotely much simpler, it also exposes systems that frequently lack standard cybersecurity protections to IT networks rife with personal information belonging to clients and tenants. Each aspect of your system must be secured to prevent attackers from gaining access through the weakest link. The best way forward is to replace legacy OT systems and build your network from the ground up with cybersecurity as a central tenet.

Leverage Software Solutions

You will unlikely become an IT security expert overnight, but cybersecurity for property managers isn't a one-person show. Instead of shouldering the workload yourself, selecting the right cybersecurity software can take a large bite out of the problem. Ensuring that included firewalls are in place within your email client, a quality antivirus and anti-malware program is installed, establishing multifactor authentication policies, and verifying that all software and operating systems are regularly checked for updates and patches will fend off a greater number of low-level cyber attacks than you would imagine.

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