REALTORS® live their lives exposed to the public eye. It is common practice to have multiple advertising vehicles containing your email, website, photo, social media account info, and more. This exposure can make REALTORS® a target for bad actors to seek to hijack your digital footprint for their own purposes. But you can take some basic precautions to keep from being an easy mark. Let’s consider some basics.
Password PainI don’t need to be a mind reader to know that if I figured out one of your passwords I have probably just figured out all your passwords. It's common knowledge that most people reuse the same passwords over and over again so they don’t need to remember another one. I feel your pain, but good and diverse passwords are really important in our digital world.
Modern browsers and mobile devices are now built with encrypted password keeper options to store complex passwords safely, making them accessible with a fingerprint or face scan – Apple has its iCloud Keychain, Google has Google passwords – and these services are generally free and sync across devices. As a bonus, the password services will notify you if your passwords are used too often, or if they have been detected in a data breach so you can change them before coming to any harm.
If 16-digit passwords and password services are not your thing, you can update the passwords you have used across multiple platforms for years by including upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers to add complexity. But best yet are personal word associations you can remember concerning the application you are setting a password for or a personal connection. For example, if you are logging into your banking system you could use a password like Workn4Ottawa! which is hard to guess password but clever enough for you to remember. Similarly, if growing up your mom’s favourite bank teller was Betsy, maybe the password 8etSy$Bi1l would be helpful. If you use this simple trick for all the major places you access online you will become your own password keeper genius.
Don’t click or open things without a pauseWhen you received a digital communication – email, text, messenger or other – and it contains a link or attachment, before you click: PAUSE. Ask yourself:
If yes, then CLICK. Unfortunately, the like hood a foreign prince has left an inheritance to you is slim to NIL.
Internet RouterWe all have an Internet router at home or in our office for accessing the Internet. If your router was sourced from a major service provider like Shaw or Telus, it probably has decent password protection straight from the factory, but if you bought a router aftermarket and just plugged it in, the password may be basic. By accessing your wireless router, a hacker can monitor and control all your network traffic and devices connected to your network. In more serious cases, your network could be used to facilitate the sharing of illegal materials, communications, or even launch an attack on another entity. For your digital safety, check the admin passwords on your wireless router to ensure they are complex.
Sharing is not always goodYour kindergarten teacher taught you to share, but when it comes to social media, think twice . Consider turning off embedded location data on personal photos before posting them and think before posting too much personal information on social media that could be mined to determine your patterns of activity. Many REALTORS® keep two accounts on their favourite social media sites: one for professional purposes where their content is curated to be digestible in public and one that is private for people they know personally. As a REALTOR® you have both a public persona and a private life to protect.
A final reminder: bad digital actors value your data and personal information over your money. Your data can be leveraged, sold and otherwise exploited for criminal purposes. . Be just as data smart as you would be with a briefcase of gold coins. Guard it, think about it, actively protect it.
September is REALTOR® Safety Month. Visit the National Association of REALTORS® for more safety tips and tricks.
Provincial Practice Advisor
Bryan has many years of experience in the real estate industry including over 10 years as a former broker in the Edmonton Region.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgPhone: 403-209-3619