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Chairman's Message (March/April 2011)
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Nightmare on e-mail street

by Mike McGraw

from the March/April 2011 issue of Orlando REALTOR® magazine


My Google e-mail account was hacked back in February. It’s been an ongoing nightmare that has resulted in the loss of all my saved work and personal e-mails, contacts, and even access to websites that were attached to my e-mail address. So I can tell you from first-hand experience just how important it is to keep both your own and your clients’ information secure. Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft resource website:

Take Stock of What You Have

Know what personal information you have in your files and on your computers. Understanding how personal information moves into and out of your business and who has access to it is essential to assessing security vulnerabilities.

Secure Your Web Applications

Pay particular attention to the applications on your website through which you collect information and consumers request information. These can be vulnerable to a form of hacking known as injection attacks, in which a hacker inserts malicious commands into your online form. Once the commands are in your system, the hacker can grab your data.

Secure Your Points of Connection

It’s one thing to secure your computer system; it’s another to secure the devices and applications that connect to it. These include laptops, cell phones, and your website. If your laptop has been compromised, it can open a door into your system.

The same thing applies to vendors who provide data processing or other services on a contract basis. If their computer is compromised, they can infect yours when they access your system. You’ll also want to limit storage of your sensitive information to only computers that don’t connect to the Internet.

Don’t Trust Just Anyone

Your security measures are only as thorough as the people who work with you. Assistants and team members must agree to uphold the confidentiality of your sensitive information and participate in training on keeping your data secure. If there’s ever any doubt, withhold their access to sensitive data.

Think About Physical Security, Too

Many data compromises happen the old-fashioned way— through lost or stolen paper documents. Often, the best defense is a locked door or an alert employee. Store paper documents, sensitive files, and backups in a locked room or file cabinet.

Given the cost of a security breach — losing your customers’ trust and perhaps even defending yourself against a lawsuit — safeguarding personal information is just plain good real estate business. And taking steps to protect your own personal information can save you from your own personal nightmare!

Mike McGraw is ORRA's 2011 chairman of the board and can be reached at

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