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PropTech Today - Cyber security - who holds the keys?

The recent cyber attack on CTS left around 80 conveyancing firms across the country commercially paralysed as the harm to their shared IT provider brought property transactions to a standstill.

Buyers and sellers were left powerless and angry, and estate agents could only look on in bewildered frustration while communicating as best they could with clients in an effort to limit the damage.

Nationwide was said to have 600 mortgage cases affected by the attack, with thousands of deals believed to have been left at a standstill.


The news came as an eye-opening shock to the property sector – the CTS platform processes the key documents that have to be provided to lenders before they can release funds.

The rising tide of cyber security threats

And coming, as it did, just a few days after the government pledged further funding to help the digitisation of the property buying process, many were left wondering about the potential cost of placing their commercial trust in partners, technological or otherwise.

It’s an understandable reaction.

And the truth is, cyber attacks are a clear and present danger. According to the 12th annual Bank Risk Management Survey by EY and the Institute of International Finance, cyber attacks represent the biggest threat among near-term risks for banks around the globe.

The survey, published earlier this year, was based on data from 88 banks across 30 countries.

Perhaps even more telling, 58% of Chief Risk Officers said their inability to manage cyber security risks was top of their strategic threat list.

But while hackers are getting smarter and the tools they use are becoming more sophisticated, companies large and small accept that ensuring cyber security is simply a matter of modern business. It’s the corporate equivalent of a corner shop owner forking out extra for the best alarms and shutters they can afford in order to continue trading.

We are a PropTech company dealing in automated rental payments and client account management for the lettings sector. Our core business is helping letting agencies across the UK look after other people’s money, so we understand the risks involved and how to protect your client money.

Combating the risk

The biggest threat to that money is fraud. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners says that organisations lose $4.7 trillion each year to fraud – with real estate suffering the highest median losses. Letting agents deal with large amounts of client money on a daily basis, so they are particularly at risk. Which is why we take security incredibly seriously.

In doing so we are able to not just safeguard client money, but also protect employees from unwarranted accusations of fraud.

To ensure ultimate control over money flows, we’ve introduced detailed user permissions. Clients have total visibility and control over what employees can see or do on the platform. Our technology allows agencies to require two people to approve important tasks such as transferring funds. This reduces the risk of errors occurring and guards against employee fraud.

We help agents accurately account for every penny – which means it is impossible to pay Landlord A using Landlord B’s rent. Our browser authentication technology also limits the options for bad actors to use social engineering to convince an employee to pay money into a false account.

In addition, our audit logs track who did what and when from the moment they log on – it can never be edited or deleted, giving total visibility of user actions. And there are safeguards for tenancy deposits and even credit notes.

On top of that, we have intuitive security features and reports which allow clients to proactively manage the risk of fraud by spending just 15 minutes a month checking key reports of transactions in their client account.

At PayProp, along with Financial Service Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protection and professional indemnity insurance, we also have other insurance policies specifically to cover fraud and cyber crime.

No turning back time

All in all, it’s a matter of having the right policies and processes, and the technology to ensure it cannot be circumvented.

We can’t turn the clock back. PropTech is the future for real estate. But finding the right partner that takes your agency’s cyber security seriously must be a priority for 2024.


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