A prominent industry expert says lettings agents and other property sector insiders should be extra-vigilant over cybersecurity breaches.
Neil Cobbold, managing director of automated rental payment supplier PayProp UK, follows the National Cyber Security Centre’s warning that AI will almost certainly make cyber crime more common and more dangerous.
A report from the NCSC says: “AI is already being used in malicious cyber activity and will almost certainly increase the volume and impact of cyber attacks – including ransomware – in the near term.”
It suggests that the greater use of AI effectively enables relatively unskilled hackers to carry out more effective access and information-gathering operations.
“This enhanced access, combined with the improved targeting of victims afforded by AI, will contribute to the global ransomware threat in the next two years.”
Cobbold echoes this, saying: “With the rise of AI it has never been easier for criminals to impersonate an agency, tenant or landlord. While these attacks can come from organised criminal gangs who are targeting large listed companies, independent agencies on the high street must also protect themselves against cyber threats.
“The property sector holds financial transaction data as well as personal and financial information making it a target for malicious threats that could come from inside or outside the business, perhaps in the form of a disgruntled employee.
“Rental scams are also on the rise. According to data from Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, there was a 23% increase in reported cases of rental fraud from 2021 to 2022, averaging 15 cases a day in 2022, a number that has likely increased.”
He continues: “If fraud takes place and your tenants pay money to someone impersonating you and your bank account, you’re at the mercy of the banks to try to get the rent back. Most agents will hold specific insurance policies, including client money protection scheme membership, but having to claim on these policies will dramatically increase the cost of doing business.”
Increasingly, the most security-conscious agencies are going further than just insuring the risk.
Cobbold concludes: “Bank-integrated PropTech gives agencies the tools they need to combat cyber crime. Using technology that limits who can reconcile rent, requires dual approval to pay out client funds, alerts agents when bank details are changed and automates statements and invoices, significantly enhances protection by ensuring all parties are kept fully informed and no one person can collect or pay out client money without approval. But what we can all see from the warnings and predictions is that enhanced cyber security must become a way of life for all businesses, large and small.”
Cobbold will be discussing the issue at the London PropTech Show on February 27 - more details and tickets here.