We are going to go out on a limb here. In the not too distant future, email will no longer be used prominently in real estate transactions. The issue is not the fact that email is a very effective way to deliver information. The issue is that the delivery of email in this day and age of rampant cybercrime has simply become too risky. The safe delivery of information via email relies upon the fact that all parties to that email have sufficient security protocols to protect that email from the time it is sent through the time that it is opened. In other words, both sender and all recipients each need state of the art cybersecurity protocols to insure the continued security of that email.
Our firm invests countless resources to insure the security of data. We use dual factor authentication with passwords that are required to be changed regularly. We have state of the art firewall protections that are reviewed and updated regularly by third party vendors. Our servers are hosted and maintained offsite by third party cybersecurity professionals and the data they hold are located in state of the art facilities that have “military level protection” (their words not ours!). And if that is not enough, we regularly undergo security audits where our systems and processes are tested for vulnerability. Sounds like a lot of effort? Yes it is, and it takes a lot of time and resources that most people do not have. So when that email is sent securely, we know that the information contained therein is safe…….at least until it hits the recipients computer. And therein lies the issue.
No matter what safeguards, protocols, processes and procedures are put in place by the sender, any email (whether delivered securely or not) is only as safe as the protections that the recipients put in place on their home computers. And usually those protections are not nearly as robust as you would see in an office setting. To combat this vulnerability, we issue warnings time and time again, be they through up front fraud warnings, or in the body of every single email we send. And in most cases, those warnings are heeded, and there is no issue. The problem is that sometimes those warnings are not heeded, and in a momentary lapse of judgment, the recipient gets duped by a fraudster (usually posing as a legitimate party to the transaction). In other words, no matter what we try to do to protect the recipient from these sorts of attacks, sometimes the fraudsters win.
If a fraudster wins even once, that is just one too many times. And the fraudsters will continue to win from time to time if nothing changes because, quite frankly, email cannot be made to be a totally reliable way to communicate sensitive information. The only way to insure that information can be moved safely and securely is through the use of portals that do not require email to move that information back and forth. The information sits in a portal, and can be accessed only through password protected, dual factor authenticated protocols. This eliminates the ability of the fraudster to try to dupe someone via email (the most common form of attack), because the parties all know (or should know) that information can only be accessed in a portal, and not by sending (or receiving) an email. And in fact, we will be moving to such a system in the coming weeks, thereby saying “bye bye” to the movement of important information via email.
Now will email go away entirely? Absolutely not. Email will remain a valuable tool to communicate non-sensitive information. But the movement of important information via email will go the way of the fax machine (which ironically is actually a safer way to move information). So if you are currently unfamiliar with portals or how they work, do not worry. They are very easy to use, and more importantly, they are very easy to explain when the time comes! And they will soon become the norm for real estate transactions, which will also better enable all of us to say “bye bye” to the fraudsters as well.
As always, if you have any questions, we urge you to contact your trusted real estate attorney or, in this case, your cybersecurity professionals.
Evan N. Berlin, Esq.,firstname.lastname@example.org
Berlin Patten Ebling, PLLC
This communication is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship, and to the extent anything contained herein could be construed as legal advice or guidance, you are strongly encouraged to consult with your own attorney before relying upon any information contained herein.
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