How Should Property Services Ensure Cyber Security and Data Protection?

According to one survey, 32% of UK businesses suffered cyber security attacks or breaches during 2019. This included 61% of large firms. Meanwhile, councils reported 700 data breaches to the ICO in 2020.

Cyber threats are on the increase and becoming more sophisticated, and hackers clearly want to target organisations with the most to lose. Numerous local authorities have experienced ransomware attacks or infiltrations that have taken vital services offline.

Hackers typically search out the weakest link in the defences, which could be through third party organisations with access to core systems and data. Often, it’s just a poorly trained individual.

Data security is a vital consideration for property services providers. Our work is increasingly data-driven, which means we have access to residents’ private data. To work efficiently we also need to integrate our IT systems with housing management and core IT systems used by local authorities and housing associations.

We cannot afford to be the weak link that allows hackers a backdoor route in. This makes the security of our systems and processes a critical consideration – both commercially and morally.

Twin Track Cyber Security

Effective cyber security calls for a twin track approach covering technology and people. Secure, encrypted communication tools are one thing. Ensuring that people understand why they can’t go ‘off-platform’ and communicate outside of these channels is another challenge altogether.

For all of the security layers you add, such as encryption and multi-factor authentication, the reality is that it’s often an individual error of judgement – such as opening a phishing email – that causes a problem.

Effective training and careful staff vetting are arguably the most effective cyber security safeguards you can implement. There’s no substitute for equipping people with knowledge and awareness. That way they can spot potentially suspicious activity, adopt the precautionary principle at all times, and know what to do if they are concerned or even unsure.

Data security and stewardship also extend to having detailed and regularly audited procedures for data processing and disposal. Cyber security for property services is a chain – and every link has to be strong to provide effective protection against hackers and data breaches.

Find out more about Osborne’s unique approach to property services for social housing by visiting our resource centre.

For more information contact Jo Fletcher (jo.fletcher@osborne.co.uk).