A new report reveals that Cyber Criminals are targeting property transactions

August 2017

In a recent report over 100 IT decision makers in the legal, property and conveyancing sectors took part in the survey to reveal how the industry is securing its technology and clients against cyber crime in the digital age.

The report; ‘Protect and Survive: Risk and Cyber Security in the Property Sector’, identifies the steps those in the industry need to take to protect themselves and their clients.

As commercial property lawyers and those working in real estate know, property transactions have long been at risk, as the recent Friday Afternoon Fraud case of Howard Mollett found. The home buyer had £67,000 of his lifesavings stolen after cyber criminals intercepted emails. Despite this high-profile case, the report highlights that 58 per cent of law firms said they felt ‘not that threatened’ (47 per cent) and one in ten were ‘not threatened at all’ (11 per cent) by the prospect of cyber-attacks.

A representative of the company that compiled the report said: “With so many important and highly-sensitive documents being shared between a solicitor and a client, there is an area of risk. Traditionally, this sharing has been done by an open exchange of email that can be intercepted, or by post, which is also susceptible to theft. Securing your perimeter is important. It’s not a case of ‘if’ it will happen, it’s more of a case of when, so risk mitigation and management is extremely important.

“Whilst a duty of care falls on the solicitor to manage their clients’ expectations when it comes to security, their client may not necessarily be aware of the dangers when it comes to property transactions. Clients need to be made aware that they could be vulnerable to a cyber-attack, while law firms should be embracing change and the use of new security technology to reinforce their systems.”

Sean White, Senior Partner at Courtyard  Solicitors, agrees with the findings of the report added;  “This is a major potential problem for all law firms. Clients of Courtyard Solicitors are somewhat protected as our work is done via “Select Legal” who have strong security systems in place. However the real risk is that a client can be deceived by a cyber criminals who then send a false email purporting to come from the solicitors and telling them to send monies to a different account. At Courtyard Solicitors we always set up new clients with our bank details prior to engagement and make clear that we will never ask them to send monies to another account.”