Ransomware: Protecting Your Business From Increasing Cyberthreats

Published by National Association of Realtors | April 18, 2024

To say that ransomware is a growing cyber threat is an understatement.

Ransomware—cyberattacks in which cybercriminals use malicious software to seize control of computers and network systems, encrypt data, and then demand payment to release control of the data and computer systems—is driven by low prosecution rates and the willingness of many victims under extreme duress to pay ransoms. It’s the fastest-growing type of cybercrime, with the number of attacks and the financial implications exploding year after year.

Consider these facts:

  • Ransomware attacks on organizations occurred every 11 in seconds in 2021. By 2031, the rate will increase to every 2 seconds. The median cost of a ransomware attack in 2022 was $10M.
  • Hackers extorted approximately $1.1B in 2023, roughly doubling their illicit gains from 2022.
  • It is predicted that ransomware will cost victims $265B annually by 2031
  • Five of the top 10 cybercrimes in 2023—based on scope and long-term implications—were ransomware attacks.

Cybercriminals follow the money, and if ransomware is profitable, attacks will spread.

The Impact on Real Estate

No business is fully immune to these attacks and their fallout, including the real estate domain. Attacks can hobble organizations, infrastructures, and even cities for days, weeks, and months. Just ask the city of Baltimore. In 2019, hackers seized control of thousands of Baltimore city government computers and demanded approximately $100,000 worth of bitcoin to release them. City employees were locked out of email accounts and systems, and the city could not provide essential services, including online payments of water bills, property taxes, and parking tickets. The Baltimore attack also had a significant impact on the real estate market. While the city’s computer systems were inaccessible, approximately 1,500 home sales were delayed due to the inability to transfer properties.

In August 2023, a popular MLS service provider that supplies MLS services to regional real estate groups nationwide was hit by a ransomware attack that left it inaccessible for weeks. At that time, the affected real estate agents couldn’t list homes, change prices, mark homes as pending/contingent/sold, or list open houses. The attack impacted an estimated 5% of real estate agents nationwide.

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