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What is Malware?

What exactly is malware, and how can you safeguard against it?

You’ve heard the term. You’ve seen the warnings. You may have even been unlucky enough to experience an attack. But what exactly is malware, and what can you do to safeguard against it?

Malware: A Catch-All Term

Malware is an umbrella term for any type of malicious software. This can include anything from computer viruses, worms and Trojan horses (a malicious piece of software disguised as a legitimate program) to ransomware, spyware, adware or scareware.

Typically, anything that secretly works against the interests of a computer user can be classified as malware. Malware can infect almost any type of computer or digital device. Some but not all machines that are vulnerable to malware include: Windows computers, Macs, iPhones, iPads, Android devices and network servers. Viruses and worms are the most common types of malware, and both are spread by becoming embedded in executable software.

Why it Matters  

Malware is used by hackers to gain access and pilfer the personal, financial, business or governmental data of unsuspecting individuals or organizations. Once this information is acquired, cybercriminals frequently seek to exhort money from their victims – either directly through ransoms (where the criminal blocks access to files or programs until the victim pays them money) or by engaging in identity theft.

Recent studies indicate that cybercrime is on the rise. A 2019 report revealed a 67 percent increase in security breaches over the past five years.[i] The cost of these attacks is truly staggering. According to the White House, “malicious cyber activity cost the U.S. economy between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016.”[ii] The average cost of a data breach is $3.9 million according to IBM.[iii] While it may be tempting to think that only large multinationals are the targets of these attacks, 43 percent of breach victims were small or medium-sized businesses.[iv]

What Can be Done?

As with other industries, identity theft, fraud and other crimes are increasing throughout the insurance and financial services sectors. Still, there are numerous actions you can take to better safeguard your data.

A great first step is to purchase high-quality anti-virus software and install it across your devices. It is essential to purchase one from a well-known and trusted provider, and to have it consistently run scans on any machine that may be vulnerable.

You should diligently update both your operating systems (Mac/IOS, Windows, Android, etc.) and internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Microsoft Edge). Not only do these updates patch security holes, but they also better protect your data and offer enhanced features that can make your work life easier and more enjoyable.  

When safeguarding your devices through the previous steps, it is always a good idea to back up your data and store it on an external hard drive where it will be retrievable in the future. By taking this precaution, you will ensure that you do not lose access to your most valuable data even if you are unlucky enough to experience a malware attack and have to consult a professional to repair your device.

Avoiding Phishing Scams and Ensuring Safe Title Transactions

One of the most common threats that occur during real estate transactions is a phishing scam, where criminals seek to gain access to nonpublic personal information (NPI), place malicious code on your device or convince you to change wiring instructions. To protect yourself from these scams, agents should be mindful of the following warning signs within a suspicious email:

  • Poor spelling, grammar and generic greetings
  • Requests for personal information
  • An unusual sense of urgency
  • Instructions to change wiring information
  • Questionable-looking attachments or links that encourage a click.

Additionally, agents can reduce risk by transmitting data through encryption, using two-factor email authentications, maintaining a contact log for all transaction participants, eliminating the need for urgency and performing a risk assessment to identify security gaps.

Commit to Safety

Considering the fiduciary responsibilities that title agents possess, data security is of the utmost importance. Of course, no system is foolproof, but by knowing the risks and taking necessary precautions, agents can make significant progress toward protecting the integrity of their clients’ transactions.


[i] https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/security/cost-cybercrime-study

[ii] https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/The-Cost-of-Malicious-Cyber-Activity-to-the-U.S.-Economy.pdf

[iii] https://www.cyber-observer.com/cyber-news-29-statistics-for-2020-cyber-observer/

[iv] Ibid

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Remote Online Notarization (RON) Update

The Future is Here; Let’s Embrace It

The adoption and implementation of remote online notarization (RON) received a tremendous boost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Buyers, sellers and title agents are looking to close transactions in the safest way possible. According to the American Land Title Association (ALTA), “Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have either passed a RON law or issued an executive order pertaining to remotely notarizing documents. Some have done both.”

In December of 2020, ALTA reported that RON use had increased 547 percent during the year compared to 2019. If you are a “Star Trek” fan, the lightning-fast adoption of RON – as well as alternative remote closing methods such as Remote Ink-Signed Notarization (RIN) – has felt like the title industry has gone from cruising to warp speed in a nanosecond. It can even feel tempting to utter one of the show’s classic lines like “Beam me up, Scotty!” when thinking about such transformative change.

But let us back up a bit. As the automobile was invented and became a commonplace form of transportation, society built an accompanying infrastructure – including roads, highways, bridges and tunnels. The same is needed for RON. However, it takes time to develop secure and accessible technology that everyone can use. It requires effort to garner the acceptance of the county recorders who must be ready, willing and able to record native electronic instruments. Creating uniform laws to ensure interstate legal recognition and consumer confidence is also no easy matter.

Properly building out RON infrastructure necessitates the continuous collaboration of numerous parties, including individuals, industries and organizations. For example, MISMO, the Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization, has been working on standards concerning credential analysis, borrower identification, audio-visual requirements (including the recording of the electronic notarization process) and audit trails. PRIA, the Property Record Industry Association, has been developing national standards and best practices for the land records industry. ALTA and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) have also joined forces to establish model RON legislation. Finally, there are numerous other stakeholders not identified here who have, and are, tirelessly working to enable the requisite RON infrastructure.

Currently, the federal Senate bill (SB) 3533, the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020 (otherwise known as the SECURE Notarization Act), is pending. If passed in 2021, the SECURE Notarization Act will permit RON across the nation and provide for minimum standards and interstate recognition. To track the progress of the SECURE Notarization Act, click on the link provided for SB 3533

Another good resource for tracking the evolution of RON is the DLA Piper financial services alert, which is constantly updated. You can also subscribe to their mailing list to receive alerts via email.

During this time of rapid transition, it is important to keep abreast of the latest RON developments, to “boldly go” forth and not end up like another classic science fiction show: “Lost in Space.”

The future is here; let’s embrace it!

Alliant National Announces the Launch of New E-Closing Integration

Integration streamlines the digital closing process, saving agents time and effort

Longmont, Colo. – (January 21, 2021) – Alliant National Title Insurance Company, a unique title insurance underwriter that partners with independent agents to improve their competitive position, announces the launch of a new policy jacket integration with software partner E-Closing.

The new integration is now live within the E-Closing title production system and available for agent use. Agents who write for Alliant National will be able to pull Alliant National policy jackets directly through the software platform.

Agents can already generate closing protection letters (CPLs) through E-Closing’s software . They will no longer need to navigate to the Alliant National website to generate either of these documents, providing a more convenient and time-efficient experience overall.

“This integration is a helpful tool that will streamline the work of the agents we partner with, improving their ability to quickly obtain the documents they need,” said Bryan Johnson, Director of Information Technology for Alliant National. “It represents another effort on the part of Alliant National to put supporting the independent agent at the heart of everything we do.”

Alliant National distinguishes itself from competitors by combining strong underwriting capability with independent agents’ in-depth knowledge of local markets. The result is a nationwide network with deep roots in local communities, and a wealth of expertise that is flexible, nuanced, and continuously growing.

Visit alliantnational.com for additional information.

MEDIA INQUIRIES

Cathie Beck
Capital City Public Relation
e : cathie@capitalcitypr.com
p : 303-241-0805

ABOUT ALLIANT NATIONAL TITLE INSURANCE COMPANY

The Independent Underwriter for The Independent AgentSM – Alliant National believes in empowering people to thrive. The company protects the dreams of property owners with secure title insurance and partners with 500+ trusted independent title agents as a licensed underwriter in 27 states and the District of Columbia, with annual revenues exceeding $126 million.

About E-Closing

E-Closing is the title industry’s premier cloud-based title production system. E-Closing is trusted by thousands of title professionals across the country. E-Closing is a powerful tool that can help modernize and streamline any title operation. Whether providing better customer service, tracking business relationships, adopting a paperless environment or managing multiple offices, E-Closing equips title agents with the tools necessary to take their business to the next level.

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Demystifying Social Media Analytics

Social media has its own language. Be sure to become fluent.

A great benefit of social media marketing is the analytics that are available for little to no cost. However, sometimes when evaluating a campaign, it can feel as if you are drowning in data and that more questions are being raised than answers. From understanding what analytics to prioritize to knowing what each metric means, reviewing your work on social media can be far from straightforward. The following tips can serve as a helpful primer on setting your campaign’s goals and properly interpreting the results.

Determine Your Goals

Before you can start evaluating your social media campaigns, you must determine what your goal was in the first place. Was it to drive more people to your website? Develop a broader reach on social media? Cultivate leads for your business? Generate sales? Once you clarify your goal, you’re ready to zero in on which metrics to scrutinize further.

Awareness Metrics

A helpful way to think about which social media metrics to examine is to decide if your campaign is intended to increase awareness or drive action and engagement. Let’s say you are trying to increase awareness of your agency. Some major metrics to look at could include:

  • Impressions
  • Net follower gains
  • Page reach

Impressions capture how many people saw a post on a given platform, while net follower gains describe the number of people who followed your page and are now receiving updates on your activities.

Both are simple to track. You can see impression figures for an individual post with a simple click. If you are looking to track them over time, you can access the built-in analytics on platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Follower numbers are also prominently displayed on a user’s profile on each site – allowing for easy review.

Page reach is used on Facebook and describes the total number of unique people who saw your page’s content within a specified time frame. LinkedIn has a similar metric called “page views,” which is the total number of page views in a designated period. To view this metric and collect necessary data, navigate to the analytics platforms within Facebook or LinkedIn. Twitter does not contain a comparable metric, but you can view impression data for your tweets (both individual and cumulative) by visiting https://analytics.twitter.com/ and logging into your account.

These metrics are important for agents to be mindful of, as social media is about building brand identity and fostering community just as much as it is about driving people to your website or inspiring sales. Agents should evaluate how their output on social is resonating, making tweaks to language, messaging and hashtags based on the results they are seeing.

If emotional-based messages are not working, you could try posting about the tangible benefits you can provide to your customers. And if the hashtags you’re incorporating don’t seem to increase the number of people viewing your content, you can always apply a hashtag research tool to improve how your posts are connecting with your audience. 

Action or Engagement Metrics

What are the analytics you should focus on if your goal is to drive action with your content? Some pertinent metrics would include:

  • Likes and favorites
  • Post shares and retweets
  • Conversions and click-through rate (CTR)

Not all metrics are created equally. While it can be satisfying to receive likes on a carefully crafted post, they may not do much for your brand or make an impact toward your campaign goal.

Typically, it is more valuable to receive engagement based around a business priority. For example, although sharing or retweeting a post is technically an engagement, it provides the type of organic awareness of an agent’s operations that cannot be matched by your own posting.

Conversions, which means that a user has navigated to your site and performed a specific action, and CTR, which measures how many people have clicked on a link embedded in your post, are usually the most valuable form of engagement. The main social media platforms provide an easy mechanism for tracking CTR. LinkedIn, for instance, offers several metrics (including CTR) to review at the bottom of each post, while Facebook offers a similar array of helpful insights in the same location.

Tracking conversions is a bit more complicated and can require some familiarity with additional technologies like Google Analytics. However, numerous online resources can walk you through how to gauge whether your social media is inspiring the actions you want to see on your website, such as people signing up for consultations or joining your agency’s email list.

Take Advantage of Social’s Power

Social media has changed how people connect, obtain information and conduct business. While these technologies can take some time to master, they can be incredibly advantageous for an agent’s operations. The trick is to have a strong idea of what it is you are trying to accomplish via social media and a firm understanding of how to measure your results. By applying these principles, you will start seeing a positive impact and ultimately make progress toward your business goals.

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Optimize your Facebook profile like a pro

Put your best foot forward on the world’s largest social platform with these easy-to-implement tips.

You’ve done it. You’ve finally set up a Facebook page for your business. It’s time to leverage the platform’s nearly 2 billion subscribers, engage directly with your customers and promote your products. But before you start crafting your first posts or preparing your weekly hashtags, you must ask yourself a key question: Are the basics of my profile optimized?

If you are brand new to using Facebook for business, the answer is likely no. While it is tempting to immediately start marketing on the platform, it’s critical to not skip optimizing your profile. For many businesses, Facebook is the number one way in which their customers will connect with them and form long-term judgments about their brand. You want to be sure that you are putting your best foot forward by implementing the following tips.

Beautiful Photos

Any Facebook page includes both a profile photo and a cover photo, each of which needs to be formatted correctly. Begin with your profile photo. Typically, for most businesses, this will be your company logo. It is highly recommended that you resize your image before you upload it, as Facebook will compress photos to make them fit the platform’s specifications. For instance, your profile photo will be displayed 170×170 pixels on computers, 128×128 pixels on smartphones and 36×36 pixels on most phones.

Remember that your photo will also be snipped to fit within a circular-shape template that Facebook uses for profile photos. You will need to ensure that your logo image has excess whitespace around it, which will then guarantee that the entirety of your logo shows up within the circle. Utilizing photo editing software like Photoshop or a free online platform like Pixlr can help you make this change.

Your page’s cover photo needs to be approached the same way. The ideal dimensions for your cover photo are 820 pixels wide by 312 pixels tall for computers and 640 pixels wide by 360 pixels tall on mobile devices. To make things easier on yourself, seek out an online tutorial. Hubspot’s guide to the Facebook cover photo is particularly helpful and includes a free, downloadable template to help you optimize it.

There are other considerations to keep in mind regarding your profile’s photos. You will want to make sure they accurately reflect your brand. Is your logo the correct version? Do the colors, words and imagery that are in your cover photo fit with your organization’s style guide? Be sure you can answer “yes” to both of these questions before you proceed.  

Keep It Fresh and Accurate

Once you have some great-looking photos in place, you’ll need to update your profile’s logistical information. A freshly updated page has become even more important during the coronavirus pandemic, as more people are online than ever before. While you don’t need to necessarily use every field that Facebook offers, you should strongly consider providing responses for the following sections:

  • Category: This field will increase your chances of your company showing up in Facebook’s internal search.
  • Address, Hours and Additional Contact Info: While always meaningful, these fields have become exponentially more important for businesses during the pandemic. With some customers now limiting their face-to-face engagement with businesses do to health concerns, you will want your customer-base to be aware of any changes to your hours and to know how they can get in touch with you regarding questions or concerns.
  • About: This is your opportunity to offer an “elevator pitch” that sums up who you are and what you’re offering. Make it short and succinct. Additionally, consider knitting together your digital presence by providing links to other social profiles and your website.

Don’t Forget Your Call to Action

In addition to its other functionality, Facebook provides what is known as a “call to action” (CTA) button. With a bright blue color, and given its prominent location near the top of a business page, this is another aspect of Facebook that merits careful optimization.

Facebook allows you to modify the button’s text and choose from a variety of different CTAs. You can direct people to click on the button to book an appointment, call you, download an app and much more. Don’t forget to insert a URL into the button and that your URL’s destination aligns effectively with your chosen CTA.

Onward and Upward

Now that you’ve got a fully-optimized profile, you’re truly ready to begin taking advantage of the world’s largest social network. Once you start pulling people into your business page’s orbit by creating great content, they will have everything they need to learn who you are and what you have to offer. From there, it is onward and upward. Continue nurturing your profile. The more work you put in, the more progress you’ll make toward your business goals of achieving greater recognition, reach and additional sales.

This blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on this blog.

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The Independent Underwriter for
the Independent AgentSM