We’re buried under data – both tangible and digital. Do you have a plan for disposing of it securely?
By Bryan Johnson, IT Director, Alliant National Title Insurance Company
We live in a world of data. The internet runs on it. Companies and governments collect it. Each person carries around a tiny data collection device in their pocket in the form of a smartphone, which catalogs our spending, socializing and travel habits.
Unsurprisingly, personal data is an important part of real estate transactions, and the business can involve the exchange of names, employment information, contact numbers, email addresses and, of course, financial information. Considering that trust is critical to any given transaction, real estate professionals should make all possible efforts to safeguard this personal information and properly secure or dispose of it as appropriate once a transaction is completed. Trash can on a laptop. 3d illustration stock photo
Formalize Your Policy
When thinking about customer data and how it should be handled, start from the beginning. Set up a formalized policy that will be the standard across your agency. Having a clear, step-by-step process will make it easier to reduce mistakes when handling data. It will also streamline your ability to bring people up to speed on your processes and procedures – ultimately saving time and money.
Local vs. Network Drives vs. Cloud Storage Services
Once you start actually disposing of your customers’ files, keep in mind that data can live in multiple locations. You may have files on your local work computer that also live on your company’s network or on a cloud storage service. To ensure a given file is gone for good, you need to erase it in all locations. Many network and cloud storage solutions will also still retain copies of deleted files in what is commonly called a recycle bin. If you intend to permanently delete your files, you will need to make sure they are purged from the recycle bin as well.
There is a lot of information stored on hard drives. Once you no longer need a particular drive, it is always a good idea to enlist the services of a professional data destruction company. Most major cities will have several companies from which to choose. These businesses can either physically shred your hard drives or even degauss them, which involves an incredibly powerful magnetic field that completely erases all data.
A Not So Paperless World
Although personal computing has been commonplace for more than 25 years, we live in a world where paper still flows and customer information still exists in a tangible form. Be sure to treat your clients’ physical information with the same care as you do their digital. To dispose of paper data, deploy a good shredder. After that, it is ideal to use the services of a professional recycler or data destruction provider.
Increased access to data is one of the great double-edged swords of the information age. While it has made conducting business easier, faster and more convenient, it has also left individuals and companies vulnerable to data breaches and fraud. By leveraging data effectively and safely, you will be able to conduct your real estate transactions with greater speed and dexterity. Just be sure you don’t mistakenly end up putting private information at risk!
It’s one less stressor!
The more we use mobile technology, the more passwords we accrue. It’s not unusual for an individual to have more than 20 different sites — bank, social media, Netflix, home security — that she routinely enters. Add to this borage of passwords the lack of cohesiveness between websites. One password might require lower and upper case and numbers and punctuation, and another asks for your childhood street address.
How does one simplify the technology puzzle and avoid getting overwhelmed by too many passwords? Here are five steps to follow to keep the letters, numbers and punctuation that make up your internet profile easier to recall and more secure.
Step 1: Use passphrases instead of passwords
Many experts suggest length is key to preventing a hack. The longer the password, the better, even upwards of 20 characters. Use a phrase that is easy to remember such as a favorite cheer for a sports team or something that is second nature in response to you. Some examples might be I-need-my-coffee-at-8AM! or GoBadgerBasketball1984.
Step 2: Use a password manager
How many of you have snapped a photo of your passwords or a photo of a driver’s license to remember information. What happens when your cell phone is gone? Can you access this information? There are hundreds of password managers that can be utilized both via desktop or laptop and smart phone. Although the inputting passwords up front might take time, it’s the sense of organization that is the reward. It’s best not to use the same password for every site. It’s also nearly impossible to remember a different password for each site.
A password manager allows you to use one code to access all of your other codes. This helps secure credential storage as well. The manager can assist in synchronization across multiple devices.
Step 3: Use Two-Step Verification
This is also known as two-factor or multi-factor authentication. This means that a password and a secondary smartphone code are required for access. This might be something such as a finger print, face identification or other tech-savvy options. These are much more secure and nearly un-hackable. Individuals should enable this security whenever possible, especially for financial, email, and other secure and/or private accounts. This can also be enabled with a password manager.
Step 4: Do Your Research
Stay up-to-speed on current online hacks and breeches of data that have occurred. A good resource is https://haveibeenpwned.com to see if any of your online accounts have been compromised. This could be a healthy routine to visit the site once a month to check in on all online accounts and data that you want kept private.
Another easy safety device is to set up alerts on your phone or through Google, Yahoo, etc., that alert you to current scams or if any of your information has been violated. There are thousands of security breaches daily, and don’t panic if you are contacted; it does not mean your information has been compromised. Do your due diligence and determine if you need to go to your password manager to update information.
This information might seem overwhelming; however, being knowledgeable and proactive about passwords and data is crucial to a healthy cyber profile. Technology is constantly advancing. Use these nuances to your advantage. Streamline passwords and stay tech-intelligent.
Alexa! Hi, Siri! Hey, Google! “Can you tell me what the temperature is
to be today?”
no question that voice search, which allows users to speak directly into a
device in lieu of typing text into a search field to generate results, is
with the increasing popularity of voice search (also known as digital
assistants), businesses would be wise to add it to their digital arsenal.
improves the user experience of search engines—it’s faster and easier—and
provides more accurate results. Bottom line: if your website content is
effectively optimized, especially for mobile users, your business could be the
first one that Google recommends.
big deal when you’re considering the ways that voice search affects SEO.
“Voice search trends are already making it
clear that effective, customized SEO plays a vital role in getting your content
featured. Optimizing your site and content for voice search is step one in the
transformation to voice marketing. Consider all things audio and how they
translate when broadcast on an audio
channel,” writes Merilyn Pereira, a staff writer for martechadvisor.com.
persuasive: Google claims that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be
conducted using voice search. And even if you’re not a tech titan, it’s not
difficult to optimize your website content with voice search technology.
however, a few tips that make the optimization process easier, including
creating content that keeps the conversation flowing, researching keywords that
often appear in mobile searches and foregoing superfluous lingo and buzzwords.
“The expression “keep it simple” applies now more than ever
before. From talk to text, voice prompt calling and more, we’re doing less
typing and more talking.
Companies can optimize both content and
connection by keeping things simple. Skip the jargon. Use clear, succinct
verbiage to improve your efficacy and amplify your message,” suggests the Forbes
Communications Council, which outlines 14 other top
tips to optimize your content for voice search.
Real Estate Corner:
Voters in Lakewood, a Denver suburb, approve cap on new housing construction
The Denver Post reports that almost 53 percent of the tally, or 18,771 votes, was in favor versus 47 percent, or 16,913 votes, against.
Title insurance agents face waves of continuous technological evolutions, all designed to ease the agent’s work, but which can be glitchy enough to tempt title agents to abandon new protocols in favor of old habits.
Technology shows up in our work lives in several ways. For example, the options below are but an “initial round-up” (if you will) of many title agent’s interactions with technology:
Production Software – Often used by title agents to manage files, create documents and commitments, handle disbursements, communicate and share information with clients.
Electronic Records – While still not yet available in every county or title plant, most urban areas now have electronic records. Title professionals no longer have to drive to a set location to research property records. They can do research from a computer anywhere with an internet connection.
E-Recordings – Rather than taking the original documents to the County Register of Deeds to be put of record, recordings can be submitted online through various providers.
E-Signatures – E- Notaries/RON (remote online notarization) – This a rapidly evolving space and can be a major convenience for consumers and increase productivity for title agents.
Smart Contracts – SC’s are just beginning to become a reality. Self-executing contracts that follow an “if-this-then-that” protocol can streamline workflow and reduce errors.
Social Media – A powerful and ubiquitous vehicle that aids marketing and relationship efforts.
Technology is now a part of everything we do, and most every title agent recognizes the benefits of adopting some form of technology. Moving forward, technology is helping mitigate risks like wire fraud while helping us run more efficient businesses.
There can be a bit of tug-of-war over the adoption of new technology. The over 50-year-old work population has had to learn new technologies as adults, while Millennials grew up in the face of ever-evolving technology options, and the up-and-coming Generation Z has never known a life without the Internet.
Those from older generations have witnessed methods that were once industry best practices become obsolete in a brave new, technological world. In some cases, entire industries have had to evolve or risk becoming obsolete themselves.
The truth is the title insurance industry is behind, technologically speaking. Title insurance operates much like the check at the grocery store; although the check may remain an option for some time yet, it is not now, nor will it ever again be the dominate method of payment.
Yet our industry has been slow to adapt and embrace new technologies. Those who would drag their feet cite concerns about emerging technology, the validity of it and what the implications could be in the result of certain claims. These are valid concerns.
But a continued resistance is creating opportunity for those outside our industry to change it for us.
While the use of new technology does open doors to risk of claims or risk of being unintentionally negligent could increase, the waves of disruption don’t look to be letting up anytime soon.
To remain relevant, title agents must get on board and move full steam ahead.
There is nothing like a solid, well-built email list – one that actually has people and businesses you want to reach.
Though some consider email “old-school” in the face of social media and text messaging, beautifully built content within your enewsletters and even within simple emails, can reach your audiences in ways social media platforms might not.
To that end, you need email addresses. You also need to not engage in spam (using email addresses you’re not entitled to). Here’s a great bit on how businesses can legitimately and effectively gain new email addresses, thereby continually growing their audience reach.
15 Proven Ways to Grow Your Email List
Real Estate Corner:
As technology continues to affect nearly every corner of our lives, real estate transactions are getting done with more technological influence than ever:
How Technology Is Changing The Real Estate Market.