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What To Know About HOA Cybersecurity

Posted by IKO Community Management on September 13, 2018 at 9:00 AM

hoa-cyber-security

Because everything is digitized, sensitive online information is subject to a cyberattack. Cyberattacks are “an attempt by hackers to damage or destroy a computer network or system,” according to Google.

This warrants serious concern for homeowners associations that digitally systemize resident information, including full names, current and former addresses, social security numbers, credit history, and contact information.

On top of sensitive resident information, most homeowners associations keep important HOA financial documentation on an digital system. From HOA fees to contractor paychecks to annual taxes, HOA finances would be a big loss.

What information do cyberattackers want?

Hackers are looking for personally identifiable information (PII) to sell on the “dark web.” The dark web is a digital black hole for stolen identities, fake passports, and other illegal activities. This means that resident information is in-demand currency.

If a cyberattack occurs in your HOA community, PII of former and current residents is at risk. This puts your community at a liability, and you in a courtroom.

What are common cyberattack methods?

The most common method of a cyberattack is an email scam like phishing. This is “the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers,” according to Google.

Another email scam is a botnet attack. This is when “a network of private computers [is] infected with malicious software and controlled as a group without the owners' knowledge.”

If you’re using a system with a spam filter, email cyberattack attempts will likely end up there.

If the spam filter doesn’t work and you don’t recognize the email address, don’t open the email. Don’t share sensitive information using this untrustworthy contact information.

Also, don’t open any zip files, download attachments, or click links from these untrusted emails. These are the best cybersecurity methods for HOAs.

Other common cyberattacks are data breaches and ransomware attacks. A ransomware attack is a malicious software (also known as a virus or Trojan horse) that holds your computer and all of its data hostage until a requested amount of money is paid by the hacker who downloaded the virus onto your computer.

For the best cybersecurity, set up a Google Alert for news on big company data breaches or ransomware attacks. If you’re aware, you can prepare your HOA community.

What are the best cybersecurity methods for homeowners associations?

With the help of All Property Management, here’s a recap list and a few new tips for the best cybersecurity for HOAs:

Email Cybersecurity

  • Set up a spam filter.
  • Don’t open an email if you don’t know the email address.
  • Don’t digitally share sensitive information with any contact that you don’t recognize.
  • Don’t open zip files, download attachments, or click links from untrusted emails.
  • Set up a Google Alert for big data breaches and ransomware attacks.

Password Protection

  • Create strong password for any digital system in an HOA. A lengthy password that consists of a short, memorable sentence (also known as a passphrase) is better than a single word.
  • Incorporate as many letters, numbers, and symbols as each system allows.
  • Don’t use any dictionary words or names unless they’re part of a passphrase.
  • Use a mix of capital and lowercase letters.
  • Avoid using a common password.
  • Don’t reuse passwords or use a master password for multiple systems. If a hacker finds out the master password, all sensitive information is compromised.
  • Use a password management software like 1Password to create and store secure passwords for use across all systems. 1Password also stores usernames, account numbers, and other pertinent information.
  • Change the default password on the router. Anyone who tests the router has access to the entire digital community otherwise.

HOA Board Member Training

  • Limit who has the WiFi password. Visitors should be on a separate network.
  • Train all HOA board members on the importance of password protection, potential of cyberattacks, and best cybersecurity measures.
  • Decide which board members can access sensitive information. This minimizes who knows master passwords.

Software & Data Measures

  • Update all system software as soon as possible. An update creates a stronger version of the software. By choosing to update later, you’re using a weaker, more susceptible version.
  • Invest in an antivirus software to scan for potential Trojan horses, ransomware, and other cyberattacks.
  • Don’t hold onto records longer than required. This minimizes what could be stolen in a cyberattack.
  • Back up any data onto an offsite location. If you back it up to a cloud solution, talk to the provider about cloud security.

For more information about HOA cybersecurity and how to prevent cyberattacks in your community, click below to download our Guide To HOA Risk Management:

Download the Guide To HOA Risk Management Standards

Topics: HOA Board