Email communication has been a staple in the title industry for years. While email served its purpose in the early days of digital advancement, title companies are now taking steps to reduce email communication. Instead, they are relying on communication portals like Qualia Connect to automatically exchange information with key stakeholders. Most urgently, title companies are making the move away from email in order to mitigate a top threat: real estate wire fraud

According to the FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Complaint Center (FBI IC3), business email compromise (BEC) schemes were the costliest cybercrime reported for the third consecutive year (estimated loss of upwards of $1.8 billion). It’s clear that BEC is a major threat to the real estate industry—especially during the closing process. Because of this, title companies are making the transition to communication portals. While there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to security, communication portals can help safeguard your business and mitigate security threats. 

What is a communication portal? 

Portal-based communication channels are rapidly replacing traditional email communication as a mechanism for secure information exchange. For example, Qualia Connect is a secure, app-based communication portal that seamlessly integrates with Qualia’s title production software and replaces the use of email. Read on for some of the security benefits of communicating via a communications portal. 

3 security benefits of engaging with clients and consumers via a communication portal

There are 3 well-recognized principles when it comes to information security. These pillars are confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

1. Confidentiality: make it so only authorized users can access information

Each real estate transaction involves many stakeholders who communicate and share information in a variety of ways. These various methods of communicating and distributing information via phone, fax, email, and text message not only make record-keeping difficult and time-consuming but also increase the likelihood of security breaches. This is because the potential for a cybercriminal to intercept information increases when sensitive information passes through many systems that may or may not possess the needed security features to keep unauthorized eyes out.

Communication portals consolidate information and systems—allowing fewer opportunities for hackers to intercept. Additionally, portals like Connect allow admins to restrict access to only authorized users, helping to avoid accidentally sending important or sensitive information to the wrong contact.

2. Integrity: make it so information (such as wiring instructions) can’t be maliciously modified

When unsecured and unencrypted emails are used to exchange information, hackers can use these details to launch a BEC scam. In a BEC scam, criminals send an email that appears to come from a known source making a legitimate request. For example, a cybercriminal may pose as a title agent and send incorrect down payment wiring instructions to a homebuyer. 

Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an additional layer of security by making it harder for attackers to gain access to a device or online account. Email service providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook all allow for 2FA to be set up, but it is not a default setting. With a communication portal like Qualia Connect, 2FA is enabled by default, so all parties in the transaction have to submit two forms of authentication to gain access to the portal.

In addition to default security features like 2FA, communication portals like Qualia Connect also provide encrypted communication. While some email providers use email encryption, others do not. Encrypted communication keeps messages private between parties—an outside party is not able to read or alter messages even if they were to intercept them—strengthening the confidentiality and integrity of communications. 

3. Availability: make it so documents are securely stored and accessible to authorized users well beyond the transaction date

Important documents with sensitive information can be more secure in a communication portal versus in a filing cabinet or even storing digitally on a hard drive. This is because secure communication portals like Qualia Connect leverage best-in-class cloud architecture, largely mitigating the risks posed by natural disasters, denial-of-service attacks, and other threats. 

Communication portals allow transaction parties to send, organize, and store important documents that are accessible at any time. Comparatively, with email, documents may get lost or stakeholders may lose access over a period. And unlike many email platforms, secure communication portals store documents in an encrypted format, ensuring that only the intended recipients can access the data.

A secure communication portal is only part of the equation

Having a secure communications portal can help to mitigate the risk of a security breach, but it is not an end-all when it comes to securing your business and clients. Companies need to focus on educating their clients on how to use it and why. 

Cybercriminals often prey on inexperienced, first-time homebuyers who feel uncertain during the home purchase process. By educating consumers early on and often in the process, the risks of wire fraud can be greatly reduced. ALTA members can leverage ALTA’s Homeowner Outreach Program (HOP) for resources to educate their clients and consumers. 

Learn how you can leverage Qualia Connect’s client communication and coordination portal with your clients and consumers. 

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