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Top 10 Secure Computing Tips for Subscribers

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Photo from “Spider-Man”, Sony Pictures, 2002

Photo from “Spider-Man”, Sony Pictures, 2002

Those words were uttered by Ben Parker to his nephew, Peter Parker, whose alter ego was, unbeknownst to Uncle Ben, Spider-Man.

So what does this have to do with real estate?

MLSListings recently announced that in response to subscriber requests, we changed the session timeouts (i.e., the period of time after which a user is automatically logged out) on our system from 60 minutes to 2 hours on Paragon and 8 hours on both Matrix and our Pro website. (Note that the only exception is a 15-minute timeout on the Pay My Bill page, which is necessary for compliance with credit card processing requirements.)

While this change gives our subscribers the power to do more without worrying about being automatically logged off and having to re-enter log-in credentials, from a security standpoint it weaves a tangled (World Wide) web.

Extended timeouts leave your sessions vulnerable to reuse by other people. For example, think of the situation when you go for a meeting or get a cup of coffee and leave your laptop unlocked with your session open. Someone can easily access your computer and commit nefarious or mischievous activities posing as you – such as making changes to your saved searches or altering your listings information.

For your own security, it is imperative that you never leave your computer unattended with an MLSListings session open. The best prevention would be locking your computer screen or, even better, manually logging out before leaving.

Top Ten Cyber Security Tips

Since we are on the topic of computer security, here is a list of ten security precautions you should always bear in mind whenever you are using the Internet:

  1. You Are A Target: Realize that you are an attractive target to hackers. Don’t ever say, “It won’t happen to me.”
  2. Practice Good Password Management: Use a strong mix of characters, and don’t use the same password for multiple sites. Don’t share your password with others, don’t write it down, and definitely don’t write it on a post-it note attached to your monitor.
  3. Lock It Up: As mentioned above, never leave your devices unattended. If you need to leave your computer, phone, or tablet for any length of time — no matter how short — lock it up so no one can use it while you’re gone. If you keep sensitive information on a flash drive or external hard drive, make sure to lock it up as well.
  4. Follow Safe Clicking: Always be careful when clicking on attachments or links in email. If it’s unexpected or suspicious for any reason, don’t click on it. Double check the URL of the website the link takes you to; hackers will often take advantage of spelling mistakes to direct you to a harmful domain.
  5. Beware of Browsing: Sensitive browsing, such as banking, shopping, or working on MLSListings, should only be done on a device that belongs to you, on a network that you trust. Whether it’s a friend’s phone, a public computer, or a cafe’s free WiFi — your data could be copied or stolen.
  6. Back It Up: Back up your data regularly, and make sure your anti-virus software is always up to date.
  7. Watch What You Plug In: Be conscientious of what you plug in to your computer. Malware can be spread through infected flash drives, external hard drives, and even smartphones.
  8. Be Aware What You Share: Criminals can befriend you and easily gain access to a shocking amount of information —where you work, when you’re on vacation, where you went to school —that could help them gain access to more valuable data.
  9. Cut Out The “Middle Man”: Offline, be wary of social engineering, where someone attempts to gain information from you through manipulation. If someone calls or emails you asking for sensitive information, it’s okay to say no. You can always call the company directly to verify credentials before giving out any information.
  10. Stay on Top of Your Accounts: Be sure to monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity. If you see something unfamiliar, it could be a sign that you’ve been compromised.

We hope you find these computer security tips useful while enjoying the convenience of extended timeout sessions.

Sincerely,

 

Your friendly, neighborhood MLSListings

 

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