The Significant Risks of the Remote Desktop

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with IDTheftSecurity.com Inc

Are you one of the millions of Americans who are now working from home? Or have you been working from home for awhile? Either way, it is likely that you are using some type of remote desktop protocol. If you are, there are some things that you should be aware of.

None of us believe that we will be hacked, but we have seen over and over again that it is possible. Even the biggest companies out there have been hacked, and a small company is even more at risk of this. Add the use of a program called Remote Desktop offered by Microsoft or Google Chrome or many other third-party remote access programs, and you need to be aware of some things.

Essentially, Remote Desktop allows you to access a computer remotely. It might be in your home or your office, and you can give access to others who are also working remotely in the form of a “remote assistance scam”. However, when you give access, or have this access, your network may be wide open for hackers. There have been thousands and thousands of cases where people have become victims of various remote desktop/remote assistance scams, and if a hack is successful, it can destroy a small business, wreck a persons bank account or lead to identity theft.

What is Remote Desktop?

Remote Desktop is a very common software, and if you work on a computer with Windows, you probably have this program, and you don’t even know it. Though it’s a great tool, it is not as secure as it should be.

Criminals are well-aware of this, of course, and they have worked to create a number of tools for hacking into the software. When they get access to networks, the hackers can also access company info and steal things like login information. Once they have this information, the hackers can buy and sell them so other hackers can use them. Once they are in, they have access to anything and everything on the network.

You are at Risk

It is estimated that there are more than 3 million businesses out there that have access to Remote Desktop. Most of these are small businesses, and many of them manage their own IT services. If you own a small business and you have an IT department, you fall into this category. Additionally, hackers know that these companies are weaker, and they target businesses like this…and any company that has Remote Desktop is also a target.

What You Can Do About It

At this point, you are probably wondering what you can do to protect your company or yourself from hackers who like to use Remote Desktop to access networks. Here are some tips:

  • If you don’t use Remote Desktop, you should remove it from your computer.
  • Make sure that when there is a Windows Update, that you update it as soon as you possibly can. It’s possible that this update could have a security patch that is imperative for keeping hackers out.
  • Ensure that your wireless connections are encrypted, and also password protected.
  • If you want to keep Remote Desktop, you can, but choose to only use it on a computer that is running on a VPN, or virtual private network.
  • Use a firewall, too, so you can restrict access.
  • Another thing you can do is set up two-factor authentication.
  • Beware of any pop ups or phone calls that lead to someone requesting remote access to our device.
  • Understand that none of this is fool proof. The only way to totally protect yourself from hacks via Remote Desktop is to totally delete the program.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

Comments (33)

AJ Heidmann ~ CRS
McEnearney Associates, Inc. - Alexandria, VA
YOUR Alexandria & Arlington, VA Real Estate Expert

Robert ~ Thanks for continuing to share your knowledge with us!

Jan 04, 2021 06:13 PM
Joe Daniels, Broker, Appraiser, Realtor(R),
Personal Service Realty - Jacksonville, FL

That's something I'll have to check in to. Since I have never used it I didn't give it a thought that it might be there lurking in the background.

Jan 04, 2021 08:46 PM
Jon Quist
REALTY EXECUTIVES ARIZONA TERRITORY - Tucson, AZ
Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996

I run Windows. I looked at all the installed programs and didn't see "Remote Desktop" listed. Anywhere else it would be lurking?

Jan 04, 2021 09:59 PM
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

I'm Blessed since I've been using remote desk top software for over a decade  when I first started with Go2MyPC without any issues and continue to use computer software programs to protect against malware, ransomware and antivirus programs. I currently use TeamViewer and Remote PC depending on my use of the application and use these programs several times a week.

Jan 05, 2021 12:23 AM
Paddy Deighan MBA JD PhD
federalfinanciallawgroup.com - Vail, CO
Paddy Deighan J.D. Ph.D

Excellent and timely remindetr at a time when more and more of us are vulnerable to attack....nothing is fool proof but your suggestions are all noteworthy...thank you

Jan 05, 2021 01:25 AM
Krystal Lee Whaley
Whaley Realty & Whaley Realty CRL - Sevierville, TN
Broker

Thank you for the article. This is a growing problem in specifically our real estate industry with wire fraud up over 1000% & esigning fraud/forgery on the rise. From what I've discovered, seems the cover up is worse than the crime.They want you to go out of business to hide what has happened. Keeping everything on a secure server is a great resource. Being weary of "mistakes" we see as careless or insignificant are where the red flags actually are. You see a careless mistake...look into it immediately. Skimming per file small amounts or create fake files for the Brokers eyes are some terrible ways money is stolen. Spoofing email addresses, Spoofing IP addresses on the esign certificates, not paying attention to your clients closing disclosures/cash to close amounts, where and who did your clients get their wiring information from & how much did they really send? .....its a new breed/evolution of theft in our industry. The clients become so stressed out they feel forced to close even if you catch it in time from rate locks or time crunches for example. Ever since COVID loosened these rules of esigning closing/title work/deeds & living in a world of cryptocurrency...its more important than ever to protect our clients information & fiduciary duty is more important than ever now to pay attention to. What is so terrible about all this...is it more than likely has deemed to be that fellow real estate professional doing the crimes with the industry knowledge. Anyone still using Google for an email for example, needs to look into how easy it is to hack those accounts, screen record remotely wo knowledge, With them attached to our phones ( Google everything) it logs location, passwords, history etc...& a simple airdrop or Bluetooth feature could be the easy entrance along with wifi. Our cell phones aren't safe these days. QR codes are coming back for 2 step authentication & hard wired internet. Discovered the racket, survived their "cover up stage" , and its going to take at least a year to make a full list of all the victims. It can happened with people you see every day. Other employees at Comoanies not even yours...or other Agents you do business with. We might have never known, however, We survived bc our server, our file checking process, & our technology back office system along with a CPA that conducts monthly reconciliation. Without all that, if you do old school paper files and only get them checked when its time to get paid....its time to update your procedures as a Broker. Those days are long gone. I call them gaslight files & pure closing disclosure forgery. You get one set, but there's really another set ( or 2) out there. You can mark up documents even after esigned with no history. It all boils down to the Broker to keep an eye on it all & our Agents to help be supportive with document requests no matter if they understand why or not. Ironically it was our Microsoft remote desktop to our IT secure server that was the MVP as it logged everything they did....these real estate professional hackers used Google and Safari remote servers with the unsecure portals provided by 3rd party real estate tech companies we have no control over, but must use. Question where our Clients credits are going to from the Sellers, make sure no money is being taken outside of closing, and RESPA isn't just there for kickbacks. Your clients deserve the full 3 day window to review their CDs. Prepare your clients as its where the money is at, if they are going to get stolen from...this is where the criminals will fudge the #s. Hackers in our Industry hack bc this is a large pathway to how esign forgery is done and wire fraud. Poor clients most of them have no clue they've been stolen from. . Apologies for the rant, but I think articles like this needs to be brought more to light to spread awareness. Its a real problem that's getting worse & our REALTORS need to wake up. Its a different world now. You have Google on your phone or email and you conduct work on an unsecured server? Might as well give the criminals your passwords as its that easy for them these days.

Jan 05, 2021 01:55 AM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

I have placed a pieced of tape over my camera. G Chrome claimes that they got into my real estate sites. Changed all passwords. Added another level of protection on personal sites. Do not leave credit card information especially wanting to donate to NAR sites. All in all, I am in OK shape. 

Jan 05, 2021 05:46 AM
Jimmy Williams (352) 874-2354
Keller Williams Elite Partners IV - Mount Dora, FL
Lake and Western Orange County Real Estate Expert!

Good to know.....thanks for sharing!

Jan 05, 2021 06:13 AM
Joe Jackson
Keller Williams Capital Partners Realty - Columbus, OH
Clintonville and Central Ohio Real Estate Expert

Very informative! Thanks for sharing! 

Jan 05, 2021 06:30 AM
Debb Janes EcoBroker and Bernie Stea JD
ViewHomes of Clark County - Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
REALTORS® in Clark County, WA

Thanks for the information. Sobering to say the least. D

Jan 05, 2021 07:35 AM
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate

I've used it on several occasions to my benefit & it's usually done for repair reasons. I really don't see a problem with it ever in my arena of real estate.

Jan 05, 2021 10:14 AM
CANDACE (Candy) STEVENS, EA
Number Cruncher LLC - Overton, NV
Helping Taxpayers Resolve IRS problems

Thank you for sharing Robert Siciliano .  This is something most people do not think about.  As a bookkeeper I have clients who wish me to remote into their computer.  It is a service I do not offer anymore because of the risks involve.

Have a Happy Day!

 

Jan 05, 2021 10:38 AM
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Thanks for the detailed post--something I don't think about too much.  I've seen the headaches other go through when they get hacked!  Cyber fraud, etc will continue to be a growning problem.

Jan 05, 2021 12:12 PM
Erik Hiss
Keller Williams Capital Partners Realty - Worthington, OH
You can trust me for all your real estate needs!

I don't use it as of late. I just sync all my files and it's technically the same with with an online email provider. But it is certainly pretty scary the amount of unsafe scenarios out there.

Jan 06, 2021 05:55 AM
Jim Paulson
Progressive Realty (Boise Idaho) www.Progressive-Realty.info - Boise, ID
Owner,Broker

I am doing more storing stuff into the "cloud" so relying less on remote access to my computer.  Even though two factor authentication is a pain - I use it daily.

Good data - thanks.

Jan 06, 2021 01:55 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I thought I would come back to this one and see if I’m making any mistakes again.

Jan 06, 2021 10:05 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Jim Paulson I love when that comes together that way and works out the way you’re saying in the best way possible

Jan 06, 2021 10:07 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Thanks for the continuing education on identity theft and security issues. Great information here!

Jeff

Jan 06, 2021 10:22 PM
Ginger Harper
Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage~ Ginger Harper Real Estate Team - Southport, NC
Your Southport~Oak Island Agent~Brunswick County!

Thanks for making us aware of this.  Great post.

 

Jan 07, 2021 07:35 AM
Janice Zaltman
United Realty Group - Boca Raton, FL
South Florida Residential Real Estate

Thank you for your post. It is so important to understand and use safety protocols and mamy brokers are not educating us or know of how to best keep our client's and our own information protected. Any opinion on which is the safest web browser to use?

Jan 07, 2021 07:03 PM

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