Cyber Security Part Two: Board Member Tips for Keeping Your Community Association Safe
In part one of this two-part series, we discussed the importance of cyber security to your community association and the steps that residents can take to protect themselves and their association. In this article, we look at your board’s responsibility in preventing cyber attacks.
Many technology solutions are available today to conduct the day-to-day business of running a community association. Specialized property management software, for instance, can simplify transactions and improve communication among board members and with residents. Wireless access to cardkey data and security cameras can allow you to keep an eye on activities around your property and manage systems remotely.
“The ability to communicate, pay association fees and access information online makes it much easier for community associations and residents to accomplish many necessary tasks,” says Chris Cady, strategic architect at FirstService Residential. With all this sensitive information floating around, security should be a top priority for association boards, but oftentimes it isn’t. In fact, few associations have a formal process for handling cyber security.
As a board member, you may be thinking, “We’re all volunteers. What do we know about security?” If no one in your community is knowledgeable in this area, hiring a cyber security professional would be a valuable investment. This professional can review your existing protection, recommend ways to improve it and perform any upgrades you can’t do yourself. A good property management company can help, either by providing an in-house expert or by referring you to a reputable cyber security specialist.
Meanwhile, your board can implement the four steps below to begin putting your association on a more secure path.
Establish a cyber security policy.Your community association is essentially a small business, and just like any business, it should have an established policy for handling online security. Of course, your governing documents and local laws will dictate how to add a new policy. Such a policy should include:
- Roles. Who should have access to what information? Who should have administrative privileges? Who will have responsibility for managing cyber security?
- Potential risks and a plan of action. What are some of the possible security breaches that might occur, and what can you do to mitigate those risks? How should board members address mishandling or accidental leaking of personal information? Who should you contact if you suspect criminal hacking of your data?
- Rules about using association devices. If your association owns computers or mobile devices for board members or residents to use, do they contain sensitive information? How will you prevent unauthorized people from accessing confidential information? Should you allow access to social media from these devices? Are certain websites off limits?
Develop cyber security board training.Whether you create a simple manual or require board members to take a class, cyber security awareness training is a good idea. This way, everyone on the board is following the same procedures and policies.
Provide residents with cyber security information.Use available communication channels to educate residents about cyber security. Include information in your community newsletter, send out emails or letters and post tips on your community website and on a centrally located bulletin board. Share Cyber Security Part One with them.
Make sure that your association software is secure.Using software that is specially designed for homeowners associations can make many tasks easier for both board members and residents. However, it must incorporate robust security designed to prevent the introduction of malware and unauthorized access to sensitive information.
Cady points out that a program like FirstService Residential Connect™ from FirstService Residential provides advanced security and privacy features so that your board members and residents can safely log on from anywhere using a mobile device. As a board member, you can easily access all of your need-to-know information from a customizable dashboard. Residents can use FirstService Residential Connect to communicate directly with other residents and board members, as well as pay fees, submit maintenance requests and reserve amenities.
Safety and security go well beyond the walls of your building or the fences of your neighborhood. In today’s world, hackers and scammers can also cause significant harm. Understanding the dangers and being vigilant when going online are responsibilities that every board member—and every resident—should undertake to protect your community.
An experienced property management company can help you protect your information from cyber attacks while making it easier to conduct business online. Find out how. Contact FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company, today.