There are many advantages to using cloud-based software for homeowner association (HOA) and condominium association (COA) management. Cloud-based software like CINC Systems can dramatically streamline your business and help you manage your clients’ HOA/COAs more efficiently. However, some users are concerned that cloud-based software poses a greater risk of data hacking.
You may think that hackers would have no reason to look at the association management industry, but think again. The association management industry is a $5 billion industry; that is reason enough for hackers to be looking at us. All management companies hold private data, account numbers, and possibly even some bank information. At a minimum, your database is a possible opening into your bank(s) database; think about that!
HOA/COA managers are often responsible for the client’s sensitive private data, such as financial information and resident directories, so it’s natural to be concerned about hacking. Additionally, cloud-based software is potentially more vulnerable than traditional software.
With traditional software, your data is stored on one physical server, usually your office computer. Cloud-based software spreads your data across multiple remote servers, also known as “the cloud.” This gives you significantly greater mobile access, which helps when you’re managing HOA/COAs, but it also means that hacking is a bigger threat.
Luckily, it’s easy to protect your association management data from cloud hacking. If you follow the right security precautions, your data is just as secure in the cloud as it is on a standard traditional server. To make sure your clients’ HOA/COA data is never compromised by a data breach or other forms of hacking, here’s how you can protect it in the cloud.
Limit Access to Essential Staff Only
Many types of cloud hacking occur due to human error. Hackers love to exploit weaknesses caused by oversight or negligence. If HOA/COA data isn’t handled with care, it can be an easy target for a breach. The first step to protecting association management data in the cloud is making sure there are no holes or leaks in your system.
This means that you should prevent cloud security threats by limiting access to essential staff only, such as yourself and any co-managers. If your HOA/COA management business employs multiple staff members, review everyone’s role and see who needs access to specific information. For example, let’s say you have a receptionist who doesn’t directly work with your clients or handle any tasks for the HOA/COA’s operation. He or she might not need access to all data in your management software platform.
If possible, customize your HOA/COA management software so you can create different “tiers” of access for your employees. If you have an employee who is responsible for handling resident work orders but never deals with financial reports, you may be able to restrict this individual’s access to the client web portal. If their account is hacked, the only data that becomes compromised is the data they had permission to view.
By restricting access to your association management clients’ data, you reduce the likelihood of a co-worker or employee accidentally causing a full security breach.
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Create Strong Passwords
Next, create strong passwords. This is one of the biggest steps you can take to improve your cloud data security. Often, hackers use complex software that cycles through common words and number combinations until it cracks your password. You may think a password like “nameofmyolddog33” is clever, and it might be impossible for your friends and co-workers to guess, but a hacker can gain access to an easy password within minutes or even seconds.
This is why experts recommend creating strong, unique passwords. If you’re not sure how to make a secure password to protect your HOA/COA data in the cloud, follow these tips:
- Use between eight and 16 characters.
- Include a mix of uppercase letters, lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Substitute numbers and symbols for letters, such as “$” for “S” or “8” for “B.” For example, spell “Baseball” as “8a$e8all.”
- Avoid obvious words like the name of your business, clients, family members, or pets. Consider inventing an acronym that would only make sense to you, such as a word created from the first letter in each line of your favorite song.
Never use the same password twice. It’s tempting to have the same password for all of your online accounts, but this poses a big security risk. If a hacker manages to crack the password for your email account and it’s the same password for your HOA/COA management software, your clients’ data becomes vulnerable.
Also, never share your password with anyone or store it in a list on your computer or phone. Experts also recommend changing your passwords every three to six months. If you have difficulty remembering your passwords, consider using a secure keychain app like LastPass or KeePass.
Share this information with your coworkers to keep your accounting management software data safe in the cloud. Encourage everyone who has an association management software account to create a strong, secure password of their own.
Don’t Use Auto Logins
Most websites, apps, and software programs give you the option to stay logged in all the time, or remember your password for easier access. Although this is a convenient feature, it’s not ideal for cloud security. If you stay logged in, it creates more opportunities for other people to access your clients’ HOA/COA data.
Instead, train yourself to log out each time you’re finished working and log back in the next day.
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Keep Your Devices Secure
With cloud-based association management programs, your clients’ data won’t be stored on your computer. However, it’s still important to keep your devices physically secure. If an unauthorized user gets access to your computer or tablet while you’re logged into your management software, that’s a big data risk.
To avoid this, follow basic anti-theft precautions. Don’t leave laptops or tablets unattended in a public place or in a car for long periods. When you travel, make sure you use a secure briefcase or laptop bag. Finally, take steps to secure your business’ office so no one can access or steal your devices.
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Protect Your Association Data with CINC Systems
With CINC Systems, your HOA/COA management data is always secured in the cloud using the latest data encryption and other protections. Try a free CINC Systems demo by calling (855) 943-8246.
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