Tag Archives: web-based property management software

Massive Cyber Attack – Are Property Management Companies at Risk?

Property Management Company Post Cyber AttackI told you so. I’ve been warning about this for a good while now, and this is only the beginning.  In particular, if you are using web-based property management software, you should think about what you are doing. You are putting your own security, your tenants, and your property owners at risk, and probably paying a hefty monthly sum to do it.

I’m talking about the huge cyber attack that came in three waves on Friday.  If you were not directly affected, it was probably (1) because the hackers didn’t bother with smaller websites or (2) because it wasn’t your turn yet.  Here are some of the ones it did affect:

The New York Times
The Financial Times

Ladies and gentlemen, these sites are no pushover sites for hackers (or are they?). Supposedly these sites are some of the best secured sites in the world, and hackers managed to get to them all at once. If these sites are vulnerable, how secure do you think your property management software website is? Most of them weren’t even around 5 years ago, and I would venture that none of them have anywhere ‘close’ to the level of cyber security protection of the sites that got invaded.

In a recent NBCNews.com post I saw the comment for consumers to “think carefully about what and when they connect devices to a cloud or even to the internet in general.” In a previous blog, I speculated on a scenario specifically for property managers called “A Day in the Life of a Property Manager Post Cyber Attack”. It is almost scary how real that seems now.

My experience is in property management and I admit it is in my financial interest for people to purchase desktop software. But the reason we have continued to offer on-premise rental property software is because there is a large market of landlords and managers that don’t want to risk their business and their client base. Plus, the monthly fees for web-based software companies are never ending, and will wind up costing a fortune in the long run.

This year, on the Buildium blog (a web-based competitor) it was stated, “Is your company at risk? Basically: yes. Every landlord, property manager, or real estate professional has access to (and stores) sensitive, confidential, personally-identifiable information on tenants and employees.”

And who is vulnerable? Basically everyone, but consider this information from the same blog “Businesses with fewer than 250 employees account for somewhere between 20-30% of all cyber attacks.”

And how easy it to recover from an attack? Read on,60 percent of small businesses close their doors within months of a successful cyber attack.”

I LOVE technology so don’t get me wrong! We always are looking for new ways to innovate and provide our customers with the best experience possible. But that can be done without storing your valuable data on a remote server that can be attacked at any time. And when that happens, you might suddenly find yourself in an office with no access to your tenants, your owners, your vendors, your accounting, and your customers. And I ask, is that worth the risk?

Web-based or On-premise Desktop Based?

Tenant File logoWe used to get asked why the Tenant File is not in the cloud … it seems there are hundreds of property management software programs doing that, so web-based must the the next great new thing, right? No. Well, now we get lots of calls from property managers that are sick and tired of the ever escalating and unending monthly fees, downtime, and the high security risks.  So I wanted to address how the Tenant File is doing . . .

Happy GirlYes, the Tenant File DESKTOP Property Management Software is still going strong.  Our user-base is growing every day. If you have tried moving to web-based software thinking that it will make your property management run smoother and are now tired of paying a monthly fee PER UNIT for some company on the ‘cloud’ to hold your important information and you now want to get back in control of managing  your rentals, come back to the Tenant File.  Throughout the years, we have made many important upgrades and additions to the Tenant File.   To name a few:

The Tenant File Version 8 now includes up to ten Bank Accounts up from the original 3 Bank Accounts

  • Additional posting fields were added to the POST RENT INCOME section, the screen that  allows you to quickly post rent income from a large number of tenants very quickly, or just to post a few rents as needed.    Additionally, this screen enables you to create a bank deposits for the rent posted, post management fees, post late fees received, and add another payment for any income account in the chart of accounts. You can even write a check to your own company for management fees posted.
  • The Tenant File now allows you to have up to 6 different RECURRING FIELDS for charges that are in addition to the typical rent posting, management fee posting, and late fee charges. The recurring field amounts are kept in the Unit Information for every rental unit.
  • Additional Reports were added to Version 8, such as the Ledger Balances Current (Compact), Owner Audit Report, Owner Profit and Loss Report, Owner Invoices , Late Rent/Late Fees Due , Security Deposits Receipts Posted, Tenant Balances Aging Report , Tenant Rent Payment Summary , Register – All Bank Accounts , Property MTD/YTD Summary, Company Profit and Loss Report, Tenant Balances (Range) , Owner Vacancy Listing , Tenant Delinquency By Owner – just to name a few.
  • The new Security Deposit Disposition Screen allows you to easily take care of the deposit postings when your tenant moves out.
  • The Owner Invoice allows you to take any posting (or multiple postings) in the ledgers and create an invoice for those transactions. This is actually a report, so it is accessed from the Reports screen.
  • The Tenant File now supports any number of Automatic Rent Increases, for any rental unit, and for any date in the future. On the screen below, you simply select the rental unit, enter the amount and date of the increase, and the program will do the rest.
  • Automated Late Fee Postings were added with release of the Tenant File 8. It allows you to set the late fee individually for each tenant separately in the Tenant Ledger under ‘Setup/View Fees’. So, if you charge late fees differently for different tenants, you charge DAILY LATE FEES and you want them to be automated, or if you simply want a hands off’ method for late fee posting, this method is for you.
  • Upload Vacancies to the Web – Version 8 entitles you to a no obligation ONE YEAR subscription to RentalWIZ, which provides you a free web page branded for your company, uploads to other Internet rental sites, and more!

Property Manager HandshakeIf you have an older version of the Tenant File and are ready to get back to running your property management business in your own office, you can order the Tenant File update and STOP paying monthly fees for your own software.  If you have never had the opportunity to try the Tenant File DESKTOP Property Management software but have been looking for a reliable desktop software program that has been on the market for over twenty years with thousands of happy customers, click into www.TenantFile.com to review our program.   The Update purchase includes a month of free phone support to assist you with familiarizing yourself with the software while new purchases include two months of phone support.  Plus, users have the ability to use the WEB SUPPORT Ticket System that will continually provide answers to all individual questions at no additional charge.  We know that you will be happy with how smoothly and simply the program will take care of all of your property management needs – right from your own computer.

A Day in the Life of a Property Manager Post Cyber Attack

Angry Property Management CompanyAs a property manager, you wanted to stay with the latest cloud technology, so you trusted your valuable data to a web-based software company. This scenario could be your company, it is real, and could happen in the near future.

8:00am – Everybody is calm, laughing and enjoying their first cup of coffee. Computers are glowing with the dashboard of your web-based software.  As a property manager you are experiencing just a normal work day.
8:05am – Suddenly all computers show a screen ‘NETWORK NOT FOUND’. No problem, soon it will be back up, just reboot your routers.
8:20am – This is becoming annoying, the computers are still not booting up to the Internet, so nobody can log into your property management software.
9:00am – Tenants are starting to call, they cannot process their rent payments. Still no Internet.
10:00am – The first owner calls and complains that the owner portal is down. They need the data for a meeting. Owner payments are due today.
11:00am – More tenants are calling, some are requesting emergency repairs. Work Orders and repair request are all handled by the software, which dead.
12:00pm – You have 5 office employees on the clock that are sitting around waiting for the Internet to return. Things are getting worse by the minute.
1:00pm – Everyone is watching the TV. There has been a major Internet disruption due to a cyber attack. No word on restoration of services.
2:00pm – No work has been done since early this morning. You have already lost productivity, plus tenants, owners, and vendors are lighting up the phones with complaints.
5:00pm – No answers, no work, employees go home … you’ll have to get everything caught up tomorrow.

Angry TenantThe next day – The cyber attack has spread, servers are down all over the country. You still need to pay all employees to come in to field phone calls from angry tenants and owners. You are having to call vendors to send them out for repairs, but you cannot process their payments. They are not happy. Tenants are being told to bring in their rent payments in person, but all transactions have to be recorded into a spreadsheet for transfer into the cloud property management software sometime later… if at all.

The third day – No change. You are losing money right and left. Your business cannot do anything but take calls and promise you are doing everything possible. No banking, no property management, a total disaster.

After that – total panic. Your business is totally down. You don’t have a backup of your tenants, owners, or vendors. You call your web based property management software company for hours and cannot get through. Once you get to speak with someone, they tell you their server has been part of the attack and they cannot promise that anything can be restored. Your business is in deep trouble, this could take weeks to restore if ever….

Is this scenario possible or just a scare tactic?

Ben Lawsky, head of New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS), said he fears a large enough hack on Wall Street firms could “spill over into the broader economy” — not unlike the mortgage meltdown of 2008.

“We are concerned that within the next decade, or perhaps sooner, we will experience an Armageddon-type cyber event that causes a significant disruption in the financial system for a period of time,” said Ben Lawsky, head of New York’s Department of Financial Services. He called such an attack a “cyber 9/11.”

Recently senators that have classified access and infrastructure experts agree on an impending major cyber attack. A recent New York Times article warns that Russia could be planning an attack affecting “almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict.”

Think about the breaches in security at Target, Home Depot, Amazon, Staples, JP Morgan Chase, Yahoo, Apple, Google and hundreds of supposedly well protected sights. They are getting worse, not better. No company is safe from this, no matter what the software vendors tell their customers. You are probably using the software as SAAS (software as a service) which simply means monthly payments. That can be cut off at any time. Your data can be inaccessible at any time if the Internet has a problem. That means your entire business could at risk.

Our own national security experts are warning about an impending cyber threat coming from other countries that would target critical USA infrastructure systems. Adm. Michael Rogers, The director of the National Security Agency, told the House Intelligence Committee he expects a major cyber attack against the U.S. in the next decade. “It’s only a matter of the ‘when,’ not the ‘if,’ that we are going to see something dramatic,” he said.

If you think your web based software is safe, think again. Even if you are able to make regular backups from your server, the effects of an Internet shutdown would be devastating to your property management company. You have been entrusted with the most valuable information from your tenants, your owners, your vendors, and all of the companies that you do business with. You might want to think about that before you put everything in the ‘cloud’.

Think Again Before Putting Confidential Data in the Cloud

Cloud Clip Art

The ‘Cloud’ – it is everywhere – literally. That is what the cloud is … a place to house data spread out over an untold number of computers and servers throughout the world.  About 70% of all Americans use the cloud to some degree. With the multitude of mobile devices, it works wonders. You can access your music and videos everywhere, you can update your calendar in sync with other devices, and you can store your sensitive data there. Wait, maybe not the last one. Here are some serious considerations before you put your confidential data in the cloud.

Rain Cloud Clip Art

Our government wouldn’t pry into my data, would it?  Heard of the NSA? By now, probably all Americans have, and not all of it is good. In fact, some of the news is downright unsettling. Now, with the Patriot Act and the NSA’s interpretation of it, your data on the Internet is less safe. The federal government can now get to your data or your client’s data simply by issuing a subpoena, no court order is needed. On top of that, there is plenty of evidence that government agencies are not even bothering with a subpoena in some cases, as the NSA has admitted that some of its employees have gathered information on their own account.  So if you manage data for your clients, and the NSA has suspicions regarding one of them, your data could be shared with others – client names, Ids, social security numbers, financial transactions, and more.


Backing up Property Manager dataMy data is backed up in the cloud, right?  Sure, there are redundant backups of your data. That means more servers with your information and more avenues for compromising it.  Has your computer ever gone down? Well, so do servers. And when that happens, your data is inaccessible. Maybe there is a hacker attack and the server is shut down for safety reasons, or maybe the electrical grid is compromised, or a natural disaster happens, the list is endless. If you are running your application on the cloud, your business is dead in the water, and your clients have no access to their data. You can’t process any payments, pay bills, or market your business because everything your business does is done online. Maybe someday you can get the data back, but it could be days or weeks to re-enter lost information. Imaging that if your data is lost and there are hundreds or millions of other clients hosted on the same server, how long would it take to get to you?


What happens when they post the ‘Out of Business’ sign?  In the real world, when you do business with a company and they fold, you pick up and find another company. But, what if your entire business is dependent on that company and all of your data is held by that company? What if your log in just stops working and your calls are not returned? You clients will certainly be calling you and demanding answers. You may never recover your data or your client’s data. Your valuable information is suddenly gone, and you will have to start from scratch.


My monthlMonthly payments for real estate companiesy payments are reasonable, is the cloud a good deal?  Certainly it is for the vendors. According to the research firm IDC, 2012 revenues are estimated to be 42 billion dollars and estimates for 2013 are as high as 131 billion, according to Gartner, a leading information technology research and advisory company. Consumers are used to monthly payments drafted from their bank account, but often don’t realize the eventual cost. For example, property managers that use ‘software as a service’ (SAAS) typically pay an amount per managed property, and a dollar per property is common. So, if you manage 20 rental units, you’ll pay $20.00 month. But that cost is unending, and can go up at the vendors’ discretion. You pay the increase, or else they can switch you off, effectively shutting down your business. Let’s say you pick up management on a 200 unit apartment building.  Your monthly cost skyrockets to $220.00 per month, or $2640.00 per year just to use their software.

Hackers magnifying glass

Can hackers access my data and my customer data?  Computer hacking is at an epidemic level and they are extremely sophisticated. Hackers can attack major web servers to garner information and filter out all of the email address, bank account numbers, and social security numbers. It doesn’t matter is they know the customer name; they have what they need to steal the identities of your customers.  Once your user name and password is obtained, the rest of your data is there for the taking.  It doesn’t have to be a genius hacker in a dark basement in a foreign country. They can be sitting at a table in the same restaurant or coffee shop while you work on a public Wi-Fi network, stealing from your cloud-based transactions if your application does not use secure HTTPS data transfer.


Data outage for property management companyWhat other factors could affect my data?  There are other ways to compromise your data. One way is a malicious ‘denial of service’ where automated systems flood a server to the point that it has to shut down, leaving the customers stranded. In 2011, about 15% of all small businesses were affected by such an interruption, and a whopping 30% of all large businesses were affected. Often those attacks are not reported or even noticed if they are quickly addressed, but other attacks have caused complete outages. Another way that your data could be affected is by natural disasters at the server site, cyber attacks, and electrical grid attacks. While a customer might understand if your business was affected by a fire or hurricane, they might not understand that a server in France could affect their valuable information. If your business was affected, you could take your backups to another computer system, but your cloud data is beyond your control.


Does youTwitter bird realtor down timer provider promise they are online 99.5 percent of the time?  That looks great, who can complain about just a .05 percent downtime? Lots of businesses can, and in fact this is only a promise usually not supported by a ‘guarantee’ that compensates you if it doesn’t work out.  Doing the math you’ll find that the ‘expected’ downtime is 44 hours per year, or 3.6 hours per week that your business can’t operate if it depends on the cloud to run.  However, you will still need to pay all of your employees for that time.


Are we trying to discourage people from using the cloud? No, having access to shared data is fantastic for many applications, especially for sharing videos, pictures, books, text messages, email, non-confidential documents, and a host of apps. Just think twice about committing your business to the cloud, be aware of the pitfalls, and ask the right questions of potential cloud based vendors. Your information and the records of your customers are too valuable to put at risk. Here are some suggestions of what you might ask of your cloud-based vendor if you are considering moving your business to the cloud.

15 Things to ask your cloud computer vendor:

1. Do you have a disaster recovery plan? Tell me about it.

2. Will I be notified of any down time, either planned or unplanned?This to ask cloud computer vendor

3. Will you provide me with my own copy of my data in usable form?

4. Do you sub-contract out my data to a different company or hosting service?

5. Do you use a secure gateway for transfer of data?

6. Is my valuable data encrypted? To what level of security?

7. What compensation would I receive if my data is lost?

8. What level of employee in your company has access to my data?

9. Does your company provide encryption of email addresses to eliminate spam?

10. Is my data kept separated from other companies?

11. If I miss a payment, will my business be cut off?

12. Is my data redundancy stored over multiple geographic locations?

13. What percentage of ‘up-time’ can you guarantee?

14. Is the data that you maintain subject to government inspection?

15. If I switch to another company will I be able to get exported files?