Melbourne real estate agency becomes latest victim of cyberattack
A prominent real estate agency in Melbourne has been targeted by a cyberattack, leading to clients’ personal information being leaked.
Harcourts Melbourne City said it had been aware of the issue since October 24, when a third party accessed personal information from its clients.
“We became aware that our rental property database had been accessed by an unknown third party without our authorisation,” the firm said in the email.
“This platform holds certain personal information of all our landlords, tenants, trades and is used by our service.”
The email said the information which was visible to the third-party included email addresses, legal names, phone numbers and copies of signatures and bank details.
The firm said they “took immediate steps to contain” the breach.
“Importantly, our networks, accounts and your personal information are now all secure and our services are able to continue as normal.”
Harcourts Melbourne City has been contacted by 9News for comment.
‘We’ve been warning for months’
Digital Rights Watch executive director James Clark said his organisation had been warning “for months” the dangers that lurked for real estate companies collecting huge amounts of personal data.
“We’ve been warning about the risk of a data breach in the real estate industry for months,” Clark said.
“Renters in particular are asked to provide everything from passports to employment histories when applying for a house and this pool of data was clearly a ripe target for hackers.”
Clark said “the only way to minimise the harm of a data breach is to not collect and store so much information to begin with”.
“This breach is another example of why we need comprehensive privacy reform to stop companies from collecting and storing more information than they really need. We also need a regulator that is well resourced and empowered to ensure companies are complying with privacy law,” he said.
Some states already limit what information real estate agents are allowed to collect, Clark said.
“For example in Victoria they aren’t meant to collect full bank statements, but many agents still ask for this information.
“It’s not just about what is legalm it’s also a question of power. As long as agents have the ability to make you homeless, renters will do what they ask, and regulations mean very little if they are poorly enforced.”