November 29, 2015

Buyer's Guide: Privacy and Security

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Buyer's Guide: Privacy and Security

Your tech fortress

Computers, PDAs, and the Internet have been an enormous boon to real estate—but their use also can be a risky endeavor. Because of identity and hardware thieves, hackers, and virus purveyors, your equipment and data need to be protected. Fortunately, for well under $200, you can employ a mix of products to guard your tech investments.


43% percent of REALTORS say they use antispam software.
REALTOR® Technology Survey, Center for REALTOR® Technology, NAR, May 2004

To deter hardware thieves, consider a security cable-and-lock system. Starting at well under $50, these tether hardware to a stationary object. Step-up products, roughly twice the price, combine these features with a motion detector that sounds a piercing alarm when your hardware is moved.

A newer approach uses biometric technology that turns your fingerprint into a password. If the biometric reader doesn’t recognize the fingerprint, the system locks down, rendering it useless.

The topper for hardware protection: equipment insurance, such as from Safeware Inc. (, which helps recoup the cost of repair or replacement from accident or theft. Pricing depends on type of policy, item, amount of coverage, and deductible. Your office or home insurance may cover some of your needs, but equipment insurance is an option for product-specific coverage.

On the software front, there are security programs to protect your data resources and privacy when you use a network or connect to the Internet. Once installed, the programs operate in the background, alerting you only when a problem has occurred and when it has been fixed. They’re sold for either a one-time fee or an annual subscription; all cost less than $100.

Antivirus software for your computer and PDA is an absolute necessity. If you swap disks, download files, or accept e-mail attachments, these programs are your best measure against invasive files.

Also consider firewall software. Any network connection, wired or wireless, opens up a two-way channel for communication and sharing resources. This software locks out hackers and screens incoming data. These suites can also include features that allow you to prevent pop-up ads, refuse Web cookies and programs that could be used to track what you do online, and minimize spam.

Stamp out risk with good habits, shields

Protecting yourself and your tools requires good habits and common sense.

  • Back up all critical files regularly.
  • Don’t store your credit card or Social Security numbers on your computer.
  • Before you complete online forms, make sure you know whom you’re dealing with, their security measures, and their privacy policy.
  • Engrave your hardware with your name and phone number.

Take time to assess how and where you work and what you need to protect.

  • Ever leave your hardware unattended? A lock or alarm will frustrate thieves.
  • Do you swap disks, download files, use e-mail? An antivirus program ensures you can proceed with confidence.
  • Do you log on to a network in the office or in the field? Whether you access a wired or wireless network, or are merely Web surfing, a personal firewall offers the best defense.
  • Want your computer back if it’s stolen? Your best assurance is a computer tracking/recovery software/service package.

Voices of experience

Stuart Stache, broker, The Real Estate Group, Long Beach, Calif.

Stache’s big security concern has been potential corruption of his files via some form of computer virus. Two years ago he switched to Norton’s Personal Firewall after another program failed to prevent some damaging code from getting through. “It protects my data and has some wireless features built in for when I’m on a wireless network. And it scans both my incoming and outgoing e-mail for viruses,” he says. He likes the fact that the software updates itself automatically via the Internet, so it’s always equipped to deal with the latest viruses in circulation.

Ananda Ellington, ABR®, e-PRO® broker-owner, Ananda Ellington Real Estate, Cary, N.C.

The ease of use of Norton’s Internet Security suite has Ellington wondering why all her peers don’t have some form of personal firewall in place. “I don’t think people realize the importance of this kind of protection or how self-sufficient the software is,” she says. Ellington, who frequently uses her laptop in the field, recognizes the risks inherent in connecting to insecure Wi-Fi hotspots and using any type of wireless communications. “The software screens for any outside access to my machine,” she says. She also carries a Palm Tungsten T3 PDA with Bluetooth wireless capability. The handheld’s Trusted Devices setting lets her specify the computers or devices that are OK to connect with. “Limiting access that others have and running the latest Symantec security software gives me the assurance I need,” she says.

Hardware Protection

K100 Notebook Security Lock $34.95
Belkin Corp.,, 800/223-5546. Security lock for use with notebooks, flat-screen monitors, and notebook docking stations. Includes 6-foot steel cable, lock, two keys, and anchor plate. Press-to-lock feature designed for easy installation in notebook security slot. Company offers complete selection of antitheft cables, locks, and alarms for mobile hardware.

Kryptonite Sensor Alarm Lock $39.95
Kryptonite Corp.,, 800/729-5625. Motion-detecting alarm lock. Includes retractable cable, docking plate, and laptop security slot adapter for attaching alarm to hardware. Users enter three-digit code to activate and deactivate alarm. Flashing LED shows alarm is activated; when hardware is moved, 110 dB alarm sounds.

Notebook Guardian $59.95
PC Guardian,, 800/724-4088. Tamper-resistant stainless steel lock with attached 6-foot steel cable for protecting notebooks and other devices with security slot. Thread cable through security slot and around stationary object, then lock cable.

CompuTrace $74.95
Kensington Technology Group,, 800/235-6708. Computer tracking and recovery software and service for Windows-compatible computers with 486 or later processor and with most modems. Once installed, software operates invisibly to user. Automatically dials monitoring center to report its location whenever your modem is connected. In event of theft, service identifies location of computer, contacts police. Company offers range of antitheft accessories.

DEFCON Authenticator $79.99
Targus Corp.,, 877/482-7487. Stand-alone biometrics security system for hardware with USB port includes plug-in fingerprint reader and software (OmniPass). Once installed, requires fingerprint validation to access hardware and data. Company offers a full range of security solutions, including motion-sensing PC card with built-in alarm and security locks and cables.

IPAQ Pocket PC h5550 $649 (VIP Partner)
Hewlett Packard,, 800/888-0262. Full-featured Pocket PC PDA with built-in biometrics fingerprint reader. Owner’s fingerprint required to activate hardware or gain access to any data, applications.

Privacy and Security Software

IMsecure Pro $19.95
Zone Labs Inc.,, 415/341-8200. Security and privacy solution for instant messaging services using America Online IM, Yahoo Messenger, or MSN and Windows Messenger protocols. Defends computer against unauthorized access to files or malicious code arriving via instant message. Automatically blocks IM spam. ID lock protects files containing personal information from unauthorized access; automatically encrypts messages you send.

McAfee Personal Firewall Plus $39.99 annual subscription
Network Associates,, 801/772-1891. Creates a secure barrier between hackers and your PC while it’s connected to a network. Alerts you when hackers try to access your computer; automatically records intrusion attempts; and traces path hacker took. Can be set to automatically alert ISP of hackers. Also offered as part of suite of security products.

McAfee VirusScan $39.99 annual subscription
Network Associates,, 801/772-1891. Protects PC and data against corruption from viruses, Trojan horses, and other forms of malicious code. Scans all files, e-mail attachments, downloads, and disks inserted in PC for contaminated files. Automatically cleans and removes infected files. Price includes a year’s worth of updates.

Symantec Antivirus for Handhelds $39.95 annual subscription, $19.95/year after first year
Symantec Corp.,, 800/745-6054. Protects Palm- and Pocket PC-compatible devices against viruses, worms, and other malicious code. Automatically scans downloaded files and e-mail attachments for infection. Creates activity log, which can be uploaded to primary PC during data sync, to help identify corrupt files. Can update software wirelessly. Also available: Corporate Edition.

ETrust EZ Armor $49.95 annual subscription (available for free download to home users through June 30 at Computer Associates,, 800/225-5224. Antivirus and firewall desktop security suite. Pre-configured personal firewall. Can be set to refuse pop-up ads and cookies. Three security levels. Includes eTrust Antivirus protection with automatic daily updates.

ZoneAlarm Pro $49.95
Zone Labs Inc.,, 415/341-8200. Personal firewall software with privacy features instantly alerts you to attempted security breach. Tracks hackers who try to access your computer. Automatically scans incoming and outgoing e-mail and attachments for viruses and detects and checks security settings of any network connection. Can be set to prevent display of pop-up ads when visiting Web sites. Automatically updates to newer versions of software.

Norton Internet Security 2004 $69.95
Symantec Corp.,, 800/745-6054. Suite includes Norton AntiVirus 2004 to protect against malicious code, Norton AntiSpam 2004 to filter out unwanted and potentially contaminated e-mail, and Norton Personal Firewall 2004 to protect laptop and desktop against unauthorized access when connected to a network. Professional version for multi-user businesses. Stand-alone version of Norton Firewall 2004.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of the products in this category. NAR doesn’t evaluate or endorse these products and isn’t responsible for changes in product info. Prices are the vendors’ suggested retail prices and are subject to change.

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