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Securing Affordable Housing: 10 Best Cybersecurity Practices

Today more so than ever, cybersecurity is not just a concern for large corporations or tech-savvy individuals – it’s a necessity for every organization, including those in the affordable housing sector. As these entities handle sensitive tenant information, financial records, and operational data, they become potential targets for cyber threats while being unsuspecting of the value in the information they hold.

Cybersecurity Best Practices

Implementing robust cybersecurity measures is paramount to safeguarding the integrity and confidentiality of this data. Here are some best practices for affordable housing owners, developers, and managers to enhance their cybersecurity posture:

1. Educate Staff and Tenants

Knowledge is the first line of defense against cyber threats. Train staff and tenants on cybersecurity best practices, such as creating strong passwords, recognizing phishing attempts, and reporting suspicious activities. Regularly update them on emerging threats and provide resources for staying informed.

2. Implement Access Controls

Limit access to sensitive information to only authorized personnel. Implement user authentication mechanisms such as passwords, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and role-based access controls (RBAC) to ensure that individuals only have access to the data necessary for their roles.

3. Secure Network Infrastructure

Utilize firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and encryption protocols to protect your network from unauthorized access and data breaches. Regularly update and patch network devices and software to address vulnerabilities and strengthen defenses against cyberattacks.

4. Backup Data Regularly

Implement a robust data backup and recovery plan to mitigate the impact of ransomware attacks, data breaches, or system failures. Store backups in secure, off-site locations and regularly test their integrity and accessibility to ensure quick recovery in the event of an incident.

5. Stay Updated on Software Security

Regularly update and patch all software applications, operating systems, and firmware to address known vulnerabilities and reduce the risk of exploitation by cyber attackers. Consider implementing an automated patch management system to streamline the update process and ensure timely protection.

6. Monitor and Respond to Threats

Deploy security monitoring tools such as intrusion detection systems (IDS), security information and event management (SIEM) systems, and endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions to detect and respond to cyber threats in real-time. Establish incident response procedures to contain, investigate, and remediate security incidents promptly.

7. Secure Physical Access

Ensure that physical access to IT infrastructure, servers, and sensitive areas is restricted to authorized personnel only. Implement security measures such as surveillance cameras, access control systems, and visitor logs to monitor and track physical access to facilities.

8. Partner with Cybersecurity Experts

Consider partnering with cybersecurity experts or Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) to assess your organization’s security posture, identify vulnerabilities, and implement tailored cybersecurity solutions. Leverage their expertise to stay abreast of evolving threats and industry best practices.

9. Encrypt Sensitive Data

Utilize encryption technologies to protect sensitive data both in transit and at rest. Encrypt emails, files, and databases containing personal or financial information to prevent unauthorized access and maintain data confidentiality.

10. Foster a Culture of Security

Instill a culture of cybersecurity awareness and accountability throughout the organization. Encourage proactive reporting of security incidents, reward adherence to security policies, and promote continuous learning and improvement in cybersecurity practices.

In conclusion, affordable housing entities must prioritize cybersecurity to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their data and infrastructure. By implementing these best practices and fostering a culture of security, entities can mitigate cyber risks and safeguard the interests of their tenants, staff, and stakeholders in an increasingly digital world.

McKonly & Asbury, LLP is a leader in accounting and consulting for affordable housing partnerships. Our team has the specialized knowledge to help you ensure you comply with IRS and tax credit allocating agency reporting requirements. Our team also offers a vast array of cybersecurity services.  For more information on these services, be sure to visit our Affordable Housing and Cybersecurity pages, and don’t hesitate to contact us.

About the Author

Brian Doheny

Brian joined McKonly & Asbury in 2022 and is currently a Staff Accountant with the firm. He is a member of the SOC & Internal Audit Segment, auditing Service Organization clients in completion of SOC reports.

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