North Bay real estate agents scramble for workarounds amid major cyberattack
Real estate agents in the Bay Area and certain regions nationwide Friday afternoon continued to scramble for workarounds on the third day after a cyberattack on a Southern California data host for property listing information that’s become crucial for marketing and selling properties.
“It's paralyzed the real estate industry,” said agent Peg King of Coldwell Banker in Petaluma. “We can't add listings. We can't make price changes. We have no idea how to show properties unless we try to figure out who has something listed.”
King said she has first-time homebuyers who want to shop for homes this weekend, but figuring out what to show them is challenging without access to the latest property listings. That’s because some of the homes currently listed may have already been sold since the outage, as happened with one transaction King closed Wednesday.
Santa Rosa-based Bay Area Real Estate Information Service, or BAREIS, which serves brokerages in Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano and Mendocino counties, said in emails to its roughly 8,200 users over the past few days that an attack on a Rapattoni Corporation vendor is preventing agents from being able to log in, according to messages they shared with our reporter Friday.
“This is a national MLS outage for all MLSs and Associations that rely on Rapattoni hosting,” said an email from BAREIS multiple listing service on Thursday evening.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Friday about an outage of the Cincinnati listing service that used Rapattoni, but other nearby listing services in Kentucky and Ohio weren’t affected because they use a different data vendor.
Real estate industry news service Inman reported Friday that Rapattoni was hit by a ransomware attack and that the FBI was investigating.
Rapattoni and the FBI couldn’t be reached for comment. A California Association of Realtors spokesperson referred inquiries to Rapattoni.
Ransomware is malicious software that uses some form of ruse to lure recipients to activate it, digitally locking away data on the target system then offering to unlock it usually at a steep price.
While cyber crime that involved cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin generally dropped 65% in the first half of this year globally, ransomware payouts are rising fast, according to a report by Chainanalysis. The firm tracks the movement of data that underlies cryptocurrencies, and it forecasts ransomware attackers extorted at least $449.1 million through June and are on pace for their second-biggest year ever, after 2021.
BAREIS CEO K.B. Holmgren said the outage started at 10 p.m. Tuesday. The organization is getting updates from Rapattoni at least three times daily, but there’s currently been no estimate on when users would be able to get back in to update listings.
The North Bay multiple listing service said in a member email Thursday evening that “it may be days before Rapattoni is able to recover from this attack on their network and restore access to their network.”
Holmgren said she’s heard no indication that personal information has been compromised. Also not affected are BAREIS’ other services such as ShowingTime scheduling calendar for open houses, property tax information and electronic lock box access for agents to tour homes.
Until MLS user access is restored, BAREIS has set up an information-sharing stopgap measure on its secure website sfor users to update and add listings in the five North Bay counties it serves. Lake County uses the California Regional MLS.
It may be an “old-fashioned system,” but it’s still better than the way the real estate business worked before interconnected computers came into widespread use, Holmgren said. At that time, MLSes would distribute a printed book of listings to members twice a month.
“Now more than ever, you need to rely on your real estate professional, because they are able to dig in and find accurate information,” Holmgren said. “Right now, you can’t trust information on the internet.”