Technology can enhance homeowners’ associations (HOAs) in a variety of ways—including helping with data storage. Many HOAs depend on digital platforms to store contracts, resident databases, banking information, and other confidential documents. This method of storing data can be extremely efficient, but as with all technology, the risk of cyberattacks and data breaches is present.
Learning how to protect homeowners and association data from cyberattacks and breaches is part of a board member’s fiduciary duty. Follow these guidelines to help your HOA’s data remain secure:
Confirm adherence to local, state, and federal laws and governing documents.
There are laws concerning how your HOA’s data should be protected. Laws vary by community and location, so you must carefully review your local, state, and federal regulations for specific requirements, processes, and procedures. These laws and policies will spell out what your association is responsible for, ensuring that you legally and correctly protect your data. You can also find data protocols and details in your association’s governing documents. Decoding these guidelines and documents can be difficult, so reach out to your attorney for assistance if needed.
Educate board members.
An educated board is a successful board, and board members should be educated on data security just as they would on any other community-related topic. Consider hosting an annual training for board members to review data safety and cyber security topics. By the end of the meeting, all board members should know what data the association stores, how it's used, and how it’s secured. Encourage board members to ask questions so that responsibilities and resolutions are clear.
Draft an official association data security policy.
Having a formalized, up-to-date data security policy helps establish unity and minimize risks. Your board and community manager should collaborate to draft an official association data security policy with the following:
- Definition of data
- Types of data stored
- How data is protected
- Who can access the data
- Plan of action if data is breached
- Rules for using association devices
All of this should be documented and easily accessible. Make sure that everyone on the board understands the procedures and their roles.
Pick the right technology partner.
Homeowners expect and deserve the convenience of a digital platform for storing data, making payments, and communicating with leaders and neighbors—and they also expect and deserve a platform they can trust. That’s why it’s important for boards to choose a true, current, and security-driven technology partner to house confidential information. Consider asking the following questions to find the right technology partner for your community:
1. How is data stored?
The data you store with your technology partner can be hosted in a variety of ways. Whatever the method, ensure it complies with local ordinances and there are numerous safeguards in place to prevent unauthorized access.
2. Is the platform committed to continuous improvement?
The digital landscape can change significantly overnight. You don’t want to invest in a solution only for it to become obsolete in a year or two. Your new partner should be confident that new technology will continue to function as intended and evolve for the better to address future data security threats and concerns.
3. How will the community’s information be secured?
Board members have a fiduciary duty to protect homeowner data and as part of that obligation, they must know how the information will be used and protected by technology providers. Read all user agreements in full and consult legal counsel to determine if the partner’s platform is right for you.
4. How will this technology be implemented?
Providers should make the implementation process safe and simple. As homeowners adopt the new technology, they should feel confident that their information is safe.
Get the proper insurance.
Even with the help of a technology partner, data breaches can still occur. Associations must have the proper insurance to cover losses and damages created by a potential breach. Check governing documents to see if a certain type of insurance is required, or speak with your community association insurance provider and ask if your existing policies cover damage that could result from a data breach or digital attack. In most cases, cyber liability, cyber risk, or data breach insurance will be needed to protect the HOA from data breaches, viruses, network attacks, and computer theft.
Residents should also be educated about data security. Regularly communicating any rules and information about data security plans to homeowners gives them peace of mind that their data is protected, and the board is working in their best interest. These communications should also encourage them to do their part. Provide useful tips about things like preventing cyberattacks, using technology devices, and creating passwords. The more people in the know, the better.
Maintaining Transparency with Homeowners
Part of being an effective HOA leader is maintaining transparency with homeowners. By being transparent, you’re keeping residents—constituents who help fund HOA operations—informed of what’s happening within the community and the board that leads it. Read our article, “6 Ways to Ramp Up Your Board’s Communication Efforts,” to learn how to maintain transparency with homeowners on all topics, including data security.