A laptop with the Rapattoni logo.
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Industry unites to help agents shut out by cyberattack 

CRMLS and other organizations are offering temporary access and support to agents affected by the Rapattoni shutdown, now in its second week.

August 16, 2023
5 minutes

Key points:

  • Last week, MLS software provider Rapattoni was hit with a cyberattack that took MLSs across the country offline; the company does not yet have at ETA for a fix.
  • California Regional MLS has opened its systems to affected non-member agents in the state.
  • Ohio’s Dayton Realtors is providing access to agents in the Realtor Alliance of Greater Cincinnati who are unable to use their local MLS.

With the unprecedented shutdown of dozens of MLSs stretching into its second week — and no end yet in sight — some unaffected MLSs have begun opening their systems to non-member agents.

Rapattoni, a provider of MLS software and services, was hit with a cyberattack last week that knocked MLSs across the country offline.

California Regional Multiple Listing Service, the largest in the nation, is offering free access to Rapattoni users in the state. And at least one other MLS, Dayton Realtors, is waiving its initiation fees for affected Ohio agents who want a temporary subscription.

"We can't speak to what other MLSs may be doing, but CRMLS is assisting those affected by offering temporary access to the CRMLS Matrix system to California real estate professionals — at no cost," CRMLS CEO Art Carter said. "We have the resources available to accommodate these professionals in dire need of MLS access until their system is back up and running."

Jeff Ullery, MLS director for Dayton Realtors, said his organization quickly came to the same conclusion, prompting it to reach out to colleagues who lost access to their MLS. "In our particular case, we knew that the impact on these agents in Cincinnati put them in a really desperate situation," Ullery said. "We wanted to help in any way we could."

Ullery said Cincinnati Realtors who join his MLS during the crisis "can stay as long or as short as they want," paying month-to-month.

"At the end of the day we're all Realtors," he said. "It's just the right thing to do."

Rapattoni 'making progress' to restore systems

On Tuesday, Rapattoni sent a message to its clients saying federal law enforcement is actively investigating the attack.

"We are indeed making progress bringing systems online," the company wrote. "However, until that process is complete and tested, we won't have a real ETA you can share with your members."

Rapattoni said it is working with legal counsel and cybersecurity experts to bring the systems back online but could not offer more specific information. "We must tread carefully with regard to what details we can share," the statement read. 

The company also sought to reassure clients about the security of their data, noting that sensitive data stored in its AMS database is encrypted, but stopped short of promising that it had not been compromised.

"To date, we have no evidence that personal information has been impacted. If it is discovered that any sensitive data is impacted, we will immediately alert you and determine the best course of action," the company said.

CRMLS says it wants 'to keep California real estate going strong'

Meanwhile, CRMLS issued a statement reassuring affected MLSs in the state that its decision to temporarily open its platform was not an effort to take advantage of the outage.

"We want to assure everyone that this is an exceptional circumstance, and CRMLS will not solicit membership to anyone outside of our current CRMLS participants, leverage any of the listing data provided by your members, nor enroll them for further, unrelated communications," the organization said. "We are hoping this will simply be a stopgap for an unprecedented event to keep California real estate going strong."

Carter said while Rapattoni users have temporary access to the CRMLS Matrix system, "agents will be able to add, edit and manage their listings. By default, when an agent enters their listing into CRMLS Matrix it will be distributed to Zillow, Homes.com and Realtor.com — along with 25K+ other agent and broker websites."

Carter also pledged that CRMLS will provide support to the temporary users seven days a week until the crisis is resolved.

Local MLSs, Zillow creating workarounds

Anne Uchtman, president of the Realtor Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, said her members were receiving help from colleagues in non-affected MLSs.

"Dayton Realtors have been especially gracious and kind to us," she said, by offering her members a month-to-month subscription. "The benefit is that you can put a listing in and it will syndicate out to certain websites, like Zillow and Realtor.com," she said. "But they are not in all of the territories or areas that we have."

The Realtor Alliance of Greater Cincinnati has also established a temporary database for new listings. "We're still working out a few kinks," she said. The database doesn't automatically syndicate to third-party websites, but agents can upload photos and link to an external website, she said.

Zillow, which normally receives all listing information directly from the MLSs through IDX feeds, said it has deployed a temporary solution for affected MLSs to help maintain listing accuracy. "We are encouraging agents in the impacted areas to work with their MLS directly to have their listings manually updated on Zillow," a company spokesperson said.

Cybersecurity 'no longer a peripheral concern' for the industry

Carter said even MLSs not using Rapattoni could be impacted and that the industry needs to come together.

"Everything in real estate is connected," he said. "Keeping a strong network between agents, brokers, AORs, and everyone else in this business is crucial to not just an individual's success but to the success of the market as a whole. Any assistance CRMLS can provide in preserving a healthy, connected market, is imperative during this time."

Carter also said the situation should be a wake-up call for the industry. "Cybersecurity is no longer a peripheral concern; it must be ingrained as a fundamental business standard across all sectors," he said.

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