Tim Dain

Northstar MLS

When MLS software provider Rapattoni suffered a ransomware attack last summer, locking out tens of thousands of agents from their MLSs for more than a week, NorthstarMLS CEO Tim Dain rose to the challenge.

While NorthstarMLS, which serves nearly 15,000 members across Minnesota and Wisconsin, was not affected by the attack, according to Dain it was the right time to talk about the ways MLSs are prepared—or not prepared—for security threats.

“(Data security) is a rather dull and boring subject that people don’t read about until something like this happens,” Dain told RISMedia.

Days after the attack, Northstar signed up for a new service provided by Real Estate Webmasters (REW), called MLS Backup, which harnesses the company’s Global MLS infrastructure to provide data redundancy in case service is interrupted. Data security is a very costly and complex proposition for an MLS, regardless of size. Dain says that while Northstar already had multiple layers of security and redundancies in place, adding MLS Backup was still very worthwhile.

Northstar’s systems were extensive and powerful enough that national brokerage eXp was able to work with the MLS to help 4,000 affected agents input and access listings on eXp’s own site as well as Zillow, according to an eXp spokesperson.

According to Dain, smaller MLSs simply cannot afford to build their own databases and redundancies the way Northstar does. But the possibility of spending days using email blasts, social media and spreadsheets to track and market listings should give anyone pause, he says.

“It could become part of the discussion on why some MLSs might want to consolidate into larger regionals, but that’s not a cheap proposition,” Dain said. “Could some of the larger ones pivot? They could, and maybe they should, but I don’t think the smaller ones can afford to build their own tech the way we do.”

Tim Dain
President & CEO

Northstar MLS

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