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Landgate registrar of titles Jean Villani says hacking incidents are a strong reminder that IT security must always be a priority but conveyancers say there are still no safe guards in PEXA to confirm or authenticate financial transfers as a means of verifying recipient details.

Need to reassure after hacking

AS WA heads towards the December 1 deadline for property settlements to only be carried out electronically conveyancers think it is the responsibility of the McGowan Government to reassure the public after some hacking cases came to light.

Lands Minister Rita Saffioti has been briefed about the security of PEXA and e-conveyancing after reports of hacking, including the loss of $250,000 from a conveyancer’s account while an eastern state family’s property was being settled.

But Australian Institute of Conveyancers WA executive officer Dion Dosualdo said there was both an expectation and responsibility for the Lands Minister to have made a statement to reassure the public. 

“It would be hard to argue that providing information and guidance to consumers on such issues would not be beneficial,’’ he said.

The December 1 deadline requires all settlement agents and lawyers involved in property sales to electronically carry out all property transfers, discharge of mortgages and withdrawal of caveats.

Mr Dosualdo said the December deadline still concerned the institute.

“If e-conveyancing was cheaper, efficient and more secure there would be no need to mandate. 

“AICWA has done all it can to highlight our concerns, if the McGowan Government choose to ignore them we can only assume they have good reason to do so and will take full responsibility for their decisions.’’   

In Concerns about property transfers, (Echo News, June 9) Mr Dosualdo said there were no safe guards in PEXA to confirm or authenticate financial transfers as a means of verifying recipient details. 

He said so far nothing had changed even after the hacking cases were exposed.

“PEXA are exploring ideas to reduce the potential of misdirected funds, however, it is up to all the state governments and the federal government who must bring pressure to bear on RBA /APRA and the banks to introduce certainty of fund transfers. 

“After all, it was the banking industry who first lobbied the federal government to introduce electronic conveyancing via the COAG agreement, it was the state governments who partnered with banks to build the first electronic network (PEXA), surely it is their joint responsibility to deliver the best system they can and not rely upon conveyancers to simply make do. 

“Would we even be having this conversation if the financial liability of fraud rested with the banks or government? 

“We are now looking at a future where property buyers may need to take out insurance in order to have surety of fund transfers.’’

When Echo News asked Ms Saffioti if she had released a statement about the security of PEXA a spokesman said the registrar of titles, whose statutory responsibilities included the security and integrity of the land titles register, had communicated via a customer information bulletin to all industry participants.

In the customer information bulletin Landgate registrar of titles Jean Villani said she was aware of the heightened level of attention that had been placed on electronic conveyancing.

Ms Villani said electronic conveyancing remained a secure and robust environment to transact land. 

But the recent incidents were a strong reminder to all of industry – ELNOs, land registries and conveyancers – that IT security must always be a priority.

“While no financial transaction is free from the risk of fraud, the registrar encourages all of industry to take every possible step to reduce the overall risk by being vigilant in maintaining system security and integrity through appropriate security and virus protection,’’ she said.  

“As prudent practice industry should, among other things, verbally confirm bank account details with clients, avoid using free public Wi-Fi and keep security patches up to date.’’

By Anita McInnes

About Anita

Anita Mcinnes received a highly commended in the 2009 WA Media Awards suburban section for her reporting. Two of her sons were born at Swan District Hospital and for many years she was a partner in a small business, which operated in the Gingin-Muchea-Bullsbrook area. As a mature age student Anita studied journalism at Curtin University before working in Busselton, Dunsborough and Rockingham with West Regionals. She says the best part of her job is meeting eastern suburb residents and visiting the many attractions in the area.

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