Hackers hit major title company, disrupting Chicagoland real estate deals

When a major title company fell victim to a recent cyber attack, so did some Chicago-area real estate deals.

Hackers have breached the systems of Florida-based Fidelity National Financial, the parent company of Chicago Title, leading to delays in closing real estate deals and affecting home sales in the Chicago area, Crain’s reported.

Several real estate agents and attorneys reported delays ranging from half-an-hour to an open-ended postponement, inconveniencing buyers, sellers and other parties involved in deals. The uncertainty surrounding when systems will be operational again is reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic, with people scrambling to find alternative solutions.

The hack, which occurred on Nov. 19, impacted Fidelity’s title insurance and mortgage transaction units. Despite the company’s initial expectation of resolving the issues by Sunday, delays persist. Fidelity’s website displays an error message, and the company has not provided comments on the ongoing situation.

Kathy Nosek, managing broker at 4C Realty in Glen Ellyn, reported an incident in which a closing on Nov. 22 took about an hour-and-a-half longer than normal to go through. While this wasn’t a big deal, she expressed concerns about the potential consequences if the issue prolongs.

“We don’t want to have a buyer who has a moving truck sitting out front and they can’t get keys until (the purchase) is funded,” Nosek told the outlet. “That would bring everything to a screeching halt.”

This incident marks the second cyber attack on the Chicago-area real estate industry in recent months. Unlike the August attack that affected agents’ ability to market listings, the current hack disrupts the transaction process, in which funds and financial information are exchanged.

While the ransomware group Alphv/Black Cat has claimed responsibility for the hack, there is no news of stolen funds or financial information. Fidelity, a company with $9.1 billion in revenue in 2022, accounted for 31 percent of the nation’s title business in 2020, the outlet reported.

— Quinn Donoghue 

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