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March 2016

What IS Sensitive Data?

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

cyber-0316-4The word “data” can be misleading. When we see that word we think of ones and zeroes, bank account numbers, debit card PINs, financial records and software code. Technically speaking, any information stored on any electronic device is data. Data could be how many minutes you like to put on the microwave timer to let you know when your tea is done brewing, it could be the receipt that Amazon sends you when you purchase a Christmas gift for your nephew.

We use the word “data” because we’re talking about cyber security, but “information” might be the more accurate term. We’re not just concerned that someone is going to steal the code for a program we’re developing to compete with Adobe Photoshop, we simply don’t want our secrets getting out. That secret could be a bank account password, or it could be the secret recipe to a restaurant’s signature barbecue sauce. Sensitive data is more than just a bunch of ones and zeroes.

In other words, we need to think not so much of “sensitive data” as “private information.” And this extends beyond data that is stored digitally. Paper-shredders were invented for a reason.

Beyond trade secrets, there are also instances where an information leak might not do any direct harm to your business or to a client or a partner, but it might affect your reputation. An attorney who boasts a little too loudly of all the high-profile clients he’s assisted isn’t proving himself capable so much as he is proving himself incapable of discretion. Even letting information that isn’t-quite-sensitive can be bad news for earning the trust of new clients.

A good rule of thumb is that any information that isn’t attached to a press release or already public knowledge should generally be kept to oneself. Of course it’s fine if your new assistant manager boasts about his promotion to her friends, but if she starts getting too specific about her new responsibilities, she could be putting client trust at risk.

Sensitive data should include anything and everything that someone involved with your company might not want the public to know about. The Internet is full of armchair detectives with nothing better to do than pore over leaked information for anything they can use. They might not even be malicious, they might be major supporters of your brand who lack the self control not to spoil your next product launch. In short: If you’re not already planning to make it public, don’t make public.

Managing Your Passwords

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

cyber-0316-3Signing up for a new account somewhere is always a bit of a pain. You may have a basic password that you use for almost every account, but then this one says you need something that’s 16 characters long with three numbers, a capital letter and a symbol. How are you going to remember all of that, and how are you going to remember that this is one of the accounts where your password is Olympiu$998 instead of just olympius?

Although these password measures are intended to make your account more secure, they can have the opposite effect simply because you need to write those complicated passwords down somewhere so that you don’t forget them.

So, here are some tips for coming up with new passwords, and remembering them without having to leave a sticky right on your monitor:

  • Base your password on a secret. People can look up your date of birth, they can ask you what your dog’s name is, they know your favorite brand of coffee. They might not know the name of your first crush, how old you were the first time you stole your dad’s car, or which Backstreet Boys song you secretly listen to when you’re alone. If you base your password on personal information, make sure it’s not personal information that just anyone might now.
  • If you have to write your passwords down, don’t write them down in an unencrypted file on your computer, and don’t keep a list in your wallet. An encrypted file with a password that you can remember is a safe place to keep your codes, or you can stash them in a notepad somewhere private, like under a mattress or in your car’s glovebox.
  • If you like to use one password for everything, at least switch it up every now and then. Maybe you can’t remember a list of thirty two passwords for everything you have to log into online, but you can change that skeleton-key password once every six months or so just in case anyone’s cracked it.

Of course, you can also just download a password manager. There are apps that can sync with a smartphone and with the cloud, and can even auto-generate passwords for you so that you don’t need to worry about it. You log into your password manager, and it logs into everything else for you, so you only need to remember one of them. Here are some of the top managers according toPC World.

Source http://www.pcworld.com/article/221505/passwords.html

Best Places to Retire in the U.S.

By Employment Resources | No Comments

er-0316-4Whether you’re retiring this year or planning to retire soon, now’s a great time to think about where you’ll move. After all, this decision affects how much money you’ll need to save. If you plan to retire to an expensive part of the United States or plan to increase your standard of living, you’ll need to get aggressive with your savings so that you can have the life you want. A recent WalletHub survey polled retirees about their retirement preferences. Learn more about the top 10 states as you plan for your retirement without sacrificing your standard of living.

1. Florida

Many retirees choose Florida for their golden years because it’s affordable and tax-friendly. Retire here, and you can stretch your savings. The Sunshine State also ranks high in quality of life.

2. Wyoming

The Equality State ranks first among all the states for affordability. That’s because there is no state income tax or tax on Social Security benefits.

3. South Dakota

The Mount Rushmore State offers quality health care. This benefit invites retirees to settle here during a season of life when medical expenses can skyrocket.

4. South Carolina

Retire to the Palmetto State and find affordable living option. The state is also filled with charm and history.

5. Colorado

Known for quality of life and recreational activities, the Centennial State invites seniors to move here and enjoy an active lifestyle. Explore the great outdoors and numerous historical sites when you live in Colorado.

6. Idaho

One of the most affordable states in the U.S., Idaho offers inexpensive housing. The Gem State also boasts low crime rates.

7. Texas

Culture and recreation invite active seniors to enjoy their retirement in the Lone Star State. It’s also affordable and offers a high quality of life.

8. Montana

Enjoy the big sky scenery of the Treasure State and appreciate its health care when you retire to Montana.

9. Nevada

As the Silver State, Nevada ranks high for affordability. It’s also known for quality of life, outdoor recreational activities, gambling and shows.

10. Virginia

Located beside the District of Columbia, Old Dominion offers one of the most affordable places in the U.S. to retire. It also features a high quality of life.

Deciding where to retire is a decision that requires much thought. Consider one of these top-10 states as you plan your big move. You can also boost your retirement savings and talk to your financial advisor as you ensure you have enough money to fund your next season of life.

Ensuring Compliance in Security Protocol

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

cyber-0316-2It’s pretty easy to print out a few pages on how employees can keep private data private. It’s not so easy getting your employees to keep those reminders in mind. Here are a few ideas for ensuring compliance in security protocol:

Clearance Levels

There’s no reason for your interns to have the same clearance level as your senior IT people. Having tiered clearance levels ensures that nobody has to be responsible for anything that isn’t directly related to their own work. If an employee doesn’t have access to certain data, then there’s no way for them to put it at risk in the first place. This will also help you to determine who can be trusted with higher clearance levels by seeing how they comply to security protocol at a lower level.

Get It In Writing

Having employees sign an agreement to comply with all security protocol is a good way to sort of set it in stone. A memo is just a memo, we can take or leave it. Signing one’s name to a legal document, on the other hand, can go a long way to imparting the importance of protocol. Even if you never plan to do anything more than give someone a warning for violating the agreement, simply having the agreement in place can go a long way towards compliance.

Put Responsibility On Your Staff

You don’t even need to have any serious discipline measures in place. If an employee is expected to replace it themselves should they lose their phone, then they’re probably not going to lose their phone. In essence, compliance has a lot to do with making sure that security is just as much a concern for your employees as it is for their employer. It’s easier to keep protocol in mind when it’s for one’s own sake, but not so much when you approach a job with a sort of mercenary attitude. Putting some responsibility on your employees is sort of a way to remind them that they are part of the company, so security is just as much their concern as it is yours.

A lot of compliance issues can be solved simply by hiring the right people. You want people who are experienced enough to appreciate the importance of security, and professional enough to follow protocol. As with any area of running a business, hiring the right people will always make your job easier.

How They Caught Top Hackers

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

cyber-0316-1Most cyber-criminals are never caught. It’s a high-reward, low-risk area of crime. Cyber-thieves don’t typically drain bank accounts, they steal a nickel here, a dollar there from thousands and thousands of users, and almost nobody is going to go file a police report over seventy eight cents, and if they do, it’s not going to be a high priority for law-enforcement. Changing your MAC address regularly makes it almost impossible to trace a hacker through the web, and physically capturing a hacker in the act isn’t easy.

And yet, hackers do get caught now and then.

The question is: How?


Sometimes hackers just can’t shut up about it, as was the case with a hacker from Anonymous who apparently needs to reread the first chapter of the dictionary. John Anthony Borell III had some fun hacking into the website of the Utah Chiefs of Police Association and the SLC Police Department. He would have gotten away with it too except… he went and took credit for it on Twitter. Other hackers, like “Sabu” got caught after bragging about their dirty deeds in IRC chatrooms. A lot of hackers are in it for the thrill, not the financial reward, and they simply need for others to recognize how clever they are. Sort of like The Riddler in the old Batman TV series: He’d never spend a day in jail if he’d learn to stop leaving clues behind.

Blind Ambition

Some hackers simply don’t know to quit while they’re ahead, like Albert Gonzalez. Gonzalez ran a website where hackers could sell stolen credit card numbers, passports and other sensitive information. After an arrest for credit card fraud, he signed up for Operation Firewall as a key informant. This earned him immunity and a job offer from the Secret Service. So of course, with the Secret Service now keeping tabs on him, what was Gonzalez to do but partner with Ukrainian hacker Maksik and start swiping credit cards, and then start driving BMW’s into work at the Secret Service.


When you’re too high-profile, the fame alone will do you in. This is what happened to Kevin Pulsen, known as Dark Dante in the late 80’s online scene. Poulsen used to hack government documents, leaking wiretap details on foreign leaders, the mafia and the ACLU. His abilities were so impressive that he actually knocked out Unsolved Mysteries‘ phone lines when they did a feature on him. All the same, the episode made him famous, and he was recognized in a supermarket, leading to his arrest.

Source http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/hacker-brags-on-twitter/462620 http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-17302656

Is Your Business Worth Protecting?

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

bb-0316-4A common misunderstanding has it that if your business isn’t worth anything yet, then you don’t need any sort of insurance whatsoever. The fact of the matter is that if your business isn’t worth anything, then people will come after you. You’re going to at least need some basic liability insurance very early on, as soon as you can afford it, in fact, because even if your business is just you in a garage, somebody could still slip and twist their ankle walking up your driveway.

Beyond basic liability, what is there to protect? Do you really need to insure a used laptop and a $50 particle-board desk? Maybe not. But there are some steps you will want to take to protect yourself in the early stages, even before there’s much of a business to insure:

  • Incorporate your business. If you are the sole proprietor, then you are the target if your business is sued. This means that your house and car and other assets are all up on the chopping block. When you incorporate your business, putting ownership under a trust, then you and your business are separate legal entities, and you put far less at risk in the early days of building your business.
  • Invest in cyber-security early on. The last thing you need is for someone to hack into your files when you do not yet have the money or the resources to do something about it.
  • Talk with a lawyer the minute a consultation is in the budget. Every product, every service brings its own legal risks with it, and you won’t know exactly what those risks are until you do a one or two hour consultation with a lawyer. Some lawyers may even offer this service for free so that you’ll keep them in mind when it’s time to commission their services. You will want to speak with a local attorney, as you will be under the jurisdiction of local laws.

In short: Even if you don’t think your business is worth protecting, you are. You don’t want to get into trouble with the IRS and have them garnishing your wages for the next twenty years over a failed business venture you made in your twenties.

You don’t want to lose your house to someone who injured themselves delivering food to your home office. Even if your business is nothing but a card and a website, it makes you a target, and you need to protect yourself.

Changing With The Times

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

bb-0316-3There is no such thing as an industry where you will never need to adapt to the times. If you’ve been selling, say, pipe tobacco, a sort of old-fashioned product, something that is of more interest to retirees than it is to millennials, you’re still looking at a market that has shifted from being current and trendy to nostalgic, even if you’ve been selling to the exact same customers for forty years.

Even when an industry itself does not change, the culture surrounding it changes, the context changes. The Mona Lisa is still the Mona Lisa either way, but it will look much different in an antique hand-carved wooden frame than it will in a modern frame made of polished aluminum.

In other words, we all need to adapt to the times, even when our way of adapting is actually to not change at all.

Consider William Gaines, the late publisher of MAD Magazine. Part of the magazine’s appeal was that it was cheap in every way. The humor took cheap shots at celebrities and politicians, the cover price was cheap, and it was printed on the lowest quality paper available. At one the paper that the magazine was printed on actually became quite expensive, and Gaines wound up paying double for rough, flimsy newsprint rather than upgrade to a better quality of paper for less money. Higher quality paper would have actually been cheaper, but MAD’s readers would not have recognized it as feeling cheap. William Gaines actually had to change with the times behind the scenes in order to keep his product from changing.

On the other end of this spectrum you have the record industry. Music companies have been dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age. Napster went live in the Summer of 1999. The iTunes store didn’t debut until April 2003. In the meantime, record companies sabotaged their own PR department by suing teenagers for downloading music. If a company took four years to adapt in the 2010’s, they’d be out of business before they ever had a chance to change their model. By 2014, 35 billion songs had been sold through the iTunes store. Imagine how much bigger that number would be had they jumped on the idea back in 1999.

You might not need to change your product or your brand identity, you don’t need to figure out how to make antique furniture “hip” if you’re courting middle-aged professionals rather than young people. But the times are changing, and if you don’t adjust, you won’t be able to maintain the degree of success you currently enjoy.

Source https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Gaines https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITunes_Store https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napster

Navigating a Dying Industry

By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

bb-0316-1Now and then, we need to take a look at our industries and ask ourselves what the landscape is going to look like in five more years. Business protection can protect us against unforeseeable losses, but it’s not much help when there’s no business left to protect. Recent developments like 3D printing, the Internet of Things and Web 2.0-enabled innovations mean that more industries than not are changing shape. Whether your industry is dying, or simply suffering from a shrinking market, it’s worth planning for that future. You have a few options for adjusting to an industry whose future does not look bright.

Going Niche

If you look at the market for coffee right now, whole bean sales make up around a tenth of all sales, and that number is shrinking. This is in part thanks to coffee pods, which most people simply find more convenient than grinding and brewing their own coffee. Single-serving coffee doesn’t taste as good and doesn’t give you many choices for how you’d like to brew it if you prefer Turkish coffee or you boil it cowboy style or make your own espresso, but the average consumer simply doesn’t care.

This sounds like bad news for coffee bean sellers, certainly, but, people who like to grind their own coffee will always exist. We’re seeing a mass market becoming niche, and to the right entrepreneur, that is a golden opportunity. Customers in niche markets are willing to pay a premium price, and they spend a lot more time talking about their favorite products than do casual users who are looking only for convenience.


Expanding your brand into related or even unrelated industries can help you to maintain what you’ve built and use it to give you some momentum as you explore other avenues. Off the top of your head, you can probably name a dozen superheroes, but when was the last time you visited a comic book shop? A brand is more than its product. If movies ever suffer the same decline in popularity as comic books have, then Marvel will put more attention into producing television and video games. If you run a successful business, it’s because the market has put some faith into you. Will your customers follow you into another field?

Selling Out

Finally, you can simply sign the business over to the top bidder. There’s really no shame in selling a business if you’ve decided that you’d rather simply cut and run and build something new rather than try to make it work in an industry that isn’t likely to bounce back any time soon.
Source http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-15/the-coffee-revolution-is-just-too-efficient-for-hurting-farmers

Corners You Can’t Afford to Cut

By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

con-0316-4In any line of work, you’re going to learn some shortcuts. Pick up a comic book, for instance, and you’ll find that many artists simply trace backgrounds and complicated objects from Google Image search results. Go see a movie and you’ll find that they reuse the same stock footage of explosions, car chases and airplanes taking off from movie to movie. It’s simply easier and cheaper than producing new work from scratch.

Here’s the key difference between the shortcuts that you can afford to take, and the shortcuts that you can’t: With the former, there’s no real risk of anyone getting hurt.

Climbing a ladder with an armful of tools is quicker than hauling them up after you in a bucket, but it’s not safe, and it’s not going to look good on an insurance claim. The truth is that most shortcuts that you could take on a construction site are shortcuts that you absolutely shouldn’t take. Especially these ones:

“I Don’t Need A Crew For This”

You’re touring the job site after hours, maybe doing a little last minute clean up or picking up something you forgot earlier today. You notice that your team left the roof just a few tiles short. Your first instinct might be to take two minutes out of your day and get that finished now instead of having to go up there in the hot afternoon sun the next day. This is a simple task that doesn’t exactly require a three man team, but the crew isn’t just there to get work done, they’re also there to make sure that there’s a trained team to respond should you fall off the roof. You really shouldn’t be working any job site without at least bringing along a friend who can help you out if you get hurt, no matter how simple the task seems to be.

Inadequate Tools and Materials

You’ve probably seen people using the back end of a hatchet as a hammer, or using nails where a screw is needed. Using inadequate tools and materials isn’t only a recipe for disaster, it’s not that good of a shortcut, either. Would you honestly rather take out two dozen old screws with a claw hammer than with a power drill?

Skipping Any Safety Protocols, Period

Maybe you’ve been welding without a mask for years without incident, and maybe you feel that an injury suffered on the job would have turned out the same whether or not you’d been wearing a mask. The problem is that nobody else is going to see it that way when you file your insurance claim. Safety protocol is there not only to protect you, but to make sure everyone is on the same page so that we can rule out negligence.



The Worst Construction Mistakes Ever Made

By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

con-0316-3Forgetting one hurricane tie before drywalling probably isn’t going to see a house going up in a tornado like in The Wizard of Oz. Some mistakes aren’t that big a deal. Others… well, here are some of the biggest mistakes ever made in construction, engineering and architecture:

The Aon Center

The Aon Center, completed in 1973, was known for its beautiful exterior made of Italian Carrara marble. A fetching addition to the Chicago skyline, it turns out that there’s a reason they don’t use Carrara marble on most buildings. It’s a very thin material. Just one year after the building was completed, pieces started to crack and fall off, one of them smashing through the roof of the nearby Prudential Center. Replacing the exterior with granite cost over $80 million. There’s something to be said for using the right materials the first time.

NASA and Lockheed Martin’s Mars Orbiter

Long story short: in 1999, Lockheed Martin used the English system of measurement on a project with NASA, while NASA used the metric system. The Mars orbiter was then unable to transfer its coordinates to the lab in California. Now there’s a $125 million chunk of useless metal floating around the galaxy. You might not be building a satellite any time soon, but it’s important to get on the same page with your crew and your client when it comes to how many inches are in a meter.

Vdara Hotel & Car Dashboard

The Vdara Hotel & Spa is a classic example of a designer putting form before function. All those reflective surfaces on the windows surrounding the pool looked absolutely stunning, but at mid-day, they created a sort of magnifying-lens-on-an-ant effect, scorching people in the swimming pool and turning the whole area into a car dashboard on a Summer afternoon. One man even claims to have had some hair singed right off his head while going for a swim.

Piper Bravo Oil Rig

The smallest mistakes can have major complications. The Piper Bravo Oil Rig exploded, killing 167 people, simply because safety inspectors forgot to replace a single safety valve after a routine check of the rig. The repairs cost more than $3 billion in 1994 USD. This is something worth thinking about the next time a worker decides that he doesn’t need to wear his goggles if he’s only going to be using the table saw for a couple minutes.