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Monthly Archives

May 2016

Are Driverless Cars At Risk Of Cyberattacks?

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

0516-cyber-3If someone steals your credit card number, you can report it missing and get a new one. If someone hacks into your email, you can change your password. What do you do if you’re riding in a self-driving car that gets hacked? We’ve all seen that part in Batman Returns where the Penguin hacks into the Batmobile and uses it to wreak havoc around town, but how realistic a threat is that in the real world?

Well, it’s already happened. A Defense Department-backed group of researchers in Virginia managed to remotely hack into a driverless car. The photo used in the article is pretty dramatic, showing a driverless van having crashed right through an obstacle set up on the course. The purpose behind the experiment was to determine how severe a threat driverless car-hacking can be. The hack targeted the automated features of the car, including braking and acceleration. Frightening, sure, but they also discovered that it’s quite easy to combat these hacks in realtime.

Manual override is one option, but the researchers found that an automated response may be our best bet for avoiding an accident should a driverless car be targeted in a cyberattack, as a built-in security system will be able to respond to the attack more quickly than would a human driver.

An unfortunate setback in cybersecurity in driverless cars: Manufacturers are currently unable to track cyberattacks due to laws preventing certain types of data-collection. You don’t want Google keeping tabs on everywhere you go in your vehicle, so data is simply deleted after you get from point A to point B. This is an area where the law is not keeping up with the technology. For self-driving cars to be truly safe, we need legislation that allows for companies to track data that might be relevant to driverless cybersecurity without compromising passenger privacy.

The researchers noted that their goals at the moment are to reduce the cost of their realtime cyberattack-response software, and turn it into something that can be easily installed into a self-driving automobile, perhaps through a smartphone or digital download. Although, at this point, it’s difficult to make specific predictions about the driverless car market. It may well be that the team’s techniques will become a foundation on which all driverless security software is based, or the first big wave of driverless cars may be released with firmware that is effectively unhackable. In short: Yes these cars are at risk, but it’s not quite as scary as it sounds.

Tips for Handling Job Stress

By Employment Resources | No Comments

0516-er-4As many as one-fourth of employees report that their jobs are stressors, and job problems If you experience job stress, learn how to handle it so that you can stay healthy and happy at work.

Side Effects of Job Stress

Infrequent job stress is uncomfortable but usually doesn’t cause long-term problems. However, chronic job stress leads to more health complaints than financial or family problems. You could experience headache, tension, fatigue, short temper, upset stomach, insomnia, decreased productivity and low attention span because of job stress, and it has been known to cause cardiovascular disease, impaired immune function, ulcers, cancer, psychological disorders and workplace injury.

Identify the Causes of Job Stress

Numerous challenges contribute to job stress, and conditions that bother you may not affect your co-workers. Before you can find a solution for your job stress, identify the triggers, which could include:

  • Tight deadlines
  • Heavy workload
  • Staff shortages
  • Poor morale
  • Personnel conflicts
  • Difficult clients
  • High performance expectations
  • Long hours
  • Insufficient instructions or micromanagement
  • Infrequent breaks
  • Poor communication
  • Job insecurity
  • Few opportunities for advancement or promotion
  • Rapid policy, staff or leadership changes
  • Unpleasant or dangerous working conditions

Learn Coping Skills

Once you identify that you’re experiencing job stress, don’t ignore it. Learn coping skills that help you address your specific job stress in an effective manner. Meditation, assertiveness, time management or walking away from conflict could reduce the stress you feel. Your company may also offer a stress management program that includes trainings on how to deal with personnel conflicts, communicate more effectively or reduce anxiety.

Take Care of Yourself

Exercise, a balanced diet and meditation are three ways you can care for yourself and resolve some of the daily stress you feel. You may also visit your doctor for more stress management tips and talk to a trusted friend or therapist as you reduce stress.

Talk to Management

You’ll also want to address the root causes of stress, which may include poor management or staff shortages. Brainstorm ways to reduce your excessive workload or expectation conflicts with your supervisor or HR manager as you attempt to decrease job stress for you and your co-workers.

Perform Regular Job Stress Assessments

You’ve learned how to handle stress and talked to management, but that doesn’t mean your job stress disappears. Perform regular assessments that identify when and why you’re stressed and what you can do about it. Continue to take steps toward improving the things you can control and addressing or letting go of what you cannot control.

Even if you love your work, you will probably experience job stress sometimes. Take action to deal with it appropriately so that you stay healthy.

Top 10 Health Risks for Women

By Life and Health | No Comments

0516-lh-2More than one in 10 women over 18 years of age are in fair to poor health, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Know the top 10 health risks women face as you protect yourself and the women you love on May 8, Mother’s Day, and every day.

  1. Heart Disease

    The leading cause of death among women is heart disease. It contributes to one in four female deaths. Exercise, eating a healthy, balanced diet and avoiding smoking can help you avoid this health risk.

  1. Skin and Breast Cancer 

    These two cancers can affect men and women, but they’re more prevalent in women, especially as women age. Most cancer is treatable with early detection, so visit your doctor regularly for mammograms and other screenings.

  1. Stroke

    Strokes are the primary cause of death and disability among women. They’re caused by blood flow blockage to your brain, and you can decrease your risk when you maintain a low blood pressure and stop smoking.

  1. Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases

    Lung disease, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, affects your quality of life and can cause death. It is preventable, though, especially when you avoid smoking.

  1. Alzheimer’s Disease

    Two out of three Alzheimer’s patients are women. While there is no cure, a healthy diet, exercise and not smoking can assist your overall physical well-being.

  1. Unintentional Injuries

    Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of unintentional injuries among women. Stay safe when you wear your seat belt, practice safe driving habits and use caution in poor weather.

  1. Diabetes

    Diabetes is linked to heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, which means it’s important for you to control your blood sugar. Make aerobic exercise and a nutritious diet part of your daily routine.

  1. Influenza and Pneumonia

    Severe flu complications can cause pneumonia, and women who are pregnant, immune-compromised or elderly are especially at risk. Get a flu shot every year and avoid anyone who has the flu as you protect yourself.

  1. Osteoporosis

    Almost three in four women suffer from osteoporosis, a disease that causes fragile bones and a hunched back. It’s largely preventable when you eat a calcium-rich diet, perform weight-bearing exercises regularly, stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption.

  1. Depression

    Depression affects twice as many men as women. Hormonal changes, family history, stress and other factors contribute to depression. To combat this health risk, seek a doctor’s care and take care of yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Take action today to ensure you and the women you love are protected from these 10 health concerns. Contact your doctor or health insurance agent for more information.

12 Key Benefits of a Health Savings Account

By Life and Health | No Comments

0516-lh-1 (1)A health savings account (HSA) covers your current and future medical expenses. It’s a smart investment since it provides 12 key benefits.

  • You control the account. That means you decide all the details, including how much to contribute (there are limits), the bank that handles the account and how to spend the money. You also retain control over the interest earned.

 

  • Choose to invest some of your HS A savings into a mutual fund. Here, your money has more potential for growth over time.

 

  • It’s available to anyone under 65 years of age. As long as you fit into this age range, you qualify.

 

  • The money rolls over. Money in a flexible spending account (FSA) must be used by the end of the year or you lose it. HSA funds continue to be available until you retire.

 

  • Your HSA account stays put. It’s available to you even if you change jobs, become unemployed, switch insurance carriers, move or get married or divorced.

 

  • Contribution limits are high. In 2016, individuals may contribute $3,350, the family limit rises to $6,750 and individuals over 55 may contribute an additional $1,000.

 

  • Enjoy a prolonged contribution period. You can make contributions to your HSA from January 1 to April 15 of the following year, which allows you to increase both your HSA and tax savings.

 

  • There is no income requirement to open an HSA. You can make lots of money or have no earned income and still contribute.

 

  • You receive triple tax savings. The money you contribute to your HSA is tax deductible up to the contribution limit, your savings grow tax-free and you don’t pay taxes on the money you withdraw as long as it is used to pay for eligible medical expenses.

 

  • It supplements your high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Use it to pay your deductible or any eligible expense.

 

  • The money pays for a variety of eligible medical expenses. They include the costs of disease and illness diagnosis, cure, treatment and prevention and cover doctor, surgeon and dental fees in addition to the costs of diagnostic devices, equipment and supplies. Check with the IRS for more details on eligible expenses.

 

  • An HSA covers current and future medical expenses. Use it now to offset your high-deductible coverage or let the money grow until you need it for a major medical expense in the future.

 

 

A health savings account can be a wise decision for you. Consider these 12 key benefits and talk to your health insurance agent for more details.

Options When Your Term Life Insurance Policy Ends

By Life and Health | No Comments

0516-lh-4 (1)Whether it’s your favorite chocolate pie, dream vacation or honeymoon, every good thing eventually ends. The same principle also applies to your term life insurance policy.

Most term life insurance policies last for 10 to 30 years. Check your policy or talk to your agent to see how long of a term you chose when you purchased your policy. If you die before the policy expires, your beneficiaries receive the death benefit. If the policy expires before you do, you will no longer be covered. That’s when you need to decide your next move.

Convert the Policy

Most term life insurance policies that were issued in the past decade include an option that allows you to convert or exchange it to a permanent life or Universal Life policy. Depending on your company, you may be able to convert the entire policy before it expires, during the first five years in which the policy is in effect or before you reach a certain age, which is typically 70. Converting your policy is a smart move if your health has declined and would prevent you from obtaining a new permanent policy. However, this option is more expensive than a term policy and may not be available depending on your current term policy.

Extend the Policy

Read the fine print on your term life insurance policy to see if you can pay the premiums each month and keep your current coverage until you’re 95. This option is beneficial if you only need coverage for a few more years or if you’re over 70 years old and cannot qualify for a new policy because of health concerns. It’s a bad idea if you cannot afford the steep increase in premiums, which will go up annually.

Renew the Policy

After your term policy expires, apply for a new one. Use your current insurance company’s Exchange or Re-Entry provision or select an entirely different company. You’ll need to prove that you’re in good health before you receive a new policy, which is affordable in most cases, especially if you’re under 60 years of age. You may be denied coverage or charged a high premium, though, if your health is in decline.

Even if your term life insurance policy has expired or is close to expiring, you have options. Check into these three options, talk to your agent for more information and shop around for the best insurance policy for you.

Examples of Equal Opportunity Laws in the Workplace

By Employment Resources | No Comments

0516-er-1Equal opportunity employment laws prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment. There are federal, state and local laws that ensure equal opportunities, and these laws apply to potential and current employees in companies with four or more employees. Discover several examples of equal employment opportunity laws as you evaluate your workplace.

Equal Opportunity History

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was founded because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prevents discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Since then, additional acts have been passed that prevent discrimination because of pregnancy, disability, age, sexual orientation or veteran status, and they all fall under the umbrella of protected statuses.

Job Applications

Your employer cannot discard or fast track applicants based on protected statuses. You have the right to apply for any job no matter who you are.

Job Vacancies

A company must advertise job openings to everyone. However, management can hire internally if the current employee is the best applicant for the job.

Advancement

A company cannot deny an employee advancement based on protected status. Performance should be the only factor in whether or not someone gets a promotion.

Training and Development

Employees appreciate professional training and development opportunities that improve their current skills, provide new tools and set them up for success. These opportunities can include conferences, seminars, job shadowing and mentoring and must be available to everyone, regardless of their status.

Wages

Everyone in the company must be treated equally when it comes to payday. An employee can’t receive lower wages because of his or her protected status.

Segregation

Companies may not segregate employees based on protected status. Your color, sex or disability may not be considered when you are assigned office space, tasks or projects.

Layoffs

Many companies base layoffs on seniority and use last in, first out (LIFO) to determine which employees are laid off. This guideline can be considered discrimination if the newest employees are the most talented, the youngest or the oldest. A better system is laying off the lowest-performing employees first.

What to do if You’re a Victim of Discrimination

If you think that your employer is discriminating against you, write down your evidence. It could be a joke, derogatory slur, statistical evidence or other proof. Discuss your concerns with your supervisor or HR manager. Your company should handle the situation seriously. You may proceed to court if you feel like your compliant is not being heard or if no action is taken.

Equal opportunity employment laws protect employees from unfair discrimination. As an employee, check to see that your company is treating everyone fairly, and if you’re an employee, be sure to follow the law.

Should You Save For Retirement When You’re Between Jobs

By Employment Resources | No Comments

0516-er-2Retirement savings is probably the last thing you think of when you’re between jobs. But your future retirement doesn’t disappear because you don’t have a steady income. Consider the pros and cons of saving for retirement even if you aren’t currently employed.

Don’t Dip Into Your Retirement Savings

Nearly half of all workers withdraw funds from their retirement plans when they change jobs. You may also be tempted to do this, but it’s a mistake. Spending your nest egg now means you may end up postponing retirement. You’ll also pay 20 percent in federal taxes and a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty on the retirement savings you withdraw if you’re not 59.5 years of age or use the money for an unqualified expense.

Switch to Low-Fee Retirement Accounts

Check your retirement fund statements and look at the administration fees. You may be able to save money by switching to a different company that charges less to manage your money.

Transfer Your 401(k)

You can typically roll over your retirement fund to an IRA after you change jobs. Perform a direct rollover, and you won’t be taxes on the funds. If you decide to have the money paid to you directly before you invest it into another retirement account, you will pay up to 20 percent in taxes.

Open an IRA

You can’t contribute to your 401(k) after you lose your job, but you can open an IRA with as little as $10. Your bank, accountant or investment advisor can assist you in opening this retirement account. Since there are no minimum contribution requirements, you can save as little or as much as you want until you start a new job and can begin saving aggressively again.

When opening an IRA, compare Roth and traditional options. Traditional IRAs give you tax savings now, and Roth IRAs allow you to take tax-free contributions when you retire, which could yield greater savings in the long run.

Think Small

Maybe saving a dollar a week sounds ridiculous to you. True, it’s a small amount, but small amounts grow interest, and creating a habit of savings is also good training that you can keep up once you land a new job with steady income.

Add Windfalls

When you get back unemployment benefits, a tax refund or other windfall, invest all or a portion of it into your retirement fund. That money will grow for your future.

When you’re unemployed, you may hesitate to make retirement account contributions. It can be a good idea, though. Follow these tips and talk to your former HR manager, accountant or financial advisor as you decide what the right move is for you.

Alternatives to a Traditional Funeral

By Life and Health | No Comments

0516-lh-3Planning a funeral is probably not high on your to-do list. However, you purchase life insurance to care of your loved ones, and pre-planning your funeral relieves your loved ones of this difficult task. You can even customize your funeral and tell guests to wear your favorite color, donate to your favorite charity or sing your favorite songs. Alternatively, you may decide on another option that reflects your interests, personality and wishes.

Cremation

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, over 70 percent of burials will be cremations by 2030. If you go this route, you may choose to have your ashes buried in a cemetery, displayed on a mantle, sent into space, enclosed into a concrete vessel that becomes marine habitat or turned into soil.

Create a Memory Box

Funerals give participants a chance to remember your life. Encourage your loved ones to create a memory box. They contribute items that remind them of you, and suggestions include a piece of jewelry, love letters, pictures or favorite scarf. The box can be displayed on a shelf or taken out on special occasions as your loved ones gather to remember you.

Host a Meal

Traditional funerals typically include a meal after the service and burial. Why not skip right to the meal. Choose any date you wish, including your birthday or favorite holiday, and instruct your family to serve your favorite foods, hire a DJ or play games as they celebrate you and the things you loved.

Start a New Tradition

To celebrate you and your life, encourage your loved ones to start a new tradition. They can volunteer at your favorite charity, take a trip together or gather for an annual picnic as they honor you together while doing something you enjoyed.

Record Stories

One of the best things about a traditional service is the chance to tell stories about you and your life. An alternative is to record those stories on videotape or in a scrapbook. Loved ones may share funny anecdotes, touching moments or favorite memories of your life and commemorate those stories for future generations.

Plant a Tree

To honor you, invite your loved ones to plant a tree. It can be in a park, in their garden or anywhere you have permission.

Sponsor a Charity

In your honor, ask loved ones to give to your favorite animal rescue, pregnancy center or school. The funds honor you and make the world a better place.

Pre-planning your funeral is an act of love. Consider these alternatives to a traditional funeral as you care for your loved ones.

How (And Why) Do ISP’s Track Piracy?

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

0516-cyber-4When it comes to piracy through web torrents, the truth is that you’re probably never going to go to jail for it. A handful of private downloaders have been hit with heavy penalties in order to make an example of them, but the government simply does not have the resources to go after everyone on the internet who’s guilty of piracy (hint: That’s very close to 100% of us). The real risk you run when downloading something you haven’t purchased is having your service interrupted, throttled, or even dropped by your provider.

How Do They Do It?

ISP’s do look for specific files being uploaded and downloaded through your ip address, mostly files protected by DMCA and similar acts. These include, for instance, new seasons of Game of Thrones. Downloading older movies isn’t usually as big a deal, but if everyone’s downloading it the minute it goes online, then it’s probably something that your ISP is specifically looking for.

There are ways to disguise what you’re downloading, services that can block anyone from seeing what it is that’s going through your router, including your ISP. However, your ISP is also looking for excessive downloading and uploading. Nobody’s burning through 200 gigs of uploads and downloads a day playing online games and watching Netflix. Even if they can’t prove that you’re pirating anything, they may send you a warning for excessive internet usage and throttle your bandwidth for awhile.

Why Do They Do It?

ISP’s have a couple of reasons for not wanting you to download copyrighted materials without permission. First is bandwidth: Simply put, you’re putting more stress on the network when you’re downloading and uploading full seasons of TV shows at a time. More importantly: Your ISP might become a target of the DMCA if they don’t put a stop to piracy wherever it lurks.

The real issue is not so much the downloading but the distributing. There’s plenty of copyrighted material posted on Youtube without permission and your ISP really doesn’t care how many Michael Jackson videos you watch without buying them on DVD, they tend not to pay attention to what you’re streaming at all. Distribution comes with far heftier fines though, and your ISP comes into the DMCA’s crosshairs when you seed that Game of Thrones torrent.

Most ISP’s aren’t going to call the FBI on you, it’s bad business putting your customers in jail. Most likely they’ll send you a warning and temporarily limit your internet usage if they catch you torrenting, eventually cutting you off if you persist. You’re probably not going to get into any legal trouble for torrenting unless you’re seeding enough torrents for copyright holders to specifically target you. But you might lose your provider if you’re not careful.

Is It Legal To Mod Your Own Hardware?

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

0516-cyber-2Modding hardware is a tricky subject. Obviously, if you weren’t allowed to mod any computer hardware, everyone who’s ever built their own computer from parts or installed extra RAM would be in big trouble. But then there are issues like jailbreaking phones or modding a video game console to play pirated games. Those subjects are a little trickier. Here’s what you need to know before popping that shiny new phone or laptop open with a flathead screwdriver:

Jailbreaking Apple Devices

Here’s why this is such a confusing subject: Jailbreaking an iPhone has been kept legal through an exemption in the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the same thing keeping your favorite songs off of Youtube), but jailbreaking your iPad is actually against the law. Unlocking your own iPhone is illegal, as well. A carrier can unlock your phone for you, but it’s illegal to go through a third party to do it, or to do it yourself.

Note that even when it’s legal, jailbreaking a device can void your warranty unless you can return it to factory settings.

Game Console Modding

Most console mods are done for the purpose of allowing the console to play pirated games. Here’s the trick: Physically modding your console is fine, you can go ahead and gut your Xbox One and put it in a custom Super Nintendo body if you like, but you’re not allowed to alter the firmware that prevents the console from playing pirated games (another ruling we owe to the DMCA).

If you want to mod your own console, you probably won’t get caught. The FBI has its hands full without going to everyone’s home and looking for burned DVD copies of Grand Theft Auto V. The people getting caught are usually the ones doing it for profit. It’s easy to convince someone to pay you twenty, thirty bucks to mod your console rather than risk destroying their three hundred dollar gaming machine trying to do it themselves.

Obviously we’re not going to recommend that you do anything illegal, but if you’ve modded your Nintendo 3DS so that you can play NES roms on it, you probably don’t need to worry about a SWAT team raiding your home.

Removing the Shutter Sound

Many phones are legally required to make a shutter sound when you snap a photo so as to protect people’s privacy, preventing people from taking secret photos of strangers. But, you are allowed to disable the sound.

What it comes down to is this: Mod hardware all you like, just don’t mess with the firmware, and you won’t be breaking any laws.