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Monthly Archives

January 2017

Your Dog Breed and Homeowners Insurance

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

pp-1701-1October, Adopt a Shelter Dog month, is a great time to add a dog to your family. Be careful which breed you adopt, though. Insurance companies use data from insurance claims and public health studies to create a high risk dog breed list, and your homeowners insurance premiums can increase based on the type of dog you adopt. You can save money when you choose a dog that’s not on the high risk list.

Working Breed Dogs

Agile, powerful and intelligent, Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and Siberian Huskies are also fiercely protective. If they’re not trained properly, these breeds could be potentially dangerous, especially to young children and small pets.

Terrier Breeds

Loyal and protective, American Pitbull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers have been bred to hunt. These traits mean they can become aggressive and tenacious if they’re cornered or frightened by one of your family members or guests.

German Shepherds

Police departments, military personnel and ranch hands appreciate this breed because the dogs are intelligent, hard-working and powerful. They’re also suspicious of strangers and won’t back down, which makes them a challenging breed for inexperienced owners to handle.

Chow Chows

Independent and strong Chow Chows are often kept as companions. These fluffy dogs can be aloof and stubborn, though, and should only be adopted by experienced dog owners.

Miscellaneous Breeds

Wolf Hybrid and Presa Canarios dogs exhibit strength and protective characteristics. However, they can also be unpredictable and quick to attack, making them potentially dangerous breeds. Friendly and docile Great Danes are listed on the high risk list, too, because of their size.

A dog adds fun and companionship to your home and family, and adopting a shelter dog is socially responsible. Before you choose a new pet, though, consider whether or not it will increase your homeowners insurance cost. If so, you may choose a different breed or reduce your home insurance premiums by installing a dog fence or raising your deductible.

Future Security Risks: What’s Coming!

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

20130611-cyber-eyeMany IT and security professionals will tell you that one of the biggest threats to sensitive data and equipment is not the fact that hackers are just so smart and determined, but that the security is always one step behind the technology.

Hardware and software developers do what they can to launch with built-in security features, but there’s no telling how to handle a threat until you know where those threats are coming from, and you can’t be certain of where those threats are coming from until you’ve already launched. Security, like your immune system, is all about adaptation. Here are some just-over-the-horizon security threats that we may need to combat in the coming years:

Bodyhacking

The FDA approved the DEKA arm, nicknamed Luke, for robot-arm transplant recipient Luke Skywalker, in May of 2014. The arm, developed by DARPA, has led to some speculation of hackers targeting prosthetic limbs. We already know that you can hack a pacemaker, so what’s to stop people from taking control of a pair of prosthetic legs?

Homehacking

Right now, an Internet-of-Things enabled automated home is a rare sight. A handful of people in Silicon Valley may enjoy curtains that open at seven o’clock on the dot and coffee machines that know just how you like it, but it’s not the norm.

Then again, a computer in every home wasn’t the norm twenty years ago, and smartphones were but a dream in 2001. It’s easy to imagine pranksters turning your refrigerator off remotely and letting your food spoil while you’re away for the weekend, or blasting your stereo at full volume while you’re trying to sleep.

Neural Implants

There has been a lot of speculation of late regarding neural implants, connecting the brain directly to the internet with the appropriate machinery. As crazy as it sounds, we’re not that far off.

The major threat with a neural-implant-connected internet might not even be a malicious hacker, but something as simple as a web-surfer suffering a stroke while connected with thousands of other users.

Self-driving Car Hacks

The self-driving car sounds like a great idea, but nobody seems to be willing to rush it into mass-production, and for good reason. The roads aren’t ready, and neither is the technology. Researchers funded by the Defense Department recently ran an experiment and found that it was incredibly easy to hack into a self-driving car and take control.

There’s a lot of new technology on the horizon, and a lot of it is on the brink of becoming as commonplace as the television and the laptop. It’s a brave new world out there, and there’s no way to ensure that your first self-driving car is unhackable, but the good news is that with every successful hack, we learn more about how to prevent it from happening again.

Secure Your Devices

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

0,,17180223_303,00Staying secure in the office is relatively easy. Sure, you have to be vigilant, but you have a whole team of IT pros, you have office protocol and guidelines, and network security to keep you safe and sound. Once your employees step out of the office, it’s a whole other story. Here are a few of the top security risks outside of the office, compiled from research papers and tech security blogs across the web:

Stolen Phones

This is going to disappoint you: leaks don’t always involve a saboteur in the company, and hacks don’t always involve a team of cyberpunks in black leather jackets. A huge chunk of sensitive data is leaked simply because an employee left their phone on the table when they went to the restroom at a coffee shop.

Even if your employees know better than to be so careless, public WiFi brings its own security risks. When it comes to the really sensitive stuff, it’s a good idea to enforce a company policy that will keep that data where it belongs: on secure, in-office hardware.

Out of Office Notifications

An employee gets a message and their text chat program automatically responds “Out of the office, be back later!” These notifications are great for personal computers, but announcing to the world that your work laptop is on, and unguarded, is like putting a sign up on your front door reading “On vacation, please don’t break in and steal our silverware!” Turning company computers and devices all the way off when not in use will prevent would-be hackers from breaking into unmonitored equipment.

The Disgruntled Former Employee

Once an employee is not only out of the office, but out of the company and off the payroll, what do they have to lose by sharing sensitive information? Well, quite a lot if you make sure that all employees sign a non-disclosure agreement before they begin working for you.

If you keep your turnover rate low by hiring only the best candidates, and if you make an effort to part on good terms when ending a relationship with an employee, you’ll have a bit less to worry about, but the non-disclosure agreement at least gives you some recourse should a former employee go out of their way to make your life a little harder than it needs to be.

By all means, keep your data safe and secure. Hire the top IT people to handle encryption and manage your data center. Just bear in mind that hackers tend to be kind of low-tech and opportunistic, just as quick to snatch a laptop off a coffee table as they are to spend weeks cracking your email password.

Understanding Your Deductibles

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

pp-1701-4To determine the deductible that provides the greatest value for your insurance dollar, we believe Sherlock Holmes might have made a great insurance agent. Although insurance can sometimes seem complicated, choosing the best deductible for your personal situation can prove an elementary decision.

Deductibles serve a clear purpose. For a given loss, the deductible is the amount you pay out of pocket. The insurance coverage will pay the remainder of the covered loss, up to the available policy amounts. Using deductibles properly can reduce premiums by eliminating smaller claims that most people would never expect their policy to pay anyway. This keeps coverage available as your safety net for large, possibly catastrophic, claims.

How do you decide what’s “small.” How much would you be willing to pay in the event of a claim; and at what point would you want insurance to take over? For some policyholders, especially in tough economic circumstances, this “out-of-pocket” amount might be very small. Recognizing this, the usual Homeowners insurance deductible for many years has been between $250 and $500. The same amounts hold true for Auto insurance.

However, suppose you feel you could comfortably handle a $1,000 or $2,500 deductible? Paying losses lower than those amounts will reduce your premiums — but by how much? Will it put enough money back in your pocket today to make it worthwhile if you file a claim tomorrow?

Before you decide, let us show you what the savings would be. Give our agency a call about your deductibles. If you’re willing to take on a bit more risk today, we can put some money back in your pocket. As Holmes might have said, “It’s a simple premium deduction, dear boy.”

What happens if your car is involved in a flood?

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

pp-1701-3Floods happen – and nearly half of all deaths related to them involve vehicles, says the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The best advice for drivers during periods of heavy rain or flooding is to stay off the road. If that’s not possible and you see signs of high water or stranded vehicles, pull over or take a different route ( “Turn around, don’t drown”).

However, an unexpected flash flood can easily catch you unawares. If this happens, safety experts recommend taking these precautions to prevent an accident or a water-damaged car:

  • Never drive beneath an underpass during a heavy rainstorm because they’re prone to flooding.
  • Be wary of water levels. According to FEMA it takes only one foot of water to float a car, or even an SUV, sweeping it off a bridge or down a road.
  • If your vehicle gets caught in a flood and stalls, or you lose control, get out before the car is carried downstream.
  • If you can’t escape and your vehicle is going under, don’t panic. Once the car is submerged, open the doors, hold your breath, and climb out.

The good news: If your car is involved in a flood-related accident, Auto insurance can make sure that you don’t get swept away financially. Comprehensive coverage will pay for any type of damage to your car up to its actual cash value caused by natural events, such as flooding. If you hydroplane during a storm and flip your car or hit another vehicle or tree, Collision insurance will pay to repair it or cover the actual cash value of the car.

To learn more, please feel free to get in touch with our agency.

Insurance for Your Boats/Watercraft

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

pp-1-1511There are many hidden costs associated with owning a boat: Dock fees, general maintenance, and winter storage, just to name a few. One expense that boat owners should never skimp on is purchasing the best available insurance policy for their watercraft.

Because buying a boat is a huge investment, owners should protect their boat with comprehensive insurance coverage. Plans are often based on the type and size of the boat. Many Homeowners and Renters insurance policies provide limited coverage for property damage if the boat’s engine is less than 25 mph horsepower or if it is a small sailboat, but without additional insurance, no liability coverage is included.

Owners of larger, more powerful boats and yachts will need to purchase a separate insurance policy for their boat. The insurance company will take into account the size and type of boat, its value, and where the boat sails when drawing up the conditions and cost of the policy.

Separate boat and watercraft insurance policies provide much more coverage to the owner. These policies generally include loss and damage coverage to the boat’s hull, machinery, furnishings, fittings, and any permanently attached equipment, like a navigation system. Liability coverage is extended to:

  • Bodily injury to other persons
  • Damage to other’s property
  • Legal expenses associated with non-consensual operation of the boat
  • Medical costs for injuries to the owner and passenger
  • Boat theft

Policyholders can choose the liability limits of their plan, ranging anywhere from $15,000 up to $300,000. The deductible cost for property damage is $250, and it ranges between $500 and $1,000 for theft and medical expenses. Of course, policies can be individualized based on the boat owner’s needs. Other endorsements and coverages can be added to the policy to cover the boat’s trailer, fishing gear kept aboard the boat, and any other accessories. Also, make sure to ask whether or not the policy covers the boat while it is being towed.

Just as Auto insurance providers offer discounts to their policyholders, discounts for watercraft policies apply in certain cases. For example, insurance companies favor diesel-powered engines over gasoline ones because diesel fuel is more stable, making the engine safer to operate.

Other discounts are related to safety equipment kept on the boat. Having items like fire extinguishers approved by the U.S. Coast Guard and ship-to-shore radio equipment could reduce the amount of the premium. Also, completing a boater’s safety course offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the American Red Cross, or the U.S. Power Squadrons can gain some favor with the insurance company. Maintaining a clean boating record is just as important as being accident-free on the roadways, when it comes to lowering insurance rates. Premiums are usually discounted for every two years the boater goes without an accident or filing a claim. Bundling your Watercraft insurance with Homeowners and vehicle policies is another good way to save money on coverage costs.

A solid insurance policy gives boaters the peace of mind needed to set sail and enjoy the open waters. Nothing is more relaxing than knowing your investment is covered.

Strange Insurance Policies, You’ve Probably Never Heard

By Other | No Comments

cyber-dec-1There are insurance policies that any sane business owner is going to have to invest in as soon as they have the cash flow to cover them. Then there are those that are… a little out-there. You might never need any of these policies, but it’s good (or at least interesting) to know they’re available in some areas:

Lottery Winner Insurance

Businesses in the United Kingdom have the option to purchase insurance for the event that two or more employees win the National Lottery and quit their dayjobs. The odds of that happening are especially slim when you consider how many lotto winners put their prize in savings and go back to work the next day. But hey, better safe than sorry, right?

Loch Ness Monster Insurance

The Cutty Sark Company has a prize for anyone who can capture the Loch Ness Monster alive to the tune of one and a half million dollars USD. They also have an insurance policy to cover their losses should this happen. We’re not talking proof alone of the monster’s existence, but capturing it alive. Something tells us their insurers aren’t too worried about having to pay out a million and a half bucks anytime soon.

Immaculate Conception Insurance

The Catholic Church insured three of their most valuable nuns against the risk of immaculate conception in 2006 through British Insurance. Sounds weird, but when you think about it, doesn’t every line of work carry with it its own risks?

Abbot and Costello

For Abbot and Costello, their onscreen chemistry was their livelihood. They insured their partnership for about a quarter million dollars in case they ever just couldn’t get along anymore. Insurance to cover bickering employees actually doesn’t sound like a bad idea, come to think of it.

Lloyd’s of London in Hollywood

Lloyd’s of London has a long history with Hollywood, having insured comedic actor Ben Turpin’s famous crossed eyes for twenty grand should they ever uncross, and covering the Oscars with some pretty hefty liability policies, including a thirty eight million policy just to cover the jewelry on display in 2004. All those big stars in one room? That’s a lot of assets on the line for the industry’s money-men.

Some of these policies sound pretty weird, but if you think about it, it’s nice to live in a world where there’s still enough reasonable doubt that you can be insured against the capture of the Loch Ness Monster. Insurance is, after all, all about peace of mind should the worst-case-scenario occur.

How Did Computer Virus’s Begin?

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

cyber-1511-2The computer virus seems to have spawned into existence in the 1990’s when users started hopping online with AOL. In truth, the history of the computer virus dates back about forty years. The modern virus, which spreads over the internet and across networks, really took off in the 80’s and 90’s, but developers and programmers have been experimenting with viruses in closed environments since the early 1970’s.

The very first virus was the Creeper. The Creeper wasn’t as harmful as today’s viruses, it just displayed a message reading “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can!” The virus was detected on the ARPANET, a sort of proto-Internet. Creeper was written as an experiment by Bob Thomas of BBN Technologies back in 1971. Thomas just wanted to see what would happen with a self-replicating program, infecting the TENEX operating system.

This brings us to the first software security program, the Reaper, designed specifically to kill the Creeper.

Another major forerunner of the modern virus was 1982’s Elk Cloner, the first virus to be released outside of a closed environment. The virus was written in 1981 by Richard Skrenta, attaching to the Apple DOS 3.3 OS via floppy disk. Skrenta wrote this virus while still in high school. It displayed a short poem that began with “Elk Cloner: The program with a personality.”

Neither of these proto-viruses were truly harmful, but they helped to show programmers, white hat and black hat alike, how vulnerable computer systems could be. No doubt, Skrenta and Thomas inspired coders of both viruses and antiviral software.

The modern virus really took off in the 1990’s with America Online and the worldwide web. Here, self-replicating viruses had global access for the first time, and best of all, the average computer user was no longer as computer-savvy as they had been in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was the perfect breeding ground for viruses.

Today, there are a few hundred specific strains of viruses and malware, with millions of variations. Viruses have come a long way since the Creeper, and so have the counter-measures.

Protect Your Business from Internal Theft

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

RR_1208-03According to the U.S. Commerce Department, employee crime costs American businesses more than $50 billion a year – that’s “billion with a ‘B” – and three out of four employees have stolen from their employers at least once.

To help prevent a fox from getting into your hen house, a leading risk management group recommends these guidelines:

    1. Screen job candidates. You might discover that a potential employee was fired from another job for stealing. A thorough background check can give you hard evidence when doing an interview. Look for discrepancies between what the candidate says and what’s on paper; too many differences will point to a problem.
    1. Reduce the temptation to steal. Be careful when making operational changes. The thief might become familiar with the change and believe that they have specialized and private information they can use to their advantage. To avoid this danger, let everyone know about new procedures. Also, lock and bar all windows in warehouses or storerooms, create employee sign-ins in these areas, and never leave anything lying around to be picked up easily.
    1. Protect monetary assets. Thieves sometimes write checks to ghost employees or vendors and use the money for their own finances. Separating accounts payable from accounts receivable will reduce the chances of such a fiasco. Also, if Jim in sales never, ever takes a vacation, something might be amiss; he might be snooping around or doing something besides genuine hard work.
    1. Schedule periodic audits. If this isn’t possible, have an outside party review your accounting and bookkeeping practices.
    1. Create a zero-tolerance policy. Potential in-house thieves won’t be as inclined to steal if they know that they’re risking their job.
    1. Investigate suspected fraud. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (www.acfe.org) offers expertise in this field.

For an in-depth review and analysis of your in-house security precautions, please contact our risk management specialists.

Recovering After a Disaster Strikes

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

rr-1701-3Three out of five firms that suffer a major disaster go out of business or are sold. Preparing your business to survive a disastrous event involves a multi-step process: assessment, planning, implementation, testing, and documentation.

  1. Assessment: Brainstorm and list all potential losses. Then rate them on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the most disastrous and 1 having the least impact on the business.
  2. Planning: Formulate a comprehensive, detailed action plan, using both in-house and outside sources. The plan should include both steps to prevent the loss and remedies to take if the loss occurs. Be as specific as possible.
  3. Implementation: Act on the plan. Determine what steps you must take to now insure a positive outcome if disaster strikes; Who will be accountable for taking these steps when and to whom will they report?
  4. Testing: For example, if you’re planning to deal with a computer crash, data recovery is essential. Test back-up media regularly to ensure that they will be available when needed. All too many businesses lose data due to malware or mechanical breakdown only to find that their backup is either corrupted or unavailable when needed.
  5. Documentation: Put the details of the plan (who, what, when, and where) in writing. Keep one copy in the office, another on the computer, a third off premises – and make sure that every manager knows these locations. Finally, review and update the plan every six months.

Although nothing is foolproof, implementing these five steps can go far to prevent a disastrous loss, or at least, mitigate its impact.

To learn more about developing a disaster plan for your business, feel free to give us a call at any time.