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Monthly Archives

March 2018

Small Heart-Healthy Changes To Make With The Whole Family

By Life and Health | No Comments

March gives your family the perfect opportunity to talk about love and improve your heart health. Involve your entire family in making positive changes when you take several small heart-healthy steps.

Find Free Time for Active Movement

Whether you have 15 minutes after dinner or several hours on the weekends, exercise and activity improve your heart health. Review your family’s schedule to find free time for activities everyone in the family enjoys, such as hiking, biking, swimming, sports and active video games.

Cook Together

Kids may balk at any dietary changes or new foods unless they help with the meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. Encourage your kids to help you research heart-healthy meals and snacks, too, as you introduce unprocessed options into your family’s everyday diet.

Drink More Water

Water hydrates and fuels your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, adult men should drink 15.5 cups of water and women need 11.5 cups of water daily. Children should consume between five and 11 cups of water depending on their height, weight and age. To boost your water intake, replace other beverages with water, eat foods high in water content and drink a glass of water before and with each meal.

Reduce Stress

While you probably can’t avoid stress altogether, you can work as a family to reduce your stress levels, which makes your heart happy. Consider cutting unnecessary activities, doing yoga, spending time outdoors, enjoying fun hobbies and embracing other effective strategies that reduce stress every day.

Choose Less Screen Time

Technology can improve your health, especially when you use a fitness tracker to monitor your activity and diet. Too much screen time, particularly if it involves sitting around, can negatively affect your health, though. As a family, choose to replace some of your screen time with family board games, hobbies or volunteer activities.

Visit the Doctor

Involve your doctor on your journey to better heart health, especially if you’re new to exercise or have a history of heart issues. Your health insurance should cover a physical and regular checkups, and it may even offer reimbursement for exercise or nutrition classes you may take as your family pursues better health.

Give Yourself Permission to Take Baby Steps

Implementing and maintaining heart-healthy improvements takes time. Encourage your family members to view your new adventure as a marathon rather than a sprint because with baby steps you’re more likely to stick with your new lifestyle changes over time.

This February, prioritize heart health with your entire family. Every step you take toward a healthier lifestyle improves your quality of life and can help you live longer.

How Much Cyber Liability Insurance Should A Business Purchase

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

Cyber breaches that affect big businesses make the news, but over 60 percent of all cyber breaches target small and medium-sized businesses. Because you must protect your business, no matter what its size, purchase adequate cyber liability insurance.

What is Cyber Liability Insurance?

When your business suffers a data breach, you can file a cyber liability insurance claim. The policy won’t prevent a hack, but it will cover your financial losses and assist your company during recovery.

Common Cyber Breach Risks

Any company, from international mega corporations to small family-owned businesses, that operates online or handles customer data faces cyber breach risks such as:

  • Human error – using the same password for all websites, losing unlocked devices or downloading malware.
  • Mobile devices – gateway for thieves when used over unsecured Wi-Fi connections or left unlocked.
  • Disgruntled former employees – use old login information to hack into your system.
  • Ransomware – hackers introduce malware onto your computer, encrypt data and require a ransom before they release and decrypt your system.
  • Coordinated attacks – international hacker groups target the sensitive information your company stores.

How Much Does a Cyber Breach Cost?

After a cyber breach, your company will owe first-party expenses, such as damages to your systems and data, and third-party expenses related to your liability to customers. Examples of these two expenses include:

  • Customer losses – direct financial loss, credit monitoring and other related expenses.
  • Business disruption expenses – account for up to 39 percent of a breach’s total cost.
  • Direct financial loss – resources the hackers steal from your company bank accounts.
  • Legal costs – handling lawsuits customers may file against your business.
  • Regulatory fines – imposed by the FCC, FTC, HHS and your state.
  • Public relations expenses – required to rebuild your company’s reputation.

These and other expenses contribute to the $3.62 million global average cost of a cyber breach. Each breach affects an average of 24,000 records, reports the Ponemon Institute, and costs $141 per individual lost or stolen record. Multiply this figure by the number of confidential or sensitive records your company stores, and you get an idea of how expensive a breach would be for your business.

Purchase Adequate Cyber Liability Insurance

Many experts suggest that businesses purchase at least $1 million in cyber liability insurance. Without this valuable coverage, your company could face insurmountable financial challenges and possible bankruptcy after a cyber breach.

On average, small businesses pay from $750-8,000 per year for this valuable coverage. Because your needs vary, schedule a consultation with your insurance agent and get a detailed quote.

Protect your customers and your business with cyber liability insurance. It’s essential coverage for every company.

Security Tips That Protect Your Website From Hackers

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

Your company’s website shares information about your business and promotes sales. Hackers can access your website and wreak havoc on your business, though, as they steal customer data, post negative messages to customers or destroy records. As you lock your company’s doors every day, implement several tips as you protect your website, your reputation and business.

Stay Informed About Security Threats

Hackers change tactics often in an effort to access data, so stay informed. Follow tech sites, including The Hacker News, as you secure your website.

Boost Admin Portal Security

Because the admin portal serves as the brain of your website, you need to secure it.

  • Utilize a username and password that are hard to guess.
  • Never share login information with unauthorized users or via email.
  • Limit login attempts.
  • Require a multi-factor authentication for logins.
  • Reduce access to the portal.
  • Scan devices that connect to the network, and ensure they’re not affected by viruses or malware.

Install Security Software

A web application firewall (WAF) scans all the information that passes between your data connection and web server. It catches hacking attempts, malicious bots and spam, so choose one to install.

Update Software

Software updates or patches may close security vulnerabilities and fix bugs. Because hackers can scan thousands of websites each hour, set your devices, web servers and all aspects of your website to update software automatically as you protect your business.

Add an Encrypted SSL

You may use your company’s website to gather customer email addresses or credit card information. In this case, use an encrypted SSL to hide personal information that’s transmitted from your website to your database.

Minimize File Upload Access

You may carefully scan uploaded files for security threats, but smart hackers can easily hide bugs in those files and gain access to your website. Counteract hackers when you store uploaded files outside of the root directory, then use a specific script when you’re ready to access the stored information.

Backup Your Website Frequently

Several times a day, schedule website backups. Choose a local and off-site backup location so you can get to your data if a hacker does manage to access your website, the hardware fails or you suffer a power outage.

Prioritize Security

Everyone in your company should prioritize security and take steps to deter hackers. Train employees to secure their devices that connect to your server, follow password security protocols and set logins to expire quickly after inactivity.

With these tips, you can protect your website from hackers. Additionally, talk to your cyber liability insurance agent and ask about other strategies and steps you can take to protect your website, customers and business.

The Dangers Of Fake Business Reviews

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

Before visiting a business, 90 percent of consumers read online reviews. Your company needs online reviews, but your business could suffer if you encourage or allow fake reviews to populate the internet. Understand the dangers of fake reviews as you build and protect your company.

What are Fake Reviews?

As a business owner, you may solicit or allow fake reviews as a way to bolster your online reputation and attract more customers.

Four common types of fake reviews include:

  • Ask family members and friends to share reviews of your company. While your family and friends may be loyal customers, their reviews could be skewed and not provide an accurate picture of your company.
  • Pay employees to write reviews. These reviews could appear to be objective but are dishonest.
  • Offer your product or service for free in exchange for a written review. While you may boost production volume and customers with this technique, it invites positive rather than honest reviews.
  • Encourage reviews on open rather than verified review sites. Numerous review sites allow anyone to leave a review even if they haven’t tried your services or products, a practice that encourages fake reviews.

Dangers of Fake Reviews

Your company faces several dangers because of fake reviews.

Fines – Expect repercussions from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your state if you violate consumer protection laws that include false advertising.

Damaged Reputation – Online review sites can report fake reviews to consumer alert groups and post this information on your profile. As a result, your company will gain a negative reputation that is nearly impossible to overturn.

Broken Trust – If consumers discover that you’ve encouraged or allowed fake reviews, they will stop trusting your company. You lose credibility and valuable business that affects your company now and into the future.

Lack of Growth – An influx of reviews can improve business temporarily, but your business will suffer if your products or services don’t match the fake reviews.

Public Danger – Fake reviews of physicians, attorneys, accountants or auto repair shops could potentially harm consumers. Other dangers caused by undisclosed allergic reactions or unsafe products can also harm consumers, highlighting the need for only honest reviews.

How to Prevent Fake Reviews

In your quest to attract business and build your brand, you may ask all your customers to leave honest reviews on verified sites. Continue to offer excellent service, too, that prompts customers to praise your company online.

Overall, your company will benefit more from no reviews than from fake ones. Understand the dangers of fake reviews and how to combat them as you retain your credibility, build your reputation and protect your company.

Ways To Prevent Home Water Damage During The Spring Thaw

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

Spring officially starts on March 20. In addition to rising temperatures and longer daylight hours, melting ice, snow and the ground produce a winter thaw. Take several steps as you prevent water damage to your home.

Inspect Your Roof

Storm debris or heavy snow and ice can damage your roof. Additionally, poor circulation or heat leaks can inhibit proper ice and snow melting.

Visually inspect your roof and remove any ice dams. Then note any damaged areas, including sagging, or areas of unmelted snow. You can hire a roofing professional to take a closer look and perform any necessary repairs.

Repair the Gutters and Downspouts

Ideally, downspouts should direct water at least six feet away from your home. However, the downspouts or gutters may be clogged or damaged.

As you inspect the gutters and downspouts, clear away any debris. Then replace broken pieces or install downspout extenders as you divert water away from your home.

Shovel Snow

Accumulated snow near your home can melt and leak into your home through the foundation or window wells.

When daytime temperatures rise or on sunny afternoons, use a shovel or ice pick to break up large piles of snow and ice. Remove obstructions like wood piles or overgrown shrubs, too, that might prevent proper melting.

Fix the Foundation

Even a tiny crack in your home’s foundation can allow water to seep into the basement or foundation walls. Plus, damaged window well caulk or debris build-up may promote water damage.

As you walk around the exterior of your home, look for evidence of foundation cracks or window well damage. Check the interior basement walls, too, for cracks or discolorations. Seal any cracks as you protect your home.

Prepare the Basement

While you do your best to prevent excess water in the basement, you should be prepared in case the water rises quickly.

First, test the sump pump. Make repairs or purchase spare parts so it’s ready to remove water from your basement if necessary. Then install backflow valves to prevent expensive sewer backups. Finally, move items to higher ground for protection in case water does seep into your basement.

Verify Your Homeowners’ Insurance

Spring flooding around your home can cause damage that affects your home and safety.

Revisit your homeowners’ insurance policy, and verify that it covers damage and repairs caused by excessive water. If your agent recommends flood insurance, purchase a policy as soon as possible so you’re covered before the big thaw.

This spring, melting snow, ice and ground will increase water around your home. Take these steps as you prevent damage and protect your house.

How To Protect Your Home’s Water Pipes All Winter

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

Your home’s pipes deliver water to the kitchen and bathrooms. These pipes could freeze during harsh cold winter weather, though, and leave you without water for meals, showers and other activities, which affects your health and wellbeing. Take several steps to prevent frozen pipes, and know how to thaw frozen pipes properly as you protect your home and family this winter.

Prevent Frozen Pipes

Most homes are built to withstand cold temperatures. However, design flaws, foundation weaknesses or unexpectedly low temperatures increase the likelihood that your home’s pipes will freeze. When the weather forecast calls for freezing temperatures, prep your home in several ways as you prevent frozen water pipes.

  • Close crawl space vents and insulate areas around exposed pipes to protect the pipes from cold air.
  • Turn on faucets and let them drip overnight. This tip is particularly important for the faucets attached to exposed pipes or located near exterior walls that get cold quickly.
  • Open cabinet doors to keep the pipes warm. As a side note, remove cleaning solutions and other harmful items from the cabinets to protect your kids and pets.
  • Maintain the same indoor temperature day and night. Turning the thermostat down during the day or at night can save you money, but a consistent indoor temperature of at least 55 degrees can protect your water pipes.

Thaw Frozen Pipes

Despite your best efforts, your water pipes could freeze as temperatures plummet. Thaw pipes properly with several steps.

  • Shut off the main water supply to the frozen pipes. If the pipes have burst, this step will prevent major damage to your home.
  • Turn on the faucets. As the ice melts, water will begin to flow slowly again and speed the thawing process.
  • Apply heat to the frozen pipes until they fully thaw. For safety, wrap a heating pad or hot towels around the pipe or use a hair dryer.
  • Exercise caution when thawing pipes. Never use an open flame or a propane or kerosene heater because these devices could cause a fire. Also, don’t overload circuits, use space heaters or leave your oven door open as you attempt to get your water flowing.
  • Call a plumber if your DIY attempts don’t work. He or she will find the troublesome pipe, fix the problem and restore your running water.

This winter, take several steps to protect your water pipes from freezing or to thaw frozen pipes safely. You should also update your homeowners insurance policy. It provides valuable protection if a frozen or burst pipe damages your home. Your insurance agent can also share tips that protect your water pipes and home this winter.

Tips That Protect Customer Information In Your Open Office

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

Your customers entrust their personal data to you and your company. Your employees may easily share information, though, particularly if you operate an open office with little privacy. Protect your customers’ information and identities when you follow several tips.

Collect Only the Data you Need

Unless you need a customer’s driver’s license number or Social Security number for a specific purpose related to the transaction, don’t collect this data. Ask only for the data you need, and reduce access to information that could be compromised.

Use Data Only for Legitimate Purposes

The data you collect may be used to complete a sale or open a line of credit, but don’t use a customer’s data for any other purpose. Improper use of data can compromise a customer and place your company at risk.

Store Data Properly

Protect sensitive customer data when you store it electronically and never on paper. Then encrypt all data and lock it in a centralized location, not on a USB drive or other removable media. When you’re ready to erase the data, wipe it from your system and shred any paper files.

Use a Dedicated Server

While you could use a shared server to save money, a dedicated server reduces a hacker’s ability to access your data. It reduces vulnerability and improves security.

Protect Your Network

Secure the information on your network when you update your system’s anti-virus and firewall protection and scan often for malware. Perform regular updates on all computers and other connected devices, too.

Secure Your Devices

Use only updated computers, tablets, smartphones, printers, fax machines and all devices as you improve security. Then ensure all devices that connect to the internet are kept locked when not in use. When employees must connect remotely to your network, ensure they use a secure VPN (Virtual Private Network).

Backup Data Regularly

Schedule data backups at least daily. This step secures data as you collect it and reduces the risks of theft.

Restrict Access

Maintain a “need to know” attitude as you protect data. If employees don’t need access to the information stored on paper or electronically, they shouldn’t have access to it.

Train Employees

Educate your entire staff about how to protect customer information. They should know how to maintain confidentiality during every step of their customer interaction, including before the sale,  when they collect payment and during any follow-up.

Employees should also know how to:

  • Update software.
  • Lock computers when they’re not in use.
  • Avoid downloading malware.
  • Change passwords often.

Protect customer data in your open office when you take these steps. When you and your team secure data during every step of your customer interaction, you reduce the risk of an expensive cyber breach.

Ways To Secure Your Virtual Payment Terminal

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

With a virtual payment terminal, you can take payments over the internet. Not only will you boost sales, but you’ll also offer convenience to your customers. Your virtual payment terminal may be vulnerable to security risks, though, so follow several tips as you reduce liability and protect your customers and business.

What is a Virtual Payment Terminal?

Your virtual payment terminal allows you to accept credit card payments without using a credit card terminal. Simply log into the virtual terminal website from your device, enter the sales amount and key in the credit card information. You’ll then receive authorization if the sale is approved and can print or email the receipt.

After each sale or when it’s convenient for you, check the transaction history to see details about your sales and processing activity. The terminal also includes performance data and financial reports, and you can adjust the admin settings.

With your virtual payment terminal, you can accept payments anywhere. You’ll also save money with lower processing fees and increased opportunities to make sales.

Security Tips for Your Virtual Payment Terminal

Your virtual payment terminal offers convenience and can boost sales, but you must secure it. You will be liable if your actions compromise a customer’s credit card number or if fraud occurs to your account.

  • Never store customer payment information. Use credit card data to make the sale, but never make or store a copy of the card number or other details.
  • Use a PCI-compliant virtual payment terminal provider.
  • Utilize fraud filters that identify potential fraud and help you respond properly.
  • Partner with a provider that uses Point-to-Point encryption.
  • Implement tokenization. It replaces data with a token and inhibits hackers.
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi connections that are often unsecure.
  • Follow all the security protocols mandated by your virtual payment terminal provider. These protocols may include annual PCI compliance training or software updates as you protect your customers’ data and company.
  • Limit login access. Only authorized employees should be able to log into your virtual payment terminal as you prevent unauthorized transactions or other information compromises.
  • Log out after each transaction or when you need to walk away from your device. This step prevents someone from accessing the terminal and information between sales.
  • Secure the computers, smartphones and tablets you use to access your virtual payment terminal. If possible, use devices that require a pin or use fingerprint or face recognition, and store these devices in a secure location.

Your business benefits from a virtual payment terminal. Secure it as you limit your liability and protect customers and your company.

Avoid Computer Eye Strain

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Employees who work all day at a computer are at risk for eyestrain. To help your workers protect themselves, we recommend that they follow these basic precautions.

  • Look away from the monitor for 30 seconds, every 15 or 20 minutes. Look at or scan things at least 20 feet away to allow your eyes to focus in a rest position.
  • Reposition the monitor 20” to 26” from your eyes (roughly the distance from your eyes to the end of your index finger with arm outstretched). Otherwise, you’ll be forced to sit or lean too close to the screen, or sit too far away. If your eyeglass prescription doesn’t allow clear vision at the 20” to 26” range, get it adjusted.

Reset monitor height so that the top edge is even with your view when looking straight ahead. Then tilt the screen upward so that you’re not looking at the image at an angle. The optimal screen position is 10 to 20 degrees below eye level.

  • Reset the monitor screen resolution, the Internet browser text size, and the zoom and font default in the operating system and in software applications so that text is easy to read. Start with a screen resolution of 800×600 for older CRT monitors and 1024×768 or higher for LCD (flat screen) monitors. Set the monitor refresh rate at or above 75 hertz (Hz) on older CRT models. Refresh rate is irrelevant for LCD monitors and is factory set, usually 60 Hz.
  • Blink often (put a sticky note on your monitor!). The average blink rate is 22 times per minute. The rate goes down to seven per minute when looking at a monitor – which causes the eye lens to dry out. If you can’t get into the habit of blinking more often, use an eye moistener (saline solution).
  • Relax your eye muscles. Put the palm of your hands over your eyes for a minute or so, once every half hour. This warms the muscles around the eyes, relaxing them.
  • Minimize glare. Make sure the background light level around the monitor is about the same as the screen light level. Minimize direct sunlight or bright lights in front of the monitor or directly behind it.
  • Adjust the contrast and brightness to levels you use when reading a book comfortably. A bright screen causes eyestrain.
    Use a paper holder to hold documents. Put the document at the same level as the monitor, or attach it to the monitor. This prevents repetitive neck and eye movement from paper to screen.

What You Need To Know About Employee Sick Leave

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Federal laws may not mandate that your employer gives you sick leave, but some statesrequire it, and individual employers may offer this benefit as part of a comprehensive benefits package. Learn more about this valuable benefit as you maximize your employee sick leave.

What is Employee Sick Leave?

If you’re ill or injured, you can’t perform to the best of your ability and may compromise safety. For these reasons, some employers offer paid or unpaid time off work so you can seek medical treatment or rest and recover.

To accumulate sick leave, you may first need to work a certain number of hours or achieve a certain level in the company. You may lose unused sick leave time at the end of the year or roll it over to the next year. Sometimes, employees also reimburse you for any sick time you don’t use.

Reasons to use Your Employee Sick Leave

Depending on your employer, you may be restricted and only allowed to take sick leave if you’re ill or injured. Other employers offer paid leave if you need to care for sick children or nurture your mental health. Also, some employees lump sick leave in with your personal or vacation days, allowing you to use your time for whatever you want.

Remember that sick leave is different from Workers’ Compensation. If your illness or injury occurred because of a work-related task, file a Workers’ Compensation claim.

Options if you Need More Time Off

Even if your employer doesn’t offer sick leave, you do have options if you must take time off work for an illness or injury.

  • Take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). You could receive up to 12 weeks off to care for yourself or a family member who faces an illness or another medical emergency.
  • Check to see if you have disability leave, particularly if you need to take an extended time off work.
  • Ask your employer if you can take unpaid leave until you feel well enough to return to work.

Where to Find Details About Your Sick Leave Benefits

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) requires all employers to prepare a description of their specific employment practices and policies. This written or posted description includes details about your sick leave, paid vacations, personal days, holidays, bonuses, severance pay and other benefits. Review your employer’s policy to verify the type of benefits you’re eligible to receive and details about how to request that time off.

The next time you’re too sick or injured to go to work, take a sick day. It’s a valuable benefit your employer may offer.