Home > Blogs > Pamela Shemet's Blog
22,856 views

Pamela Shemet's Blog

By Pamela Shemet | Agent in Crystal River, FL
  • Get hackers off your back: Security tips

    Posted Under: Crime & Safety in Crystal River, Agent2Agent in Crystal River  |  October 9, 2014 8:41 AM  |  19 views  |  2 comments

     

     

    As attacks on computer systems rage on, no business is too tiny for cybercriminals to see as a lucrative target.

    Yet security for smaller companies is a real challenge. Any small-business owner is by definition a jack-of-all-trades, but a deep understanding of computer security is seldom among those skills.

    "Trying to protect your company's data valuables or brand without the budgets, staffing or know-how of Fortune 500 companies is a daunting task," says Gartner security analyst Eric Ahlm.

    Small to midsize businesses generally have three choices when it comes to protecting themselves online.

    For those who mostly do simple credit card transactions, a merchant services company (sometimes called managed services) is often all they need. More complex businesses tend to rely on all-in-one programs, such as Norton or Symantec. Still larger businesses frequently outsource to an IT or security professional, who may provide similar services to multiple companies.

    Simple outsourcing is the route Zoel Fages, who owns Perch, a small gift and housewares shop in San Francisco, has taken.

    A first-time business owner, he hired Axia, a merchant services company in Santa Barbara, Calif., to do his credit card processing and payments.

    To deal with computer security, he also signed up for Axia's data breach program through ControlScan, a company that helps businesses ensure they are compliant with the legally required Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or PCI DSS.

    "I had to answer a 69-question questionnaire, and they did a vulnerability scan last week," he said. He spent hours on the phone with ControlScan going over the results and is now confident his customers, and their credit card information, are safe.

    Putting in 60-hour weeks to keep his boutique running, that's the extent of his efforts. "Maybe this is naiveté on my part, but I'm just assuming that if these tests are being done and I'm passing, then I'm meeting the compliance standards," he said amid scented candles and cheese boards.

    It's not a bad bet for businesses that "frankly really don't have much data of interest to lose," said Ahlm. These types of managed service providers are easy to find, either through local merchants associations, the Chamber of Commerce or even judicious searching online.

    For more midsize companies, doing security in-house with purchased software is an option. In just over a third of companies, the owner handles online security, while in another third a staff member is in charge of it, a National Small Business Association survey found.

    Popular products include offerings from Symantec, Trend Micro and McAfee. Many small-business owners turn first to Norton, a consumer-oriented security product owned by Symantec, because it's what they use on their home computers.

    "They want something rock solid that's going to provide the protection they need. They don't want to have to fuss with it," said Brian Burch, vice president of small-business marketing at Symantec.

    Norton's Small Business product starts at $100 a year with a license that covers up to five devices, and the ability to add more for $20 each.

    When a business gets about 25 employees, many begin to switch to the more powerful Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition, "which is more meant for an IT professional within the company," said Burch. "It scales to hundreds of employees."

    Many businesses eventually decide they need someone on the inside they can call on when something goes wrong.

    Commercial Resins in Henderson, Colo., has produced industrial coatings for oil pipe and rebar since the 1960s. In 2008, when the company had five computers and one server, it hired Brian Willms as a security consultant.

    Originally it was just one of many clients whose computer security he managed remotely – a popular option for many midsize companies that can't afford a full-time tech staffer.

    "Then we added more computers and staff and they all had smartphones, and suddenly they were saturating 100 percent of my time," Willms said. Eventually the company hired him as its sole IT staffer. Today he manages the company's two locations, in Henderson and in Sidney, Neb., from his home in Tulsa using Webroot, a cloud-based security company. "I'm pretty much always on call," he said.

    Whatever security a company decides on, software can never be fully protective. Staff training is crucial, said Stephen Cobb with ESET, which offers security software and support for smaller businesses.

    "We can make a piece of security software that says, 'Warning! Don't click this button!' But if your employees don't know that it's important not to click the button, your investment in that security software isn't going to pay off," he said.

    Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY, Elizabeth Weise

  • Is a smart home vulnerable to cyber attack?

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Crystal River, Crime & Safety in Crystal River, Home Ownership in Crystal River  |  August 21, 2014 4:33 AM  |  21 views  |  No comments

     

     

     As homes get more connected to technology, security researchers are sounding the alarm on the vulnerabilities smart homes could pose.

    The home automation market is expected to soar to $16.4 billion by 2019. But with that surging growth, researchers want to focus more attention on the security of the devices to make sure they don't reveal too much about homeowners should they fall into the wrong hands.

    Smart-home devices run the gamut: a garage door that opens automatically as you approach the house; a thermostat that automatically adjusts to fit an owner's comfort level; even an oven that adjusts its temperature based on a recipe's instructions.

    Smart homes promise to offer homeowners greater convenience, but security experts worry about any device that can remotely track an owner's activity, monitor household activity through embedded cameras or provide keyless entrance.

    "Looking at the rate at which new products come to the market and the connectivity outside the home, all of a sudden there's a lot of personal information being transmitted over the Internet," says Hagai Feiner, founder and CEO of Access Networks to Builder Online.

    "The more intertwined those devices are into our lives, the more risk is present," Feiner says. "It's becoming a bigger issue as we have more and more devices that are looking at our patterns – and this is where technology is going. The more products we have that are learning and that transmit (our behaviors) to the Internet, the more risk we have of those devices being hacked and information being held by rogue identities."

    HP Fortify on Demand created the IoT Top 10, an educational effort to explore the main security problems for internet-connected home devices. In a recent study, the group tested 10 of the most popular smart-home devices and found that 70 percent of them had serious vulnerabilities – an average of 25 vulnerabilities per device – says Daniel Miessler of HP Fortify on Demand.

    Most of the devices that posed concerns collected personal information that included addresses, health information and credit card numbers. The data is being transmitted – often unencrypted – over users' networks and across mobile apps and cloud services, which could open up homeowners to a potential data breach.

    The study also found that 80 percent of the devices failed to use strong authentication measures and permitted weak passwords such as "1234."

    As researchers continue to raise the discussion of security in smart-home devices, they urge homeowners to also be smart about which products they choose. They encourage homeowners to use products that have strong authentication measures and to choose better passwords to keep their data safe.

    Source: "Data Breach: Privacy Concerns Abound Around the Connected Home," Builder Online (Aug. 13, 2014)

    © Copyright 2014 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

  • Fla. schedules tax holiday for hurricane supplies

    Posted Under: Crime & Safety in Crystal River, Home Ownership in Crystal River  |  May 23, 2014 5:46 AM  |  108 views  |  No comments

       
     

    ORLANDO, Fla. – May 13, 2014 – Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 5601 that cuts more than $121 million in taxes for Florida families and creates a nine-day sales tax holiday for hurricane supplies beginning May 31. The Florida Legislature voted to create a hurricane supply tax holiday during its 2014 session.

    "Hurricane season begins June 1, and Florida families need to get a plan," Scott said. "While we always hope for the best, Florida families need to be prepared for anything. Everyone should have a family disaster kit with supplies and medications, be prepared to evacuate if advised to do so by emergency management officials, know your evacuation route and where you can take your pets if you have to shelter, and have all of your important documents and cash together to take with you."

    During the hurricane supplies sales tax holiday, Floridians will be able to purchase items such as flashlights, batteries, weather radios and other essential items.

    © 2014 Florida Realtors®

  • Scam warning: Window film won’t stop the wind

    Posted Under: Crime & Safety in Miami  |  June 28, 2013 7:32 AM  |  367 views  |  No comments

    Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says people need to be wary of companies that claim window films provide protection from hurricane-force winds.

    Bondi’s office has entered eight settlement agreements to resolve allegations against companies that sell window film, noting that the Florida Building Commission hasn’t approved the material as a form of hurricane protection.

    “What’s happening now is we have scam companies selling people window film, making people think it’s safe to stay in their homes” during a storm, Bondi said Tuesday. “I don’t want our Floridians, especially our seniors, to purchase this junk and have a false sense of security.”

    Bondi says her agency continues to investigate a number of businesses offering the window covering as a storm protection and said consumers should check on companies with the Better Business Bureau before completing any deals.

    Source: News Service of Florida

  • Scam warning: Window film won’t stop the wind

    Posted Under: Crime & Safety in Jacksonville  |  June 28, 2013 7:31 AM  |  374 views  |  No comments

    Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says people need to be wary of companies that claim window films provide protection from hurricane-force winds.

    Bondi’s office has entered eight settlement agreements to resolve allegations against companies that sell window film, noting that the Florida Building Commission hasn’t approved the material as a form of hurricane protection.

    “What’s happening now is we have scam companies selling people window film, making people think it’s safe to stay in their homes” during a storm, Bondi said Tuesday. “I don’t want our Floridians, especially our seniors, to purchase this junk and have a false sense of security.”

    Bondi says her agency continues to investigate a number of businesses offering the window covering as a storm protection and said consumers should check on companies with the Better Business Bureau before completing any deals.

    Source: News Service of Florida

  • Scam warning: Window film won’t stop the wind

    Posted Under: Crime & Safety in Tampa  |  June 28, 2013 7:30 AM  |  318 views  |  No comments

     
    Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says people need to be wary of companies that claim window films provide protection from hurricane-force winds.

    Bondi’s office has entered eight settlement agreements to resolve allegations against companies that sell window film, noting that the Florida Building Commission hasn’t approved the material as a form of hurricane protection.

    “What’s happening now is we have scam companies selling people window film, making people think it’s safe to stay in their homes” during a storm, Bondi said Tuesday. “I don’t want our Floridians, especially our seniors, to purchase this junk and have a false sense of security.”

    Bondi says her agency continues to investigate a number of businesses offering the window covering as a storm protection and said consumers should check on companies with the Better Business Bureau before completing any deals.

    Source: News Service of Florida
  • Local weather alert to your smartphone

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Ocala, Crime & Safety in Ocala, In My Neighborhood in Ocala  |  June 30, 2012 8:38 AM  |  455 views  |  No comments
    WASHINGTON – June 29, 2012 – Millions of smartphone users can get texts about severe weather from a National Weather Service system that powered up Thursday.

    The Wireless Emergency Alerts system will send a blanket warning to mobile devices in the path of tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards and other threats. When a warning is issued for a specific county, a message of 90 characters or less will cause late-model smartphones in that area to sound a special tone and vibrate. Users do not have to sign up for the service or pay for the text message, and people can opt out of the system.

    Amy Storey, spokeswoman for CTIA-The Wireless Association, an industry trade group, said the alerts will ensure that people who aren’t watching TV or listening to radio will have “the information needed so they can be safe until the threat is over.” The system does not yet work with all smartphones or in all areas.

    More info is posted on the National Weather Service Forecast Office website.

    © Copyright 2012 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
« Read older posts
 
Copyright © 2014 Trulia, Inc. All rights reserved.   |  
Have a question? Visit our Help Center to find the answer