• Public Wi-Fi Networks Pose Security Risks

    These days, more and more people are on the go, and many of them bring their work with them. While connecting to public and open-access Wi-Fi hotspots is indeed convenient, using open networks also pose risks that endanger your security. While connecting to public and open-access Wi-Fi hotspots is indeed convenient, using open networks also poses risks that endanger your security. The open nature that allows anyone to use the connection also enables unscrupulous people to gain access to your private information. The whole act of stealing information from people who are using public Wi-Fi networks is called ‘sidejacking’. There are applications such as Firesheep, for example, that provide an easy-to-use platform that others can exploit to spy and harvest personal, sensitive information from you. And since Firesheep is a Mozilla Firefox plug in, virtually anyone can download and use it to sidejack people on the same network. You can’t be too cautious with your personal and business data these days, so you always need to have the proper laptop configuration and security infrastructure to protect your system, especially when you frequently avail of open and public networks. To know more about this, please feel free to give us a call and we’ll be happy to draw up some security options that meet your specific needs.

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  • National Cyber Security Awareness Campaign Challenge a Huge Success

    The United States Homeland Security Department’s National Cyber Security Awareness Campaign Challenge was a huge success, with more than 80 security proposals submitted with the goal of increasing awareness regarding threats to cyber security. Out of the over 80 submitted entries, seven were chosen to receive awards at a ceremony at the White House recently. One noteworthy proposal was a 5k run dubbed “Trot Against Bots”, which aims to intentionally cause traffic jams to demonstrate the effect of security problems causing disruptions in internet traffic, bagging the Best Creative Approach award. Cisco Systems, Inc., also got a nod for their “Cybersecurity is Everyone’s Responsibility” Publicity and Marketing plan, which highlights the importance of using cyberspace responsibly as an individual compared to the shared effort of making the internet a safe place for all. Another notable proposal was the “Think Before You Click” campaign from Deloitte & Touche, LLP, which won the Best Iconic and Overall Structure. As the name suggests, the campaign aims to curb the pervasive habit of clicking links before analyzing the possible content of the website to be accessed or the file to be downloaded. Other winners include: Best Local/Community Plan – Securing Our eCity San Diego and MyMaine Privacy; Best Individual Plan – “Cybersecurity Starts Here: Home, School and Main Street” by Melissa Short; and Best Educational Plan – Pennsylvania State University’s “CyberLink Games”. Homeland Security plans to utilize the winning concepts and integrate them into their National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign. Source: http://www.dhs.gov/files/cyber-awareness-campaign.shtm

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  • Understanding March Madness and its impact on your company

    It’s March again, and many hoops fans are once again in a frenzy – creating fantasy basketball drafts, watching streamed basketball games, and researching basketball trends, rumors, and other related information. That’s “March Madness” for you. Most of the activity of March Madness is internet based, with gambling and betting at an all-time high, especially as the tournament draws to a close with the Elite Eight Teams whittling down to the Final Four. Fans spend a lot of time watching streamed videos of games and gathering information on the tournament online, distracting them from their official duties and potentially wasting company bandwidth. How much does this impact your company? A lot, says the research. A 2008 Newsweek article reports that the March Madness phenomenon cost a total of $1.7B in lost productivity. And that’s not counting the high bandwidth consumed from all the video streams and the research activities. In more recent research findings reported by national outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the losses due to March Madness are expected to continue. “Those who insist there will be no impact are kidding themselves,” says John Challenger, CEO of the Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “It might be a slight drop in output, or it could be slow Internet connections as bandwidth is sapped by employees watching streaming feeds of the games,” he adds. If you’re concerned about your company’s bandwidth during this period and want to look for ways to better manage it, we’d be happy to discuss a possible roadmap. Sources: http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/03/17/2048029/college-basketball.html http://www.newsweek.com/id/124404

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  • IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR QuickBooks Customers: Intuit is receiving reports of individuals receiving fraudulent emails from QuickBooks or QuickBooks Online. The two separate emails ask customers to either download a plug in to assess their security or download a Digital Certificate. Customers should delete either of these emails. As we discover these fraudulent sites (cyber criminals often use the same email repeatedly, although they change web sites), we take them down. More at the Intuit website

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  • Good News for Small Businesses in the Bailout Act

    Small businesses will get a helping hand with some key expenses under President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan, signed into law on February 17. Around $282 billion of the bill is devoted to tax cuts, including breaks for small businesses. Some of the highlights include: Small businesses will be able to more quickly deduct the cost of investments in plants and equipment from their taxable income. Small businesses will be allowed to recover alternative minimum tax (AMT) and research and development (R&D) credits faster. Small businesses will be allowed to write off up to $250,000 of capital expenditures in the year of acquisition. As a result, 2009 might be a good time to consider upgrading your technology. Your financial advisor can help you determine if any of these tax cuts apply to you. More information; A Breakdown of the stimulus package: http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/STIMULUS_FINAL_0217.html Small Business Association information on stimulus bill: http://www.sba.gov/recovery/index.html Regularly updated stimulus page at Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/public/page/stimulus-package.html

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  • Looking for a website or online resource for Security Tips and Best Practices? Check out the Federal Trade Commission ‘s (FTC) OnGuardOnline program , which the FTC began in partnership with cybersecurity experts, online marketers, consumer advocates, and federal officials in 2005. While there, check out the articles and free resources such as videos, games, and downloadable files to help you guard against Internet fraud , hacking, and other security threats.The site also offers the following seven vital security practices : Protect your personal information. It’s valuable. Know who you’re dealing with. Use security software that updates automatically. Keep your operating system and Web browser up-to-date and learn about their security features. Keep your passwords safe , secure, and strong. Back up important files. Learn what to do in an “ e–mergency .” If you suspect Internet fraud, you can register a complaint using this form . The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft , and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel , a secure, online database used by law enforcement officials in the U.S. and overseas. Check out the site or contact your IT Consultant to help you implement the recommendations from the site. Related articles: 7 Smart Security Practices For Small Businesses 9 Simple Ways to Protect Yourself against Internet fraud ID theft up, and 20somethings suffer most Online fraud up after years of decline: report

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  • R-and-D Tax Credit Makes Technology Upgrades More Affordable

    A one-dollar reduction in the after-tax cost of research and development creates an additional dollar of new spending in the short term and two dollars of additional spending in the long term, according to the Council of Regional Information Technology Associations (CRITA)—but what small business can afford R&D in times like these? Those who use the federal research and development (R&D) tax credit, perhaps. The R&D tax credit, first enacted under the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, provides certain companies with a tax credit for R&D expenditures used to introduce new products and services, improve current products and services, or simply enhance processes. The tax credit reduces the cost of capital, thereby mitigating the risks of R&D investment and allowing companies to “push the envelope” in the development of new products and services. In other words, your company might get a tax break simply by making its products or processes better. The R&D tax credit likely applies to more companies than you think it does. Contrary to popular opinion, the tax credit is not just for scientific research done in a large laboratory setting. Thanks to recently relaxed regulations, it applies to companies of all sizes in many industries, such as manufacturing, technology, software, and engineering. Examples of small companies that could potentially use the R&D tax credit are a 10-person company that designs and manufactures disk drives for personal computers, or a five-person company that develops software for streamlining real estate companies’ billing operations. And the list goes on. Companies involved in any of the following activities may also be eligible for the R&D tax credit: Manufacturing new products, processes, or formulas Developing new, improved, or more reliable products, processes, or formulas Developing prototypes or models (including computer-generated models Designing tools, jigs, molds, or dies Applying for patents Conducting certification testing Testing new concepts and technology Trying to use new materials Acquiring new equipment Conducting environmental testingDeveloping or improving manufacturing processes Developing, implementing, or upgrading systems or software Building or improving manufacturing facilities Using outside consultants or contractors to do any of the above activities If your company is eligible, you can generally claim a 20 percent credit against your taxes for qualified expenses above a base amount. Qualified expenses include in-house costs for wages, supplies, and a percentage of any contract costs. However, you must provide certain documentation showing that your projects are not just part of the ongoing cost of doing business. That’s where the tax credit gets tricky. For example, unqualified expenses include (but are not limited to) internal-use items, such as the installation and customization of software used by your company internally. In one case, a company increased efficiency and reduced costs with an administrative software package. It claimed the R&D tax credit for the wages of its computer programmers and analysts working on the system during its installation and customization. The IRS denied the claim. If you think you may be eligible for the R&D tax credit, you may want to contact your accountant now. The credit has expired and been extended many times—most recently in October 2008, when President Bush signed into law a retroactive two-year extension of the tax credit, from January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009. In some ways this is good news. Because it is retroactive to January 1, 2008, eligible companies can take advantage of a full year’s credit in a single quarter. However, if it’s not renewed again, you only have a year left to take advantage of the credit. Finally, note that you may also be eligible for an R&D tax credit offered by your state. Your accountant can provide you with more information.

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