Cyber Liability: Are You Covered

With all the data breaches in the news, do you ever wonder if your information will be next? Many of the world’s largest companies have had hackers breach their defenses. If it can happen to them, then how can small business keep their information safe? The answer may be in the form of cyber liability insurance. This relatively new product goes by different aliases and offer a varying amount of coverage, but a few basics are worth thinking about.

For larger firms, an internal technical department can insure that themselves, constantly working against cyberattack. For smaller business, purchasing a stand-alone policy or other cyber insurance policy. Like all insurance policies, the coverage and pricing vary depending on what the company’s needs.

There are two different types of coverage, first-party insurance, and third-party insurance. Frist-party insurance covers the company for loss of its own data or income due to a data breach or cyberattack. This coverage usually includes the legal and technical investigations and any cost to remedy the damage, such as a breach or attack, business interruptions, payments to extortionists, or loss of data in the cyberattack or breach.

Third-party insurance cover your clients. The policies can cover responses to civil lawsuits and government inquiries; payment of government fines and penalties; notification of clients and victims; public relations and credit monitoring of clients. Companies looking to purchase a policy need to consider what the consequences will be if a breach would happen. There could be loss of client that are exposed and the reputation of the company is on the line. Some insurance policies may have minimal coverage, but there are holes that will need to be filled.

Make sure that your company has the coverage it needs to protect not only itself, but clients as well.

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Upgrading to Windows 10

Some big changes have happened to Windows. Many of you have probably seen something pop up on your computer telling you that you are eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10. This is huge. Most upgrades we have had to pay for in the past, but Windows is trying something new. I have personally upgraded one of my computers to Windows 10, and so far, I like it, but it was a big change to get used to. For those of you who have not upgraded yet, here are some things to think about when you do finally make that transition.

Give Yourself Time

Installing a new version of Windows can take some time. I think it only took me about thirty minutes, but that was with high-speed internet and no one else using any other device at the time. The software is close to 3GB and if your connection is so-so then you will want to make sure you turn off the computers automatic sleep mode so the computer does not shut down in the middle of the download. You can do this by going to the control panel and choosing power options. This sound like a no brainer, but make sure the computer, laptop, notebook, or tablet is plugged in.

Back it Up

When you are changing anything on your computer, things can go wrong. It is good to know that if something goes wrong you can put it back to where it was. With Windows 10, there is no recovery disk. There is not a way to put it back if something goes wrong. The best way to make sure everything can be restored is to create your own recovery drive. Purchase a thumb drive that is at least 16 GB. In the search box, type in “recovery drive” without the quote marks, and it should bring up the Recovery Drive tool found in the control panel. This process will remove anything else stored on that thumb drive, so it is important to have on dedicated to just the recovery drive.

Does anything Need Upgraded

Check your software and hardware that you use with your computer and make sure it is compatible with Window 10. Once you update you may not be able to use that tool if it is not compatible.

Get Use to it

This is new and some things you will have to get used to. Windows 8 and 8.1 changed the user interface. This confused people and many people had a hard time with the upgrade because the stat button was gone. Windows 10 brings it back, but it does not work the same as Windows 7, XP, or Vista. Many of the changes are good, and with time, I think you will like them. They do require a getting to know you period.

Enjoy the New Upgrade

When you click on the new start button, a whole wealth of information is at your fingertips and only one click away instead of several. If you need to find something try searching for it with the search option. The notifications icon on the right hand side of the system tray not only give you messages from your system, but also allows access to the Action Center. I would recommend clicking the Start Button and clicking on the Get Stan the Get Stan the Get Started icon. It will give you a video that will give you a video that introduces several of the new features.

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Technology Takes a Stand

With the increase in technology, I like to take the opportunity to highlight some apps that improve how to conduct business. The following apps can improve how you see your business.

ScanBizCards

Like many people in business, I have a tendency to collect business cards. The question is what happens to them. Most of the time they end up in a desk drawer or worse lost. This app is a way to collect business cards and always have them at your fingertips. The perfect thing about this app is it take the data off the card and puts into a digital format that I can actually use, an actual contact in my email system.

You simply open the app, and take a picture of the business card. ScanBizCards then works its magic and recognizes the text on the cars. It populates the title, company name, email address, phone number, and other information. It is very accurate, but it does allow for adjustments and the ability to reassign, edit, or delete various fields. After adding the new contact, it will then send an email to them. They will then have your information and not just another business card to add to their pile. This app is quick, easy, and cheap. They have a free version if you just want to try it, and the full version is $1.99. It also is available in both the iOS and Android formats.

Linkedin Connected

Recently Linkedin launched a new app that replaces the old Linkedin Contacts app. It is a new way to look at how you keep in contact with professional in your network. This app has a nice deign that is card-based. Each card has the picture of your contact, and details of upcoming events such as meetings, birthdays, work anniversaries, etc. It also has a button for an action such as to congratulate or connect to the contact. You can sort through the day’s events by swiping sideways or tapping on any card.

Linkedin Connected might appeal to you if you do all your networking on Linkedin. The only problem is if your contacts don’t update their Linkedin profile often, this feature might not be useful. There are some kinks to work out, but it is off to a great start. It links to the Linkedin website. The cost is free, so that is always a bonus, and it is available on both the iOS and Android systems.

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Protect Yourself from Fraud

With the increase in identity theft and fraudulent activity in the last year, it is safe to say that this, unfortunately, will become an increasing trend with companies. Cyber attacks are becoming more and more advanced, although simple methods are still used to steal information for fraud and financial crimes. So how can companies help prevent identity theft, and protect their costumers? [Read more…]

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Tips for Cybersecurity

It seems like everywhere we turn there is a story about cybersecurity. Hackers are trying to undermine the security setup to protect companies from attacks. We know that hackers are more sophisticated and are changing their techniques to stay ahead of the technology developed to keep them out. It is a vicious circle because technology is working to thwart the threat of attack. In this day and age of computers and technology how can companies, large and small, keep ahead of the ever present threat of cyberattacks.

Many times the threats vary in how they come. Some can be highly sophisticated and others are surprisingly simple, but all cyberattacks are targeted to do one thing, gain information and data to use later. There are many tactics that are used in cyberattacks including phishing scams, large data breaches, and viruses. Educating both employees and consumers is one way to help prevent some of the attacks. Everyone needs to be in charge of cybersecurity practices to help prevent future problems.

The following are ways other industries and smaller companies can improve their  cybersecurity:

  • Involve Everyone: This issue is not just and IT issue. Everyone is responsible for maintaining the companies security.
  • Be Constantly Alert: If you do not think it will happen to you, it probably will. You have to believe that you will be attacked and be prepared for what comes.
  • Have a Plan: There needs to be a written plan so if the company is attacked then there are steps and procedures in place to help fix everything. Also, practice to make sure everything work the way you want it to work.
  • Update Regularly: Make sure the products or companies used to protect you company is up-to-date and your defenses are up.
  • Extra Security for Sensitive Information: Build extra security around sensitive data, including personal information, to prevent problems. Help employees to prevent accidental exposure of data.
  • Integrate Information Security with Risk Management: This allows more people to be watching for problems and it can help keep control on problems that arise.
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How to Reduce Internal Fraud

In all businesses, having effective internal controls is very valuable. How do you know that your practices are effective? What can you as a business owner do to deter fraud in your business? Having effective internal controls will help your business keep up with the fast pace of the changing business practices. The following questions can help companies examine their internal controls to help prevent fraud.

Which businesses need to protect themselves against fraud?

No company, big or small, is immune to fraud. All the companies that have experienced fraud have one thing in common: they did not think that they were susceptible to fraud.

Businesses, especially smaller businesses, require employees to perform multiple tasks are at a greater risk of internal fraud. Businesses that cannot separate “conflicting tasks” increase the chance of fraud. When these tasks are separated, perpetrators are required to work together to steal from the company, which is harder to do then a single person doing all the tasks.

In larger business with more staff, tasks are separate, but perpetrators will still look for loopholes in the system. When owners are lax with monitoring, and given the opportunity weaknesses are exploited.

What Condition Motivates Internal Fraud?

When a perpetrator meets poorly designed and monitored internal controls, fraud happens. Companies should work to design proper controls, and be attentive in monitoring their effectiveness. The controls should be adapted to changing practices in the business, and not be ignored when the business becomes too busy to implement them. Owners need to be aware of internal controls and make them propriety to deter employees who might commit fraud.

How Can Companies Prevent Internal Fraud?

To help reduce the chances for fraud, companies must take a “top down” approach. Modeling and exhibiting the greatest degree of integrity set the tone for the company. Owners that do not uphold any level of integrity with aspects of the company cannot expect their employees to do so either.

When assessing controls, companies should identify areas with the biggest risk. Implement controls to shore up vulnerabilities uncovered in the assessment. Have a certified CPA audit financial records and procedures to determine where weaknesses are in the company. If the CPA specializes in fraud, this is especially helpful in determining what controls should be implemented to prevent fraud. Controls should be monitored and review regularly to truly reduce the likelihood of fraud.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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Global Opportunities: Small Businesses Make the Leap

Crowley Halloran Conference RoomIn today’s business environment, the more ways a company can share their product, the better for the company. Markets all over the world hold potential for small business, but what does it take to get into the foreign markets? Can small business take advantage of the global opportunities? The answer is yes. The global economy has never had more opportunities for small business, and with a strong global financial strategy, small businesses are competing in foreign markets.

To succeed globally, small businesses need to create a global financial strategy. Small businesses will face common issues and a few roadblocks in the global market, but having a well-defined plan can make the difference between being successful and failing in the new market

Some questions to consider when creating your plan are:

  • What performance indicators need measured for both financial and operation purposes?
  • How will accounts receivable and payable be set up and managed?
  • Is there enough support for multiple locations and countries?
  • How will the company keep control over the global financial process?
  • How are local tax regulations and requirements managed for each foreign location?
  • How are different currencies handled in foreign locations?

Being able to answer these questions and any other unique question regarding your company is the best way to start.

Some strategies that help in making a successful transition are setting up multi-entity accounting, understanding foreign tax laws and codes, managing multiple foreign currencies, and having local human resources. Businesses with multi-entity accounting have consolidated their business processes. By consolidating business processes, the company will eliminate duplicate work, create a standard workflow, and be able to support the demands of a more complex business model. Hiring a local accounting firm to help with all the local tax codes and regulations would be extremely useful when breaking into the global market. They will be able to navigate your business through the different regulations, and be able to keep up with the different currency fluctuations. They can also be part of your management team that will take care of the day-to-day running of the business.

Ventures into a new market are exciting new opportunities for small businesses. With a proper plan and a good management team, anyone, even a small business, can take advantage of the global business opportunities.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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Management Information System Consulting

Today most companies have sophisticated data collection methods that store important data. However, small and medium-sized companies usually buy “off the shelf” software for their management information systems since having a system custom designed is cost-prohibitive.

Often companies find it difficult to extract data from their management information system in a way that is meaningful to them. These ready-made systems have standard reports that are suitable for most users, but also have  “optional custom reports”. [Read more…]

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