Anatomy of a Hack

Originally posted by Zurich American Insurance Company.

Once hackers set their sights on a target with access to sensitive company information, attacks may ensue from multiple directions – in the office, at home or on the move. Anatomy of a Hack describes what you and your company can do to help limit exposures.

The risk of having sensitive company data lost and stolen has grown exponentially over the last few years, largely due to the increased use of the Internet and the interconnectedness of everything we do. As the likelihood of a data breach continually escalates, so does the cost.

Read more here.

Check out the “Anatomy of a Hack” infographic here.

 Copyright © 2015 Zurich American Insurance Company

Technology plays growing role in benefits

Originally posted January 27, 2015 by Mike Nesper on

Employers of all sizes are increasingly shifting toward using technology for enrolling in and managing their employee benefits. The market for technology-based platforms has been “growing leaps and bounds over past the five-plus years,” says Mark Rieder, an Austin-based senior vice president at NFP.

Ten to 15 years ago, he says, only large groups were focused on technology. Today, “they’re all very much interested in becoming more efficient,” Rieder says. “Technology has become affordable enough to [deploy] regardless of size.”

Offering a variety of support tools is important to help employees make the best selections, Rieder says. Employees want to be able to compare the cost of a procedure at various providers, he says. “Transparency tools are becoming more and more of a hot topic,” Rieder says. “Folks want to know what they’re buying.”

Employees also want to manage all of their needs — payroll, HR, benefits — in one location, Rieder says. The goal is to have a useful platform when it’s needed but not be in the employee’s face when they don’t, says Michael Askin, senior consultant with Mind Over Machines, a Maryland-based software development technology company.

The fact that many employers are still using paper isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Askin says. “There are lessons to be learned from other industries,” he says. Perhaps more importantly, paper protects employee information from hackers, Askin says. Ultimately, the goal of a technology-based platform is to increase employee engagement without increasing security exposure, he says.

A common misconception about security breaches is where the vulnerability lies, Askin says. “Most security issues are actually internal,” he says. For consumers, Askin recommends having a credit card for Internet-only purchases.

The "No Phones" No-No

Source: United Benefit Advisors, LLC

Saying that most people are addicted to their smartphones is nothing new, and most of us would deny that we have that addiction. Yet, according to an article in Workforce titled Keep Your (Mobile) Enemies Close, mobile analytics firm Flurry reported in April that the number of mobile addicts -- people who check their phones more than 60 times a day -- had increased 123% to 179 million.

That's why saying "no phones" during a meeting, presentation, or other group activity is not going to make someone, no matter what their age, turn off their phone. Some people divert their attention in order to play the latest game or check the most recent stock price. Others just have to text their romantic interest at least 10 times an hour lest they think the other person won't love them. And then there are just some people who refuse to let a call go to voice mail, regardless of its importance. We can argue that this is disrespectful, but in reality we've all done it at some point and meant no disrespect even though it caused us to stop paying attention.

The worst part about these distractions is that it also distracts the person next to you. Can anyone honestly say that if they see someone texting or playing a game that they are able to ignore it? In that same article, Ken Graetz, director of teaching, learning, and tech services at Winona State University in Minnesota, said, "Attention is very much like a flashlight -- you focus it on certain things." Very few of us can truly multitask, and when we focus our attention on one thing, we're taking it away from another.

So what's a person to do? If you're hosting a meeting, or are presenting during a conference, how can you get people to give you their full, undivided attention?  Conversely, if you're attending a meeting or presentation, how can the speaker engage you enough so that you ignore your smartphone or tablet? The answer is not to ban these devices, but to incorporate them.

Why do this? In Psychology Today, articles as far back as July 2013 and as recent as September 2014 talk about "nomophobia" -- the fear of being without, or beyond reach of a mobile device. A full 66% of all adults suffer from this and it's worse for high school and college students. That's why incorporating mobile devices in order to increase attendee engagement is so crucial.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to use an app (mobile application) that allows attendees to download and view their own copy of the presenter's slides or meeting organizer's agenda. You can also send out polling questions if you really want to up your game. You can set up an online forum and tell people to add their thoughts or comments during the presentation so that the entire group can benefit. A great example of this is what the AMC network has done with its hit TV show, The Walking Dead. Their "Story Sync" online feature (also an app) provides viewers with trivia, polls, exclusive pictures and video.

While you may think this would keep people from paying attention to what's going on, it actually increases their attention as well as retention of what was being presented.  Furthermore, it still allows people to get their mobile "fix" without any feelings of guilt.


Holiday Sales Go Up: So Does the Risk of a Cyber Attack

Originally posted by Susan Solovic.
As if small business owners needed anything else to worry about this holiday season, Experian ® Data Breach Resolution (a partner company of Experian® and a leader in the data breach resolution industry) has a warning: As holiday shopping creates a surge in transactions, small businesses need to be diligent about preparing for a cyber-attack. With more and more large corporations putting a bigger chunk of their resources into cyber-security, those nasty folks looking to skim accounts will need a new victim. And it could very possibly be your small business.
The holiday shopping season not only brings a boost in sales but also an increase in cyber theft. Thieves prefer to target small- to medium-sized businesses because so many lack the resources or expertise to manage cyber-security effectively. Retailers are especially vulnerable to cyber-criminals who want to hijack credit card data. Unfortunately, customers aren't the only victims. Among small businesses that suffer a breach, a staggering 60 percent go out of business after six months. For that reason alone, small businesses need to pay extra attention to data security during the holidays.
Even though the business might be small, the amount of data you have stored is not. Everything from customer and employee records to vendor account information could be at risk.
Michael Bruemmer, vice president at Experian Data Breach Resolution, says it's important to not only try to prevent a breach, but also prepare for a breach, just in case. Bruemmer also says small businesses are increasingly targeted, further raising their need to focus on data security. Here are some of his low-cost suggestions for preventing and managing a data breach:
1. Conduct a risk assessment. Identify the most sensitive information that could be at risk. Victims whose payment cards and Social Security numbers were compromised suffered the highest rates of related fraud. Small businesses should understand the data most likely to be targeted and prioritize what is needed to protect that data.
2. Put plans in place. Investing time in developing a security and incident response plan can save on hard costs later. There are many resources available to help small businesses get started, including Experian's free Data Breach Response Guide.
3. Understand the problem (and make sure your employees understand it, too). The National Small Business Association's 2013 Small Business Technology Survey states that nearly a quarter of small businesses acknowledged "little to no understanding of cyber-security." Anyone's actions could create vulnerabilities. Train employees on security precautions, including bring-your-own device (BYOD) policies.
4. Consider cyber insurance. Small businesses generally don't have a risk manager or IT department dedicated to data security. A good cyber insurance policy can help mitigate cyber-security risks.
5. Listen to the experts. Make a list of outside partners that can be contacted when a data breach occurs. Engaging experts in legal counsel and resolution consulting can help businesses prepare to respond quickly and effectively after a breach, which may mitigate regulatory fines, lawsuits and reputational damage. These consequences could result in potentially significant financial losses.

U-M connected and automated vehicle initiative announces founding corporate partners

Source: University of Michigan, September 5, 2014

ANN ARBOR—A diverse group of companies will be the founding partners in the University of Michigan's Mobility Transformation Center, a major public-private initiative that aims to revolutionize the movement of people and goods in society.

Spanning such sectors as auto manufacturing, suppliers, intelligent transport systems, insurance, telecommunications, data management and mobility services, the MTC's Leadership Circle will join with government and academic partners to lay the foundations for a commercially viable system of connected and automated vehicles.

Plans call for implementing a working system in Ann Arbor by 2021.

"We are on the threshold of a transformation in mobility that the world hasn't seen since the introduction of the automobile a century ago," said MTC Director Peter Sweatman. "Only by bringing together partners from these sectors, as well as from government, will we be able to address the full complexity of the challenges ahead as we all work to realize the opportunities presented by this emerging technology.

"I am thrilled with the diversity and global reach of the new ecosystem of companies and agencies we have created. Our Founding Leadership Circle provides a unique nucleus for collaboration, deployment and rapid learning in connected and automated mobility."

Connected vehicles, commonly known as V2V, have been tested extensively by the U-M Transportation Research Institute in the U.S. Department of Transportation's Safety Pilot Model Deployment in Ann Arbor. The results have been used to support the recent Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking announcement by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Connected vehicle technology, including vehicles that can communicate with one another and with the surrounding infrastructure (V2I), has the potential to avoid the majority of serious crashes when extensively deployed.

With the help of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, MTC is building on this two-year deployment of approximately 3,000 vehicles to create the world's largest V2V deployment of 9,000 vehicles in Ann Arbor.

The center is also working with the Michigan Department of Transportation and industrial partners to provide sufficient V2I infrastructure in Southeast Michigan to support an unprecedented deployment of 20,000 connected vehicles. The vehicles will be supported by a connected road network and developmental set of highway corridors.

In addition to their definitive role for safety, connected vehicles will accelerate the deployment of one of the most exciting concepts in transportation today: vehicle automation. To make the most of this convergence, MTC is developing an off-roadway facility for testing connected and automated vehicles.

"This is the next big thing for the state that put the world on wheels," said MDOT Director Kirk Steudle. "We are thrilled to join our partners in private industry and the University of Michigan in supporting groundbreaking research to keep our state in the lead in building the safest and most efficient vehicles in the world."

Spanning 32 acres on U-M's North Campus Research Complex, the Mobility Transformation Facility is a unique off-roadway cityscape with the broad range of complexities that vehicles encounter in urban and suburban environments. Scheduled to be completed this fall, it includes four-lane roads with intersections, roadway markings, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, benches, simulated buildings, streetlights, parked cars, pedestrians and obstacles such as construction barriers.

The facility was designed and constructed in partnership with MDOT and is available to Leadership Circle members to work collectively on big-system issues as well as on specific technological developments.

With the goal of accelerating progress in the development and implementation of connected and automated technology, Leadership Circle members will work together to identify emerging opportunities as well as the barriers to realizing them, anticipate and help shape key standards and regulations, and help guide the direction of the research.

"The collective potential of our founding Leadership Circle for innovation and constructive public-private engagement is immense," Sweatman said. "Working together, this new group of partners will provide a voice of reason in this exciting technological landscape, while moving forward with a sense of urgency for accelerated deployment."

MTC's research program will draw on a wide range of expertise from U-M's schools and colleges.

"We have key strengths in engineering and science, but the challenges ahead are not just technical," Sweatman said. "We will engage faculty from across campus to address interrelated legal, political, regulatory, social, economic and urban planning issues."

Founding members of the Leadership Circle are each committing $1 million over three years to create a vibrant R&D ecosystem, and to support the MTC and its programs. A broader range of companies will engage in the work of the Center as Affiliates.

"With more than 375 public and private automotive R&D centers representing organizations from around the world, extensive manufacturing facilities and an exceptional pool of talent, Michigan is uniquely positioned to spark the transformation of mobility worldwide," said Nigel Francis, senior vice president at the MEDC's Automotive Office. "The MTC is playing a critical role in catalyzing the diverse technologies, talent and resources from this region and beyond needed to accelerate progress and usher in a new era of mobility."

Sign Here ... and Here ... and Here ...

If anyone has ever had to sign a contract of any kind, then they know how often it requires a signature - often on multiple pages. In the hiring and onboarding process, this means that valuable time and money are wasted waiting on those signed documents. Enter the electronic signature.

Obviously, technology companies are leading the way in using electronic signatures to increase hiring efficiency. However, other industries are starting to realize the time and money they could save when recruiting talent.

In an article titled, Electronic Signatures Gaining Ground In Hiring, Onboarding Process, in Employee Benefit News, it referenced that a wide range of companies are using electronic signatures, including those in higher education, financial services, and health care.

There are many reasons why companies are embracing this emerging technology.  For one, top talent doesn't stay in the job market for long. If a company is still using a fax, or worse, an overnight envelope to shuttle hiring documents from the candidate to the company, then a faster competitor could move in during the hiring process and lure this potential employee away with a more lucrative offer.  Another reason is that in addition to the extra time the old methods take, they also cost companies money in terms of personnel needed to process the back and forth of these documents. While hiring may not be the primary goal for the need to be more efficient, any task that requires a signed document can probably be done faster and cheaper with an electronic signature.

As companies are looking to become more operationally efficient, electronic signatures are a great way to ease the burden of needless paperwork.

NHTSA Promotes Two Connected-Car Technologies to Prevent Crashes

Originally posted on August 18, 2014 on Automotive Fleet.

As part of its quest to mandate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications capability in light-duty vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released a research report analyzing the technology's feasibility, safety benefits, potential costs and legal issues.

The report projects that just two of many possible V2V communications applications — left turn assist and intersection movement assist — could save as many as 1,083 lives and prevent up to 592,000 crashes annually. Left turn assist warns drivers not to turn left in front of another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction, and intersection movement assist warns them if it's not safe to enter an intersection because of the likelihood of a collision.

Additional applications could also help drivers avoid imminent danger through forward collision, blind spot, "do not pass," and stop light/stop sign warnings. V2V systems transmit basic safety information between vehicles via short-range radio communication devices. NHTSA estimates that the V2V equipment and supporting functions would cost about $341 to $350 per vehicle in 2020. That cost might dip to approximately $209 to $227 by 2058, after manufacturers gain experience producing the equipment, according to the report.

To see the full article, go to:

GM Plans to Launch Hands-Free Driving by 2016

Originally posted by  CNET on September 7, 2014.
General Motors has announced it plans to introduce Cadillac models in two years that incorporate hands-free driving and Wi-Fi-enabled vehicle-to-vehicle communications to exchange traffic information with similarly equipped vehicles. GM's "Super Cruise" semi-automated technology will automatically keep a vehicle in a specific, properly equipped freeway lane, making necessary steering and speed adjustments in bumper-to-bumper traffic or long highway trips.

"With Super Cruise, when there's a congestion alert on roads like California's Santa Monica Freeway, you can let the car take over and drive hands-free and feet-free through the worst stop and go traffic around," said Mary Barra, GM CEO. "And if the mood strikes you on the high-speed road from Barstow, California to Las Vegas, you can take a break from the wheel and pedals and let the car do the work."

However, unlike the driverless vehicle being tested by Google, GM's system will require drivers to remain attentive and ready to resume control of the vehicle.

To see the full article, go to:

Bluetooth Sensors Constantly Check Car Tire Pressure, Send Alerts

Originally posted by CNET, on September 11, 2014.
"Always check your tire pressure." It's something parents teach kids during early driving lessons, and it's something most kids quickly forget. Now, a new invention making a run on Indiegogo could play the role of a nervous parent for thousands of drivers out there by continuously monitoring tire pressure and relaying that information via Bluetooth to a smartphone or in-car receiver.

To use the system, drivers would unscrew the little black caps on their tires' fill valves and replace them with round Fobo ("For Our Better wOrld") tire sensors. Each sensor continuously monitors the pressure in its assigned tire, then uses Bluetooth to relay that information via smartphone app or to an in-car receiver. Because Bluetooth is a low-energy technology, the creators say the sensors will last about two years before the batteries need to be changed. Cost for the sensors will be around $90.

The creators are working on a lock nut that can only be removed with a special wrench that will help make the sensors as theft-proof as possible.

To see the full article, go to:

U.S. Dept. of Transportation Unveils New, Free, Online Search Tool for Recalls

U.S. Department of Transportation unveils new, free, online search tool for recalls using vehicle identification number.

Originally posted August 10, 2014 by U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Every year, millions of vehicles are recalled in the United States due to safety defects or noncompliance with federal safety standards. To help car buyers, owners and renters know that their vehicles are safe and their safety defects have been addressed, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has unveiled a new, free, online search tool consumers can use to find out if a vehicle is directly impacted by a recall.

The new tool is available on and provides consumers with a quick and easy way to identify uncompleted recalls by entering their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). All major light vehicle and motorcycle brands can be searched.

To see the full press release, go