Hackers are expanding their sights beyond the large multinational companies to small business owners. A recent survey conducted by Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance found that 77 percent of small business owners in the U.S. believe that their company is safe from cyber criminals and 83 percent of them don’t have a cyber security plan.
However, the threat to small businesses is greater than ever. The Secret Service and Verizon Communications, Inc.’s forensic analysis unit, which investigates cyber attacks, cites that a majority of their responses to data breaches over the last couple of years have been at companies with 100 or fewer employees. Visa, Inc. estimates that approximately 95 percent of the credit card data breaches it discovers each year are on small businesses.
Hacking small businesses is big business and unfortunately, it is going to get worse before it gets better.
The reason for this is three-fold. The first reason is that a majority of small companies have now gone to computerized systems, digital record keeping and conduct most their financial transactions online. The second factor is that most small companies don’t have the resources (financial, tools and manpower) or the time to fully secure their businesses from today’s ever-changing and increasingly sophisticated threats. The last and most significant factor is complacency. Most small business owners have the unrealistic mindset that this isn’t going to happen to them. After all, what could a hacker possibly want with a small company anyway? These high-tech criminals want their bank account information, employee lists, including social security numbers, and their customers’ credit and debit account information.
Typically, cyber threats on small businesses come from several sources, the most popular being outside the organization and from within the organization when an employee or an ex-employee steals data. Most financially motivated attacks rely on computer code that the hackers plant on victims’ computers, often as attachments or links in emails sent to employees. While these malicious programs are well known to security experts, the hackers tweak them frequently to render them undetectable to antivirus software.
The bottom line is, the costs of a breach can put a small business out of business. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. However, the following is a list of best practices for small business:
-Use secure web browsers.
-Maintain up-to-date firewall and antivirus protection as well as an intrusion detection system.
-Establish policies that stipulate how and when employees can access the Internet, especially when accessing the computer system from home or a mobile device.
-Run automatic computer updates.
-Never open emails, attachments or links from unknown sources.
-Never have sites remember passwords or financial information.
-Shut down computers when not in use.
-Businesses that use online banking for wire transfers and ACH origination should have a dedicated computer for those functions.
We’ve turned back our clocks, started buttoning up our houses in preparation of our winter, begun pondering the impending holidays and have given brief reflection to the end of yet another year. As we rapidly move through the third quarter of 2012, most of us are subtly reminded of what’s looming on the horizon….the dreaded tax season!
If you are like most people, you hate thinking about preparing for tax season. Many people procrastinate because they think they have plenty of time before that April deadline. Unfortunately, this rarely is the case and we end up scrambling, oftentimes missing eligible credits and deductions and overpaying Uncle Sam.
However, with some planning and preparation, filing your taxes doesn’t have to be the nerve-racking, hair-pulling hassle it typically has been. Here are a few tips to help you get ready and make this year’s tax season less stressful.
- Get your paperwork together. When preparing for tax season, go through your past returns. This will help spot items you may have forgotten or remind you of questions you may want to ask you tax preparer. Prepare a folder labeled “2012 Taxes and begin filing important tax documents, statements and receipts and as you get additional end of the year items (e.g. 1099s, W-2s, etc.) add these to your file. It’s a good idea to retain this folder with a copy of your tax return every year. It will be a lifesaver if you’re ever audited. Note: If your name has changed in the last year and you haven’t applied for a new social security card, do so now, so that it reflects your new name by tax time.
- Decide what’s the best way to do your taxes – filing yourself or hiring a CPA. Today, programs like Turbo Tax can save you money. But depending on how complicated your return is, and how much your time is worth, a CPA may be worth hiring.
- Have a chat with your working teen. If your teenager works and will be filing a return make sure you find out whether he or she is claiming himself or herself.. Typically he or she shouldn’t. Most teenagers don’t make enough money to claim themselves.
- Be Patient. Although it feels great to have your taxes done early, don’t be too overly zealous. Make sure to wait until every form you need has arrived. It will cost you more if have to file an amended return.
Remember, taxes are a necessary evil. They are bound to cause some anxiety. But if you leave yourself enough time and start preparing early by following the steps above, tax season will be a breeze…or at the very least, a great deal less stressful!
Corporate Volunteerism: A Win Win Win
Today, the true measure of a corporation’s success is more than the bottom line and the value of the company to its stockholders. Corporate citizenship is an integral part of a company’s success. Some essential business practices of corporate citizenship include treating employees well, practicing good ethics, being transparent and accountable, building trust and relationships, and contributing to a sustainable environment (Hitachi Foundation & Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, 2003). However, one of the most critical components of corporate citizenship today is volunteerism; the involvement and positive social impact that the corporation and their employees have on the community where they work. More and more, today’s successful businesses realize that their profitability, reputation and retention of quality employees have a strong correlation to their commitment to employee volunteer programs.
At Intracoastal Bank, we understand and stress the importance of giving back to our community. By providing our employees with an opportunity to do good deeds that they don’t have time for outside of work, we increase company loyalty and develop strong and lasting ties to our community. At the end of the day, our company, our employees and our community reap the benefits of our continued dedication to volunteerism.
Intracoastal Bank’s support of employee volunteerism has several benefits to us as a company. It has grown our relationship with the community who has helped make us successful. A by-product of this valued relationship is the enhancement of our corporate image and reputation. Additionally, our support and direct involvement in various not for profit projects over the past several years; the United Way of Volusia/Flagler Counties, Habitat for Humanity, Mobile Benefits, Feed Flagler, Flagler County Education Foundation, etc., has built an extremely cohesive and motivated workforce. We’ve become a unified team!
For our employees, the involvement in community volunteer programs has many perks. Volunteerism offers our employees the opportunity to improve the community where they work and live. Also, the ability to participate in the bank’s supported programs adds variety and fulfillment to their work day. In addition and quite possibly most importantly, the active engagement of our employees in these volunteer programs has improved their leadership and interpersonal skills and increased their sense of self worth. We truly have more effective and better-rounded employees because of it!
Intracoastal Bank’s unwavering support and involvement in community-based volunteer efforts positively impacts our hometown as well. Our efforts have increased the understanding of the necessity of a strong and enduring relationship between businesses and the not for profit sector in the vitality of our community. Our employees also are providing their skills and talents to needed community services that might not otherwise be possible. Lastly, our bank’s efforts assist in enhancing the quality of life in our community.