Resolve to Get Healthy in 2014!

The start of 2014 is day after tomorrow!  With the start of a New Year, many people are making a New Year’s Resolution to lose those extra pounds and eat a balanced diet.  Here’s an interesting fact…if you burn at least 150 extra calories each day, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, anxiety and depression. That extra calorie burn really impacts your body and dramatically improves your health. Taking small steps can not only help you to stick to your resolution but make positive lifestyle changes that will keep your body healthy for years to come.

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Exercise Tips:

  • Beneficial exercise routines incorporate cardiovascular activities with strength training and stretching.
  • Engage in aerobic exercise such as running, biking, swimming or cross-country skiing for at least 20 minutes, three to five times per week. You should burn approximately 400 to 600 calories per hour.
  • Keep a pace that makes you breathe quickly while also still being able to talk comfortably. This pace mobilizes fat burning and helps you develop endurance.
  • Do at least two strength training exercises for each major muscle group two or three days per week either with free weights or using lifting equipment.
  • Stretch each major muscle group for 20 to 60 seconds before and after your workout. This will reduce muscle tightness, especially as you get older.
  • Increase the difficulty of your workouts gradually as your fitness level increases.

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Trim the Fat Out of Your Diet:

In addition to a regular exercise routine, a well-balanced, low-fat diet is also key in maintaining a healthy body.

  • Avoid high fat foods that contain large amounts of calories. Instead, opt for foods rich in protein, vitamins and nutrients. For instance, eat a piece of fruit, vegetables, whole wheat toast or low-fat yogurt for a snack instead of potato chips or cookies.
  • Monitor your caloric intake. Your ideal daily calorie needs will depend greatly on your age, body size, gender and activity level. Women ages 23 to 50 need an average of 2,000 calories per day while men in the same age group require about 2,700 calories per day.
  • Visit www.mypyramid.gov to learn more about healthy eating habits that will keep you trim and well.

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Healthy Hints

In addition to maintaining a trim waistline and keeping your body healthy, exercise can also improve your mood, your sleep and your sex life.

Exercise stimulates chemicals in the brain, which can make you feel happier and more at ease than before you started sweating. Plus, exercising regularly will help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep throughout the night.

 

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Responding to a Data Breach

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No company, big or small, is immune to a data breach. Many small employers falsely believe they can elude the attention of a hacker, yet studies have shown the opposite is true. According to Verizon Communication’s 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report, 72 percent of the 855 data breaches analyzed were at companies with 100 or fewer employees.

Data breach response policies are essential for organizations of any size.  A response policy should outline how your company will respond in the event of a data breach, and lay out an action plan that will be used to investigate potential breaches to mitigate damage should a breach occur.

Defining a Data Breach

A data breach is an incident where Personal Identifying Information (PII) is accessed and/or stolen by an unauthorized individual. Examples of PII include:

  • Social Security numbers
  • Credit card information (credit card numbers – whole or part; credit card expiration dates; cardholder names; cardholder addresses)
  • Tax identification information numbers (Social Security numbers; business identification numbers; employer identification numbers)
  •   Biometric records (fingerprints; DNA; or retinal patterns and other measurements of physical characteristics for use in verifying the identity of individuals)
  • Payroll information (paychecks; paystubs)
  • Medical information for any employee or customer (doctor names and claims; insurance claims; prescriptions; any related personal medical information)
  • Other personal information of a customer, employee or contractor (dates of birth; addresses; phone numbers; maiden names; names; customer numbers)

Data breaches can be costly. According to the Ponemon Institute’s Cost of a Data Breach Survey, the average per record cost of a data breach was $188 in 2012; the average organizational cost of a data breach was $5.4 million.

Internal Responsibilities upon Learning of a Breach

A breach or a suspected breach of PII must be immediately investigated. Since all PII is of a highly confidential nature, only personnel necessary for the data breach investigation should be informed of the breach. The following information must be reported to appropriate management personnel:

·   When (date and time) did the breach happen?

·   How did the breach happen?

·   What types of PII were possibly compromised? (Detailed as possible: name; name and social security; name, account and password; etc.)

·   How many customers may be affected?

Once basic information about the breach has been established, management should make a record of events and people involved, as well as any discoveries made over the course of the investigation to determine whether or not a breach has occurred.

Once a breach has been verified and contained, perform a risk assessment that rates the:

·   Sensitivity of the PII lost (customer contact information alone may present much less of a threat than financial information)

·   Amount of PII lost and number of individuals affected

·   Likelihood PII is usable or may cause harm

·   Likelihood the PII was intentionally targeted (increases chance for fraudulent use)

  • Strength and effectiveness of security technologies protecting PII (e.g. encrypted PII on a stolen laptop, which is technically stolen PII, will be much more difficult for a criminal to access.)
  • Ability of your company to mitigate the risk of harm

Government Regulation

There aren’t many federal regulations regarding cybersecurity, and the few that exist largely cover specific industries. The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley (GLB) Act and the 2002 Homeland Security Act, which includes the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) mandate that health care organizations, financial institutions and federal agencies, respectively, protect their computer systems and information. The language is generally vague,  so individual states have attempted to create more targeted laws regarding cybersecurity.

California led the way in 2003 by mandating that any company that suffers a data breach must notify its customers of the details of the breach. Today, 46 states and the District of Columbia have data breach notification laws in place. Only Alabama, Kentucky, New Mexico and South Dakota have yet to enact such a law.

While notification laws vary from state to state, all include four basic provisions:

  1. All notification laws put a number on how long companies have to notify customers of a data breach and by what medium the notice will be given (written, email, press release, etc.).
  2. Laws set forth a penalty system (that differs from state-to-state) for failure to notify customers in a timely manner.
  3. Depending on the specifics of the breach, customers can sue the company for its part in the data breach.
  4. All notification laws have exceptions in a range of situations.

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Your Notification Responsibilities

Responsibility to notify is based both on the number of individuals affected and the nature of the PII that was accessed. Any information found in the initial risk assessment should be turned over to the legal counsel of your company who will review the situation to determine if, and to what extent, notification is required.  Notification should occur in a manner that ensures the affected individuals will receive actual notice of the incident. Notification should be made in a timely manner, but make sure the facts of the breach are well established before proceeding.

In the case that notification must be made:

  • Only those that are legally required to be notified should be informed of the breach. Notifying a broad base when it is not required could cause raise unnecessary concern in those who have not been affected.
  • A physical copy should always be mailed to the affected parties no matter what other notification methods are used (e.g. phone or email).
  • A help line should be established as a resource for those who have additional questions about how the breach will affect them.

The notification letter should include:

  • A brief description of the incident, the nature of the breach and the approximate date it occurred.
  • A description of the type(s) of PII that were involved in the breach (the general types of PII, not an individual’s specific information).
  • Explanation of what your company is doing to investigate the breach, mitigate its negative effects and prevent future incidences.
  • Steps the individual can take to mitigate any potential side effects from the breach.
  • Contact information for a representative from your company who can answer additional questions.

We Can Help You Recover from a Data Breach

At AssureSouth, we understand the negative effects a data breach can have at your company. Contact us today so we can show you how to recover from a breach and get your company back on its feet.

Biggest Cyber Security Threats of 2013 and Forecasting 2014

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As 2013 winds down and 2014 begins, industry experts have offered their take on the biggest cyber-security threats of the past year and predicted the trends we are likely to see in the near future.

Russian computer security company Kaspersky Lab recently released its list of the top cyber threats of 2013, with cyber espionage at the top of the list. The Edward Snowden/NSA saga is well documented and has shed light on how the U.S. government uses mass surveillance on its citizens and other countries. That’s not the only major espionage event to occur in 2013—Kaspersky discovered a malicious program named “MiniDuke” that was used to spy on and attack government agencies in 23 countries, including Belgium, Portugal, Ukraine and Romania.

Hacktivists were also big threats to cyber security in 2013. The group Anonymous is perhaps the most famous hacktivism group, as they use cyber attacks as a form of political or social protest. The Syrian Electronic Army is also a major hacktivism group, and they used their skills to hack the Associated Press’ Twitter account to send out fake tweets about an explosion at the White House.

Ransomware is becoming more prevalent as a way for cyber criminals to make money. Ransomware is a malicious program that locks a user out of his or her computer and/or files, then demands a ransom to unlock the property. Many people end up paying the ransom, but there is no guarantee that the criminals will ever unlock the computer or files.

Finally, mobile malware is becoming a major problem for smartphone users. Android devices are the biggest targets, as they are widely used and easy to develop software for. SMS Trojans are gaining in popularity as a method for hackers to steal data from users. These Trojans are sent via text message, where they are then free to spread to other devices via Bluetooth and start harvesting the user’s personal data.

As we look ahead to 2014, New York-based risk mitigation firm Kroll has some insight into what to expect:

·         Companies that have lax cyber-security standards will be urged to comply with various National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) frameworks or face potential action by regulators and other legal repercussions.

·         Insider cyber attacks will become more prevalent. Kroll predicts that almost half of all data breaches will come from a company’s employees or people who work with the company.

·         Companies will become better and more efficient at responding to cyber-security events. While being 100 percent safe from an attack is impossible, companies can save a lot of money and headaches in the future by preparing for an attack and responding as soon as possible to limit the damage.

·         Finally, expect companies to more heavily scrutinize their cloud computing and Bring Your Own Device policies to minimize data risks and potential legal problems.

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Stick to Your Budget at Holiday Time

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According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the leading cause of stress during the holiday season derives from money problems. To combat stress, smart shoppers incorporate the gift-giving season into their budget each month and buy presents throughout the year. However, if you are like most consumers, you have not planned ahead and may find yourself struggling for cash come January. Don’t despair though – proper budgeting and smart shopping techniques will help you stay within budget while finding something special for everyone on your list.

holiday present

Holiday Budgeting Techniques

  • Check your shopping list and make sure that everyone you are buying for needs a gift. If you’re budget is tight, buy only for close family and friends
  • Write down a maximum dollar amount that you want to spend for your entire list and then track how much you are actually spending.
  • Buy items in bulk so you always have something little on hand for unexpected gifts. Consider a case of wine, candles or chocolates.
  • Be realistic about your purchases and ask yourself the following: Can I really afford this gift? Do I have the cash in my bank account to pay for it? When shopping, leave your credit cards at home. Then, if you do not have the cash to pay for it, you can’t buy the gift.
  • Consider staying home and shopping online. Not only do many retailers waive shipping fees during the holidays, you’ll save money on gas by not having to visit the mall, too.
  • Take advantage of post-holiday sales on gifts for next year.
  • Get a part-time job during the holidays, such as wrapping gifts at the local mall or being part of the Christmas display. This will increase your holiday budget and get you into the spirit.
  • Consider opening a holiday savings account. You can make arrangements for automatic payroll deductions throughout the year to be financially fit when the shopping season hits.

Plan Ahead

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Aside from money problems causing Americans stress during the holidays, the APA found that 61 percent of consumers cite lack of money, pressures of gift giving and credit card debt as major stressors. Instead of worrying about these money-related problems, get your finances in order and spend time worrying about what color to frost your holiday cookies instead!

Online Holiday Shopping- How to Avoid Scams, Viruses and Other Internet Threats

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For most people holiday shopping is now in full-swing.  More and more people are shopping online for gifts to avoid crowds and companies are offering many online-only discounts to entice customers.  However, many scammers also use this time to lure in victims with offers that sound too good to be true. From fraudulent auction sales to gift card, phishing, and social networking scams and more, cyber crime schemes are ever-evolving and, unfortunately, still successful.

Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

  • Purchase merchandise only from reputable sellers, and be suspicious of websites that do not provide contact information; also be wary if the seller only accepts wire transfers or cash.
  • Do not respond to or click on links contained within unsolicited (spam) email.Be cautious of emails claiming to contain pictures in attached files; the files may contain viruses.
  • Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.
  • Log on directly to the official website for the business identified in the email instead of linking to it from an unsolicited email. If the email appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify that the email is genuine.
  • If you are requested to act quickly or there is an emergency that requires your attention, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly.
  • Remember—if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.


Healthy Eating As You Celebrate

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As you give thanks, give holiday gifts and ring in the new year, all that celebrating seems to catch up with your waistline.
Typically, the average adult who is at a healthy weight gains one pound due to the holidays. This is not necessarily good news, though. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, most people do not lose that pound and continue to put on weight each holiday season, year after year. For those that are already overweight, their weight gain is normally at least five pounds around the holidays.

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Festive Food Smarts

In spite of the statistics, there are some healthy things you can do while celebrating to stay in control of your eating and drinking.

  • Do not leave the house on an empty stomach; you will overeat once you arrive at a party because you are starving. Instead, have a healthy snack before you leave the house, such as a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts or low-fat yogurt.
  • Avoid standing or socializing near the food table.
  • Fill your plate with healthy foods such as salad, fresh fruit and vegetables. Then, leave the remainder of your plate for small portions of less healthy foods that you really love.
  • Making mingling a top priority by keeping yourself occupied in conversation and away from food.
  • If you are in the mood for something sweet, eat a piece of fruit rather than a piece of cake.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. It increases hunger and also reduces your willpower to refrain from overeating. Also, some mixed drinks, such as eggnog, have as many calories as many desserts, so be wary before taking a sip.
  • Drink a glass of water or seltzer between alcoholic beverages and order mixed drinks with diet soda.
  • When you start to feel full, stop eating!
  • The battle of the bulge is not limited to holiday parties and celebrations. If you get food as a gift, take a small taste and then bring the rest to work for your coworkers to enjoy. Or, donate unopened foods to a local food bank.

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Healthy Hints

What are the best foods to eat at a holiday party?
Here’s the caloric content of some holiday favorites:

  • 1 shrimp and cocktail sauce = 8 to 10 calories
  • 1 carrot and dip = 10 calories
  • 1 (small) chocolate Santa = 25 calories
  • 1 stuffed mushroom = 40 calories
  • 1 mini quiche = 75 calories
  • 1 pig in a blanket = 90 calories
  • 1 peanut butter cup = 95 calories
  • 1 mini éclair = 100 calories
  • ½ cup of chocolate mousse = 290 calories
  • 1 slice of cheesecake = 400 calories

 

Using these tips can help you to stay healthy and still enjoy the holidays.  We hope you have a great weekend!

Decorate Safely During the Holidays

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As the holiday season gets into full swing, many families decorate to spread some cheer and make their homes more festive. While holiday decorations can be fun and beautiful, they can also present fire hazards. To keep your home and family safe this holiday season, consider the following decorating tips.

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Christmas Tree Tips

  • Cut a 2-inch diagonal piece off the bottom of the trunk of your tree. This will help the tree absorb water.
  • Place the tree in a sturdy stand at least 3 feet away from heat sources such as heating vents and fireplaces.
  • Make sure that your tree stand is able to hold water. Refill it every day.
  • Only keep a tree in your home for two weeks, because it will dry out quickly and can become highly flammable.

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Lighting and Decorating Suggestions

  • Only buy electrical decorations that have a UL rating on the label, which indicates that they have been tested for safe use.
  • Follow all installation and usage instructions for lighting decorations to ensure that you are not increasing your chance of starting a fire.
  • Inspect new and used lights before using them and discard any that have cracks, exposed wires or loose connections. Replace any bulbs that are missing.
  • Do not connect more than three sets of lights to an extension cord at one time.
  • Plug outside lighting only into a ground fault circuit interrupting (GFCI) outlet, as this will safeguard the outlet from any interaction with water.
  • Do not secure outside lights with staples or nails, and avoid placing indoor extension cords under carpeting, rugs and furniture.
  • Unplug lighting decorations before going to bed and leaving the house.

Safety First

If you blow a fuse while decorating, discard the faulty light string or decoration and replace the blown fuse. If the fuse blows again, contact an electrician to investigate the problem further. This might indicate a more serious wiring problem in your home.

 

Call AssureSouth today at 864-582-5481 to learn more about all of our claims reduction strategies and insurance solutions for your auto, home and life.

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