Ah- Ah- Choo!!! All About Allergies

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The last couple of days have been beautiful outdoors- the flowers are blooming and the skies are blue!  But if you suffer from seasonal allergies it might not be as enjoyable for you. If you are an allergy sufferer, you are not alone. According to the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, more than half (54%) of the U. S. population suffers from allergies. These negative reactions occur as a result of coming in contact with normally harmless substances. Often, allergy symptoms go unrecognized and are mistaken for a cold or flu. The symptoms include: sneezing; red, itchy and watery eyes; dry throat; and stuffy nose. Some allergies change or disappear over time, while seasonal attacks will return at the same time each year for only a few weeks or months.

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Prevention and Treatment Options

To alleviate allergy symptoms, consider the following recommendations:

  • Stay indoors when the pollen count outside is high.
  • Keep your home clean and as dust-free as possible.
  • Consider purchasing a home air cleaner.
  • Place pillows, mattresses and duvets in allergen-proof encasements.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with double bags, allergen-trapping bags or a HEPA filter.
  • Avoid having pets or going near others’ pets if you have animal allergies.
  • In your home, choose hardwood floors instead of carpeting, which tends to lock in dust more easily.

Treatment for most allergies is available over-the-counter or by prescription. If your symptoms are more severe or chronic, allergy shots may be necessary. Contact your family physician to determine which mode of treatment is best suited for your symptoms.

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Sometimes allergies are mistaken for the common cold or flu. If your symptoms do not go away after a few days of over-the-counter treatment and rest, consult your doctor for potential allergy treatment options to alleviate your symptoms.

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News Brief- What You Need to Know About the Heartbleed Bug

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What You Need to Know About the Heartbleed Bug


Making waves in the Internet security community is the discovery of the Heartbleed bug, a serious vulnerability that allows hackers to steal personal information that is normally protected by OpenSSL encryption. OpenSSL provides security for Web applications, email, instant messaging and some virtual private networks. According to Internet security services provider Netcraft, about half a million trusted websites are vulnerable to the bug.

Heartbleed Basics

The bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of any applications or websites that use vulnerable versions of OpenSSL. Hackers can exploit the vulnerability to steal proprietary data, including:

  1. Encryption keys, which can be used to decrypt protected information
  2. User credentials (username and password, etc.)
  3. Personal information, such as financial details, private emails or anything else worth encrypting

Are You Affected?

Chances are this affects you and your business in one way or another. OpenSSL is the most popular cryptographic library in use on the Internet, so it is likely that you use several websites that may have this vulnerability. Unfortunately, websites using the most current versions of OpenSSL (versions 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f) are the ones most likely to be at risk. Earlier versions are not vulnerable.

 

How Can You Fix the Problem?

OpenSSL has issued a fix for the Heartbleed bug. System administrators, or others who handle the infrastructure and web server on which your site runs, should update OpenSSL to version 1.0.1g immediately. The update can be found at www.openssl.org. It is also a good practice to notify your customers that you have reacted quickly to fix the vulnerability.

What Should Employees, Friends and Family Do?

Do not advise non-technical employees, family and friends to stay off the Internet entirely. Changing every password they have may be pointless if the website in question is still vulnerable. Websites that are vulnerable will likely contact users letting them know exactly what to do, up to and including changing passwords.

Use this as an opportunity to share the importance of picking strong passwords and using two-factor authentication wherever possible. These methods won’t necessarily protect them from a Heartbleed vulnerability, but they increase the overall security of their information now and in the future.

Are you worried about data security?  Contact us today to see how we can help!

Why are so many people talking about distracted driving?

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Distracted driving is on everyone’s minds lately- not only is it distracted driving month but certain cities are enforcing or talking about ordinances that would make things like texting while driving illegal.  So what’s the big deal about distracted driving?

According to research done by the University of Utah, using a handheld or hands free mobile device slows a driver’s reactions as much as someone with a blood alcohol content of .08, the legal limit in all U.S. states. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,267 in 2010. An additional, 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 416,000 injured in 2010. Using mobile devices to call, text or email is a leading cause of distracted driving and one of the most preventable.

Text messaging is a useful way to communicate quickly, but safety should never be traded for convenience. Trying to write or read a text message while driving puts your full attention on your phone and not on the road, where it should be.

Distracted driving due to mobile devices isn’t just a problem with teenagers. Drivers of all ages are susceptible to being dangerously distracted. Just because a driver is more experienced does not mean that they can drive more safely while being texting, calling or otherwise being distracted by a mobile device.

Every day there are new incidences of serious injuries and fatalities due to a person texting while driving. Because of the increasing danger of distracted driving, many states now outlaw the use of cellular phones in any capacity while driving, and your state may be one of them. To avoid a ticket and a potentially dangerous accident, DO NOT USE YOUR CELL PHONE while driving. If you must absolutely make a phone call or text, pull off the road in a safe area and then do so.

Remember… we do more than just help you avoid claims and arrive at your destination safely. Contact us today to learn more about all of our insurance solutions for your auto, home and life!