Red Flags Rules Apply to You—Yes, You

While many companies think the federal Red Flag Rule applies only financial institutions, if you invoice customers for your goods or services, it applies to you, too. Regulations designed to minimize identity theft went into effect in June of 2010. Are you complying with them? The federal government’s so-called “Red Flag Rule” requires all businesses that are potential identity-theft targets develop plans to spot red flags and prevent theft. Red flags include suspicious photo IDs, unverifiable addresses and Social Security numbers, and questionable account activity, to name just a few. While many companies think the Red Flag Rule only applies to financial institutions, it actually applies to all creditors — with creditors being defined as “businesses or organizations that regularly provide goods and services first and allow customers to pay later,” according to a Frequently Asked Questions guide prepared by the Federal Trade Commission, which will enforce the Red Flag Rule. In other words, if you invoice customers for your goods or services, you’re a creditor — and the Red Flag Rule applies to you. How can you comply?  You’ll need to have a written policy that specifically addresses how you will prevent and handle identity theft. Other recommendations include data encryption, annual updates of your written policy, and staff training. While this may seem onerous, you don’t want to ignore the legislation. Fines are $3,500 per violation — and the threat of a lawsuit from customers whose identity has been stolen. Related articles Do You Comply with the FTC’s Red Flag Fule? Read more »

Don’t Forget To Secure Data When Employees Depart

It’s a fact: Most departing employees take confidential business information with them — and today, most of the information is electronic. Because electronic information can be easily transferred and saved in multiple locations without your control, it’s important to protect your data when an employee leaves. Remember the days when employees kept important information in paper files? They are long gone. According to a study conducted by the University of California at Berkeley, almost all of today’s new information is stored electronically. And that could mean trouble for your company when an employee resigns — because electronic documents are both easy to copy, and portable. That makes them more prone to theft than paper documents. Case in point: In August 2009, DuPont filed a lawsuit against a research scientist who allegedly stole more than 600 files by copying them to a portable hard drive. And that wasn’t an isolated incident; another DuPont research scientist was sentenced to an 18 month prison term for stealing proprietary information worth $400 million. Think employee data theft doesn’t apply to your type of business? Think again. A 2009 study conducted by the Ponemon Institute found that data theft is rampant in the business world. According to the study, 59 percent of employees who quit or are fired take confidential business information with them. And when the employee works in IT, the access to confidential data is even greater. A 2008 study by Cyber-Ark Software found that almost 90 percent of IT employees would take sensitive company data with them if they were laid off. The lesson: When employees leave, you must take steps to protect the electronic information they have access to. This may include customer information, financial records, trade secrets, intellectual property, and email lists, to name just a few items. We recommend that when an employee leaves, you prevent his or her account access, set the account for immediate review, save any necessary files (which may involve consulting with other departments for verification of documents), then delete the account. In addition to protecting data, this will also optimize server space and open up more storage space for the company. While some employees might argue that they need access to their personal files before departing, and you may grant such access (supervised, on a case-by-case basis), it is not required; any of the information that is located on a company computer is company property. In a sensitive situation it’s always good to let us know ahead of time so we can help you prepare for a well-managed and secure transition. Read more »

Switch to VoIP Phones for your Business

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Switch to VoIP Phones for your business and reap the benefits of using a unified network for voice and data. Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) is basically technology that allows you to make and receive calls over data networks. Instead of traditional phone services which channel analog signals such as the sound of your voice over copper wires, VoIP converts these sounds to digital form first — so that they can be sliced, diced, packaged, and routed over a digital network. Because VoIP technology uses the same ideas behind data networking, and allows the use of the same networks used by computers, voice traffic can also be routed through the Internet as well. Suddenly you can now dramatically reduce the cost of voice communications, as well as achieve creative combinations of both services to create new applications for use. With today’s advancements in technology, and the constant lowering of prices as technology achieves mass adoption, VoIP is now within easy reach for most businesses — even small ones. In fact, many have already made the switch to an all-VoIP infrastructure, using a combination of VoIP phones and VoIP communication systems. Here are ten reasons why you may want to consider switching to VoIP for your phone and office communication systems: VoIP can allow you to dramatically reduce the cost of communications, especially for interstate or international communications, since everything can go through the Internet instead of having to go through expensive long distance toll charges. You can make and receive calls from multiple devices — for instance, on a dedicated phone, your PC via a software-based phone, or even a mobile phone with VoIP capabilities. It’s easier to add extensions to your phone. You can provide a local number or extension for all your staff without additional costs or cabling. VoIP allows companies to maximize investments already made in their network infrastructure. The same network that handles the flow of data such web access and email can now accommodate voice as well — no need to add and maintain additional wires and devices. VoIP allows your employees to be more productive and efficient by giving them the ability to receive and make calls anywhere with a data connection. VoIP reduces the complexity associated with having to manage multiple networks and devices for communication. A company can potentially set up their office network so that each employee can use a single device such as a computer or a smart fixed or mobile phone to handle everything from email, chat, messages, faxes, and more. You can use VoIP as a tool for real-time collaboration along with video conferencing and screen sharing. You can potentially unify your communication channels, streamlining communications and information management — for instance, marrying email with fax and voice in one inbox. You can employ presence technologies that come standard with VoIP phones and VoIP communication systems. This technology can tell colleagues about your presence or give you info on the status and whereabouts of your staff. You can employ intelligence into how your calls are handled, such as: providing automatic call routing based on the number, time of day, etc; providing an interactive voice response when a call comes in, such as voice prompts that guide callers; call reporting; and more. VoIP is certainly a technology that has come of age. It’s cheap, ubiquitous, and easy to use. Interested? Contact us and we can help you make the switch to VoIP for your business today! Read more »