5 Steps To Protect Your Small Business From Hackers

5 Steps To Protect Your Small Business From Hackers

By Tim Francis, Special for CyberTruth, USA Today, May 20, 2013

(Editor’s note: One of many proof points that small businesses are being heavily targeted by cybercriminals comes from Verizon’s 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report, in which three-quarters of the cases investigated occurred at companies with 100 employees or less. In this guest essay, Tim Francis, Enterprise Cyber Lead for Travelers Bond & Financial Products, offers small business owners a few pointers.)

There is little doubt that small businesses face a growing cyberthreat – and hackers are not showing any signs of letting up. Through even more sophisticated means, hackers are finding ways to attack businesses, sometimes forming syndicates of like-minded criminals to share information and new techniques.

Knowing the most common ways data breaches can occur and learning how to mitigate those risks can go a long way in deterring cyber criminals. Here are some general guidelines to help small businesses get ahead of cybercriminals and safeguard against cyber attacks:

Train staff.

All employees should learn the importance of protecting the information they regularly handle to help reduce exposure to the business. This includes everything from locking up customer records to keeping passwords strong and confidential. Employees should also be taught how to handle a breach if one occurs.

Defend your network.

Use appropriate firewall and antivirus technology and make sure that security software patches are updated in a timely fashion. Evaluate the security settings on software, browser and email programs, and select system options that will meet your business needs without increasing risk.

Monitor mobile devices and Wi-Fi access.

Establish usage policies for employees and be sure they are clearly communicated. For example, employees should be instructed to use public Wi-Fi only in very limited circumstances. Any data that shouldn’t be made public, such as proprietary business or customer information or credit card numbers should not be transmitted or accessed through public Wi-Fi.

Derive an emergency plan.

If a breach occurs, there should be a clear protocol for which employee is managing the situation, and what action should be taken, such as informing the insurance provider, etc. Whether it is a large or small company, this business continuity plan can help an organization manage a breach while helping to ensure that the business is still meeting customer demands.

Consider insurance coverage.

Liability protection is available for when customers or other individuals who have been affected hold a company responsible for information stolen during data breaches or other network intrusions. A cyber policy can also include coverage for a forensic investigation, litigation and remediation expenses associated with the breach. In addition, a cyber program may include coverage for regulatory defense expenses and related fines, crisis management or public relations expenses, business interruption and cyber extortion coverage.

By following these guidelines, small businesses can take some smart steps to ensuring proper risk management steps early on in order to better thwart potential attacks by cyber criminals.

Having a party or family get together?

Will you be renting a tent, chairs, tables or other times for a party this spring or summer at your home?  Will your home insurance cover any damage to the property you are renting?  Most standard home insurance policies will cover only $500 for property of others in your care.  Most “enhanced” policies will still only cover up to $1,000 of property of others.  Many rental companies charge a fee for their policy to pick up the coverage.  It may be best to check with your agent first to see what your home insurance policy will cover. 

Safeguard Your Interests as a Landlord

Many insureds own property that they lease on a regular basis to tenants. Other insureds occasionally lease their homes for special events, like the Super Bowl, Indianapolis 500, or other major events. In each case, proper risk management techniques are needed to safeguard the landlord’s interest.

The following are some sound risk management tips for insureds who own property that they rent on a continuous basis.

  • Liability coverage pertaining to rented 1, 2, 3, or 4 family dwellings is available under the homeowners policy via an additional residence rented to others 1, 2, 3 or 4 families (HO 24 70) endorsement. Be aware that this endorsement is needed only if the property is rented out on a continuous basis; it provides liability coverage only.
  • A separate dwelling property policy is needed for the property exposures to these rented units.
  • Verify that the renter or lessee has proper tenants insurance for this leased property by obtaining a certificate of insurance.
  • You should also require in your lease that your tenant list you under his or her insurance policy as an additional insured landlord, particularly if the tenant uses this property in any commercial endeavor.

Insureds who own property that is occasionally rented on a short-term basis should consider the following recommendations.

  • Collect a sizeable damage deposit from your tenant and check his or her references.
  • Use a short-term rental contract making the tenant liable for all damages to building and personal property and all injuries.
  • Only rent the property to parties that currently have a homeowners or tenants policy in force or to businesses with a general liability policy in force.
  • Ask your tenant for proof of liability coverage, which can be found under his or her homeowners policy or general liability policy.

Copyright 2013
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Check Your House for Leakey Pipes

Leakey Pipes could cause a broken pipe or worse ~ an uncovered loss if it happens over time.  How to check?  To check for hidden leaks, record the current water meter reading. Turn off all faucets and appliances using water and do not flush the toilets for one hour.  After an hour of water shut off, record the water meter reading again. If the meter reading changed while no water was being used, a leaking pipe may be to blame.


Please note that Flood is “not” a covered peril under any Home Insurance Policy.  Please also note that Collectibles must have their own coverage as well.  Please ask us how!

Protect Your Interests after an Auto Accident

While we certainly hope that you are never involved in an auto accident, we realize that they do happen. That’s the reason we’re in business; that’s the reason you trusted us to find the right auto insurance for you. If you are ever involved in an accident, the following suggestions will help the claim process move ahead smoothly. Please print this out and keep a copy in your glove box.

  • Make sure that everyone is unhurt—in your car and any      others involved. If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately. Even if you      think your injuries are minor, it is probably a good idea to have them      checked out—either at the hospital or with your family doctor. A seemingly      minor injury could turn out to be more serious.
  • Call the police. They can help defuse a difficult      situation and ascertain who is at fault. Make sure that police on the      scene get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all other involved      parties. Ask for a copy of the police report from the officer.
  • If you happen to have a camera with you—or a smart      phone—take some photos of the vehicles involved, the general area where      the accident occurred, and skid marks.
  • If possible, safely move the cars out of the way of      traffic.
  • Do not admit or discuss liability with anyone other      than staff at our office or your insurer.
  • Get the following information about everyone involved      in the accident: name, address, driver’s license number, license plate      number, description of car, e-mail address, all phone numbers (home, work,      and cell), and auto insurance information. Also, obtain contact      information from any witnesses to the accident.
  • Report the accident immediately to our office.       716-684-6000
  • While the details are still fresh in your mind, write      your own account of the accident. Be sure to make note of anything the      other involved parties said about their injuries or about how they may      have contributed to or avoided the accident.

Copyright 2013
International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Homeowner Policy – Resident Coverage

Q.  I have a Homeowners Policy that my daughter lives in but she had no coverage after a claim?

A.   True, in most Homeowner contracts the Named Insured must live in the home to have coverage for property or contents.  The other gap would be when a parent has a policy on a home and their child lives in it as a full time residence.  That child would not have contents coverage should there be a loss as they are not the name insured.  On the same policy the parents might not have dwelling coverage either if they don’t reside in the home.  Always check with your insurance agent about these circumstances ~ there are special forms and policies to cover these situations.

Wellness Does Matter

It’s a fact that people who don’t get sick, cost less money than those who do.

Approximately 10% – 15% of your employees accrue 80% of your medical expenses.  With medical costs increasing as much as 10% per year (on a national basis), costs could  double again in 10 years.

By seriously focusing on preventative medicine (and early detection) an employer can more effectively keep their employees healthy – and away from high cost medical care.

A recent national study indicated that as many as 58% of employees have medical conditions that are unknown and/or not being treated.  By instituting a wellness program that stresses early detection, testing and aggressive follow-up (before health problems take hold); employees are finding out about issues before they are symptomatic – rather than after they become ill and start incurring medical costs.

While there are hundreds if not thousands of different wellness programs nationwide, there are only approximately 20 organizations that have committed to be independently assessed by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).  Whether you choose to use an NCQA certified wellness plan or not, focusing on employee wellness can save your company money (and benefit your employees).