Putting Together a Great Wedding on a Budget

Before discussion about a ceremony or reception even begins, it’s smart for couples to have a frank talk about money issues in general. Share financial information such as current spending, savings, investment and credit status. While this conversation may not seem terribly romantic, honesty about respective finances is the first step to responsible financial planning and compatibility.

Once you’ve chosen a desired wedding date, set a savings target with a realistic budget. If you want to get married fairly soon, realize you’ll have less time to build a wedding fund. Start by making a general list (https://www.theknot.com/wedding-budget/start) of everything you might want in a wedding, and then adjust your vision to what will be in the bank by your desired date.

As the numbers start looking real to you, determine what can be purchased or done inexpensively and others that will require professional help. Take a look at the guest list and see if you can make some cuts. Consider a handheld music player hooked up to a great speaker system instead of a live band. Are you content with your brother’s photo and video skills, or is it a better idea to hire a professional team?

Consider off-dates, off-times and off-venues. Though wedding season is more year-round than it’s ever been, wedding prices still tend to be highest throughout the warm months. Explore winter dates and more obscure venues. Take City Hall, for example. Depending on the municipality, you can either schedule ahead or show up with local license and ceremonial fees as the only costs involved. There’s no need for expensive wardrobe or other trappings. What about having the wedding at home? It’s free space and, depending on the talents of friends and family, homemade food and decorations can also keep expenses to a minimum. But remember that the home or property owner may need a special insurance rider to cover any potential damage or liability, particularly if liquor is being served.

And finally, consider a “surprise” wedding. Planning a party or gathering where a wedding breaks out can provide money-saving advantages to guests and bridal party alike. Having a wedding at a party – especially a regular holiday party you host where family and friends already know to gather – requires little more than a legal officiant and whatever food, beverage, entertainment and insurance costs you need to consider. An unannounced wedding eliminates all pre-wedding costs related to invitations, showers and parties, and you can give your guests a break on gifts.

Bottom line: Flashy weddings aren’t worth jeopardizing your finances for years to come. Make creative, affordable wedding planning part of your love story.

Renting A Car Can Put Your Data At Risk

An innocent car rental can identify who we are, where we go, and who our cell phone contacts are. Who would think programming your “infotainment” preferences into your rental car dashboard could reveal so much about you? Privacy International (PI) knows and they’re hoping to do something about it.

PI, a UK-based firm, recently released a report called Connected Cars: What Happens To Our Data On Rental Cars? It’s declares an all-out information war with car rental titans. PI found that no rental car or car sharing company has a policy about deleting or protecting your infotainment information.

According to Millie Graham Wood of PI, “…internet-connected cars know our current location, patterns of movement, connect to our smartphones to download our contacts and messages, may collect our browsing habits and know our music taste. The volume of data collected by infotainment systems and telematics units is growing.”

A main focus of PI is getting rental agencies to have one easy button to push that deletes any and all information the car collects. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also on board, suggesting ways rental car customers can protect their infotainment and cell phone data.

Don’t use the built-in USB ports to charge cell phones and other devices. Doing that can permanently puts information held on those devices into the dashboard, making it easily accessible to info hackers. The FTC suggests using chargers that inserts into the vehicle’s cigarette lighters to power-up.

Limit dashboard requests for access to different information. They suggest limiting access only to what you choose to use. If you’re just programming music preferences, deny any requests to collect contacts or data from other connected devices, for example.

Take time to delete all collected data before returning your rental car. Check the infotainment menu to see what other devices have been connected. If you need help, check the car manual, research it on the Internet before returning the vehicle, or ask the rental company how to delete it.

© Copyright 2018 Stickley on Security

Dating Apps A Perfect Match For Hackers

Dating app users are now looking for long-term love and not just for quick hook-ups anymore. One look at the Sunday New York Times Wedding section finds online dating apps like Tinder and Bumble increasingly responsible for many a “happy ever after.” Tinder alone has an estimated 50 million users worldwide–but don’t book the chapel yet. Research by Kaspersky Labs shows that hackers have no heart for online love lookers.

Personal–sometimes very personal information is up for grabs by hacks on dating apps–including photos, messaging conversations, names, passwords, and location of the app users. Hackers can often use this data for nefarious deeds from installing ransomware to stalking. With a full information profile on sale online for around $50, hackers make quick cash with no threat of being caught.

Chat bots are also rife on dating sites. Research showed that 70,000 of the “women” (fembots) chatting with men on the infamous Ashley Madison site were actually fembots rather than the real deal. Since the “cheater” site was famously hacked in 2015, exposing the data of 34,000 clients, they had even more explaining to do.

Dating apps are relatively easy to hack. You too can learn how by watching a YouTube video. With inept cyber security, dating apps and the people who use them leave an easy trail for hackers to follow. The rampant lack of data encryption, including photos posted by dating hopefuls, can be stolen and manipulated in real time. For those still using unsecured or free WiFi for dating, always remember a few things:

– Just because a WiFi connection point has a password, it doesn’t mean it’s secure. Your data may still be passing to strangers. It’s best to avoid these and do your swiping from home.

– Create a separate email account used for dating sites only and use a completely unique and strong password that is difficult to crack.

– Always turn off all location settings.

– Don’t give out every detail about yourself on your dating profile. Use discretion and put up only what is necessary. Anything posted on the Internet, whether secured on your account or otherwise, should be considered open and available to everyone, including hackers.

The alarming success of hackers and dating apps prompted Tinder to state “Like every other technology company, we are constantly improving our defenses in the battle against malicious hackers…our desktop and mobile web platforms already encrypt profile images, and we are working towards encrypting images on our app experience as well.”

That’s a start.

© Copyright 2018 Stickley on Security

Getting Paid For Your Passion

Flip through the cable channels these days and you’re bound to see shows about people who have turned a hobby into a business. Whether it’s making cupcakes, being a personal organizer/de-clutterer, or “picking” antiques, these jobs all became moneymakers after starting as fun activities. While you may not get your own TV show, there’s no reason why you can’t create a financially successful venture out of what you love to do.

Think Expansively

If you are attracted to the idea of turning a passion into a business, think not just of a typical definition of “hobby,” but of all your skills. One way to investigate this is to think of what your friends or family typically ask you for help with that they don’t like to do or don’t know how to do. Or what you like to do that others might find tedious, like party-planning or troubleshooting computer problems. Making a list of these types of strengths can help you identify marketable talents.

Will it Stay Fun?

What you don’t want to do is take an enjoyable activity in your life and turn it into drudgery. This is one reason why it’s important that you:

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

There’s nothing wrong with starting out small. By easing into your potential business, you avoid blowing a lot of money early and you give yourself time to assess the viability of your gambit in a measured way.

Find a “Focus Group”

Wondering if there is a market for your wares? Get exposure the old-fashioned way by displaying your offerings in public. For example, if you are a photographer, think about purchasing a booth at a festival or fair to show off your work. Or donate your goods or services as part of a non-profit event. Online marketing is important, but pounding the pavement can help get the word-of-mouth rolling.

Research the Market/Competition

Business school professors talk a lot of “relevant differentiation.” Put more simply, you need to figure out what is going to set apart your business. It’s very hard to succeed in establishing a personal business these days just by offering the lowest prices, so look for what you can offer customers that others can’t.

Wear Your Fun Hat AND Your Business Hat

Even though the activities associated with your enterprise can feel more like a pastime, you need to avoid letting your expenses and time swerve into unproductive efforts. Keep records of your hours, your costs and your sales to judge how to optimize your resources.

Really Reach Out With Your Outreach

One of the huge advantages you have now in starting a business is the dramatic leveling of the playing field that has happened because of the internet. Whether it is through your own web page or via Etsy, Craiglist or Facebook, it is vital to use as many outlets as possible to reach potential customers. One method a lot of hobby-to-business entrepreneurs have enjoyed success with is positioning themselves as an expert in their chosen field. This can be done by authoring how-to articles on sites like about.com or ehow.com, or by creating a blog about your topic of expertise.

Reputation Matters

In this computer age word gets around fast, good or bad. Set yourself apart by providing exemplary service. If you aren’t feeling motivated to provide great customer care, maybe your chosen endeavor isn’t meant to be a business.

Know the Tax Consequences

It’s never a good idea to try to “hide” any income you are making. Consult with a tax professional for advice on how to best report your expenses and profits. Also ask about the best strategies for eventually picking a legal entity for your business.

Always Keep Learning and Evolving

The best way to limit your business is to only think short-term. Tastes change, as do ways of doing business. If you are not staying up on the latest trends in your field and looking for ways to capitalize on them, you will eventually fall behind the competition.

The old saying advises to “do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” While even the most fun careers will sometimes feel like work, creating a business you truly love can help you create your most fulfilling life possible.

Healthcare Industry Sick With Internal Data Breaches

In 2017, hospitals and health insurers comprised an alarming number of data breaches. They found their data systems hit by all types of ransomware, viruses, and other malware. Outside hacks are bad enough, but when it’s an inside job the stakes are even higher.

A major struggle for the healthcare industry is terminating access for ex-employees to data systems. Policies and swift action are needed for preventing former employees from doing damage not only to systems, but also to unsuspecting patients and subscribers. In November of last year, the Department of Health and Human Services addressed the threat, suggesting critical precautions for employers to take.

– Notify IT departments about a planned or unplanned employee dismissal. That should set into action the process of denying access to servers and other electronic data. Accounts should be immediately deactivated, deleted, and/or passwords changed.

– Terminate physical access as soon as possible. Change security codes, door locks, and other means of access that a former employee may have.

– Have all work-related devices like keys, ID badges, smart phones, or laptops given to employees physically secured or immediately changed or deactivated.

– Terminate all remote access to the company website, email, social media, and cloud-based abilities. Be aware of any and all means of access an employee may be given. Keep records of an individual’s privileges to different levels of ePHI.

– Regularly audit security policies and means of employee access to data to ensure the latest security patches and updated and improved policies are implemented.

– Keep a checklist for all tasks that need to be completed upon an employee’s departure, regardless of the reason for the exit.

Protected Health Information (PHI or ePHI for electronic data) is key to keeping all that data safe from harm. By spending some time recording employees’ access, you can quickly mitigate your risk when someone departs.

© Copyright 2018 Stickley on Security

Email Security Basics For Phishing And Spam

Research shows that your closest cybersecurity threat could be you. Studies have found that since 2015, cybercriminals have been gravitating to social engineering that exploits human nature. Emails are a favorite tool for many reasons and call for recipients to be on guard. Knowing what to look for and how to react to it are the key to avoiding becoming a victim of fraud, identity theft, or a data breach.

Email Phishing

A sense of urgency is the most popular and effective phishing hook. Any email requiring an urgent response is likely phishing bait.

– Enable security filters for email programs. ISP’s (internet service providers) offer different filter level options. You can always change security settings if you need to. You may need to contact your provider to find out your options with this.

– If you doubt the sender is legitimate but want to be sure, verify it with the company directly. Call or type the company URL (web address) into your browser window. Never use the URL provided in the email and never reply directly to a suspicious email message.

– Always check that a site is secure. You should see “https” instead of “http” before the URL. Also, never give out any information on a website that doesn’t have the encrypted “lock” icon to the far left of the URL. In some cases, the text preceding the address may turn red if a site is suspect.

Spam Email

Spam emails are the cyber equivalent of junk mail (one look in your spam folder should be proof enough). The safest type of email spam is the unopened and deleted spam email. They’re annoying at best and harmful at worst – don’t let them fool you into being click bait.

– Enable the spam filters offered by your ISP. There are usually different levels of spam filters offered, so use a level you’re comfortable with. If the default filter level isn’t sufficient, you should be able to increase it.

– If you’re not expecting a link or attachment, don’t open it. Unwanted and unexpected emails are the spammer’s calling card. Hover your mouse over the sender’s URL and the link to verify that any sender is who they say they are and the link goes where you expect it to go. The URL’s should match. If they don’t, delete it.

– Resist the temptation to open a spam email looking for an “unsubscribe” button or link. The unsubscribe options on many spam emails is a cyber thief favorite. It’s very possibly a ruse that can release a flood of malware for the “unsubscriber.” Instead, just report it as spam to your email provider when possible and delete it regardless.

© Copyright 2018 Stickley on Security