Microsoft Issues Emergency Patch for Internet Explorer for Zero-Day Flaw

microsoftGood news for those who have already updated to Microsoft Windows 10. The emergency patch for Internet Explorer issued this week in an out-of-band update doesn’t affect the default browser released with that version of the operating system. However, those who use IE versions 7 through 11 on both clients and servers are vulnerable to a newly discovered remote code execution flaw on all other operating system versions going back to Windows Vista. Since Windows 10 does ship with a copy of IE 11, that will need to be addressed as well with the update.

The patch has been released per Microsoft Security Bulletin MS 15-093 and is considered critical for client versions and moderate for servers. If the automatic updates feature is enabled, the system should do this for you. If not, then take a look at available updates and perform the fix manually.

According to the bulletin, it can be exploited if a user views a specially crafted webpage the IE browser and hackers are taking advantage of it now. No user interaction is required for this hole to be opened.

A successful attacker could gain the same user rights as the system’s user. Those who have their accounts configured as administrators are the most at risk because this may allow the attacker to do a complete takeover of the compromised machine. Those whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights may have a little more protection. However, it is best to apply the patch immediately regardless of your level of rights.

If you do not need to have administrator rights on your computer, it’s best to set the levels lower for the authorized users. This can be found in the administrator tools in most Windows operating system versions.

For those in charge of business networks, if the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (Emet) is configured correctly, it will provide some protection against this attack. However, it is still advised that the patch be apply to corporate systems as soon as possible, as it is only considered a temporary mitigation solution.

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

Advantages and Disadvantages of FHA Loans

home-scrabble_2390293bIf you’re looking to buy a home, you may have been attracted to the loosened approval standards that can come with a government-backed Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loan. But before jumping into an FHA mortgage, it’s important to understand the possible benefits and drawbacks.

Potential advantages

  • Less challenging credit requirements: If you have little or no credit history, it can be comforting to know that FHA approval requirements tend to be less stringent than those for conventional loans. At this time, it only takes a 500 credit score to qualify for a loan, according to the FHA. Maximum financing is available for anyone with a score over 580.
  • Smaller down payment: Whereas conventional mortgages often require down payments of 5-10% of the purchase price of the home, FHA loans can be nabbed for only 3.5% down.
  • Friendlier debt ratios: Keeping in the theme of more forgiving approval requirements, FHA loans can make qualifying easier if you already have a large amount of existing debt. For conventional loans, you are normally limited to having monthly housing and other debt payments equaling no more than 36% of your income. With FHA loans, this number gets boosted to 41%.
  • Potentially better interest rate: If you’re in the not-so-great credit category, you may run into a lot of big numbers while interest rate shopping. Since FHA rates are the same regardless of credit and are generally competitive, you could end up saving a lot on interest payments with an FHA loan if your credit is lacking.

Potential disadvantages

  • Lack of reward for good credit: The flip side of the same-for-all interest rate is that you may be missing out on a lower interest rate if you have great credit. Over the life of the loan this could cost you thousands of dollars.
  • More mortgage insurance paid: Because you are making a lower down payment, you will have to pay more private mortgage insurance (PMI) to make up the difference. With FHA loans, you also have to pay an upfront mortgage insurance fee. This can be financed, but it will cause your mortgage insurance payments to be more expensive than with a conventional mortgage.
  • Inspection standards: To qualify as an FHA-eligible property, a home must go through a property standards inspection. This may limit your choices of available homes and can also make it difficult or impossible to get an FHA loan for a fixer-upper.
  • Fewer loan choices: You aren’t going to find the variety of loan options with the FHA that you typically would with conventional loans. This is especially true if you are looking for an adjustable-rate or interest-only mortgage.
  • Lower loan ceiling: The maximum amount you can borrow for an FHA loan is different from county-to-county. In certain areas with low supply and high demand, you may find that an FHA loan won’t allow you to buy the house you want because the price tag falls outside the allowable amount.
  • Limited condo supply: If a condominium fits your housing needs, be aware that the list of available FHA-approved units could be pretty short. The FHA is known to be very tough on giving the green light to condos, so be prepared to really hunt if you go with the FHA/condo combo.

The consensus among housing experts is that – all things being equal – FHA loans will usually cost you more over the life of the loan. However, if your only current option for becoming a homeowner is through the FHA’s eased standards, you can certainly consider a government-backed loan as a way to quite literally get your foot in the door.


© 2014 BALANCE

Tips for Frugal Parenting


Who knew that one of the hardest parenting tests is trying to get through the grocery store line without being pressured to buy candy from a seven year-old? In today’s culture, it is easy to believe that the more we spend on our children, the more we show our love. But, believe it or not, out of 6,000 parents recently surveyed, 60 percent feel their kids are “a little” or “a lot” spoiled.

Here are some tips to help parents cut back spending, while still showing the love.

  • Take advantage of free activities in your community: Go to a park with a great play structure; regularly visit your library; attend your local “Free Movies or Concerts in the Park;” take a stroll through your local farmers’ market; take advantage of street festivals; go on a hike or bike ride.
  • Dress kids in second-hand clothing or do a clothing swap: Kids grow fast so consider visiting your local consignment shops or trading clothes with other families. Saving a few dollars here can leave you with more money to spend on important safety products such as car seats and cribs.
  • Don’t overspend on toys and trinkets: Kids often get bored or easily forget about toys they own. Buy toys at a garage sale or wait to make purchases only at birthdays and holidays.
  • Cut your child’s hair: It’s scary the first time, but you can easily learn how to cut your child’s hair when they are young. They will probably request a salon cut as they get older.
  • Get creative: A “Family Night In” can range from a living room picnic in front of the television to camping in the backyard. Make “Movie Night” special with homemade seasoned popcorn or a meal to match the movie’s theme. Throw a Family Dance or Game Night and invite a handful of other families to join in some potluck fun.
  • Bring your own food and snacks: Never leave home without a bag of goodies and drinks for your kids. Pack some fruit, cookies, crackers and water. Not only will this save you money, but it’s a good way to keep them eating healthy.
  • Set an example: Comparison shop with your kids; save loose change in a fish bowl; show restrain when making purchases; live within your means.
  • Just say “no:” As painful as this may feel, get into the habit of saying “no” when your child asks for something. Initially, it will be a war of wills. But, after some time, your child will learn that they cannot get everything they ask for.
  • Talk to your kids about money: Make talking about money an easy, everyday conversation. Kids tend to tune out heavy-handed, serious lectures. Instead, consider raising their money “awareness” by: pointing out prices on a menu; comparing prices at a supermarket; educating them about the “costs of living” such as paying for a house, car, and utilities; negotiating an allowance; writing a family budget; or planning a vacation together.


©Copyright Visa


Keep a Lookout for these Top Scams

Scam Meaning Fraud Scheme to Rip-off or Deceive

Go ahead and admit it. You were just wondering what the top scams are right now. Thankfully, we have a list.

To stay safe, remember to NEVER give out personal information like your social security number, online banking user name/PIN, credit card number or debit card number/PIN. A reputable bank, credit union, business or government agency typically will not contact you and ask you for them over the phone or via email.

Online Loan Offers: Be wary of online postings promising quick loans or too-good-to-be-true approvals. Be sure to verify that the company is a legitimate lender, as well as determine up front what the actual interest rate will be.

Watch out for alleged lenders that claim to need your online banking credentials to post your loan to your account, and/or that demand a certain percentage of your loan advance be sent back to them via MoneyGram or Western Union. Often these are fraudsters trying to trick you into allowing them to deposit worthless check(s) into your account so that you can then send them the money and suffer the loss when the check(s) are returned as invalid.

Apple Store Payment: This is a simple scam these days as the number of people transacting with Apple is immense. Because people are so accustom to these transactions, they may not look twice when this scam hits their email. To avoid all financial institution or transaction scams including Apple Store, never respond to any email asking for personal or financial information. Instead, log directly into the account from your phone app or web browser. This will ensure that if your account does have an issue or needs your attention, you are working with the good guys.

Job Scams: They’re in the classified sections wherever classifieds may be found. They say no experience required, start right now, it’s full time, and the pay is great! Sounds too good to be true, right? It is. The scam comes when they ask for a “training fee” and/or your social security number. Trust your senses and walk away from these.

Recover Your Unclaimed Property: Scammers will graciously help you recover property or funds, even when you didn’t know you were owed any. Of course they charge a fee and of course, after you pay it you will never see your missing property or funds.

Human Resources Needs Your Information for Direct Deposit Setup: The email is fake and once the information is provided, your direct deposit no longer is in your account. Verify any emails asking for this information by phone, separate email, or by talking to the HR rep in person. It is extremely unlikely that any legitimate company or service will ever ask for this information via email.

Pet Adoptions: Online is a photo and sob story about a pet that really needs a good home. Once you pay for the adoption fee, shots, and crating for travel, you have less cash and no pet. Consider staying local for pet adoptions and pick up the pet in person.

Healthcare Open Enrollment: This has gotten even more confusing lately with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or commonly referred to as Obamacare). Scammers will pretend to offer their services to help you wade through the complicated processes for a fee. However, once you pay it, you are still confused and likely still don’t have healthcare. Seek out authorized representatives to help you navigate this process.

IRS Scams: Frauds of this type come in many forms. Sometimes it’s a phone call saying you owe money or even are due a refund and thankfully, this company has come to your rescues to help you get it back from the evil IRS or keep you out of jail. Sometimes they send email claiming the same or something equally fraudulent. The IRS doesn’t work this way. They will send a physical letter first.

Get a Free Gift Card or Prize: In order to collect it, you have to give out sensitive information or money. This one takes many forms and may be a phone call or email version exploiting popular and well-known brands. Keep sensitive information private. You shouldn’t have to give out this information for a free prize.

You’re Pre-Qualified for a Loan: And you didn’t even ask for that! In order to get it, just send all of your sensitive data or give it to them on the phone and the money is yours. Except it isn’t. If you didn’t initiate the loan qualification, it’s likely a scam.

Online Purchases: The product you are so excited to get just never arrives. Alternatively, it is nothing like advertised. This risk always exists, so try to use verified online retailers.

Accidental Overpayment for Items Online: If you sell online, watch for scammers who will send overpayment and request the difference wired back. Typically, they send a bad check, but before you figure it out, the cash is sent. Avoid accepting checks when possible and if you must take them, make sure they clear before issuing any refunds.


© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

Getting Your Home Ready to Sell

FSDAs the economy improves, today’s sellers are facing a very different environment than they were before the housing market stumbled in 2006.

Today’s housing market features new procedures and standards, not the least of which are continuing borrowing hurdles for prospective buyers. If you are thinking about a home sale in the coming months, it pays to do a thorough overview of your personal finances and local real estate environment before you put up the “for sale” sign. Here are some general issues to consider:

Make sure you’re not underwater. You may want to buy a new home, but can you afford to sell? The term “underwater” refers to the amount of money a seller owes on a house in excess of final sales proceeds. If what you owe on the home—including all selling costs due at closing—exceeds the agreed-upon sale price, then you will have to pay the difference out of pocket. If you’re not in a situation where you absolutely have to sell now, you may want to wait until your financial circumstances and the real estate market improves.

Evaluate your finances. Before you sell, make sure you are ready to buy or rent. Making sure all three of your credit reports are accurate is an important part of that process.

Consider “for sale by owner” vs. “for sale by broker.” “For Sale by Owner” (FSBO) signs were a common sight in many neighborhoods during the housing crisis. Shrunken home values convinced many sellers to sell their property themselves rather than pay 5-6 percent of profit in broker commission. However, consider what a licensed real estate broker could accomplish in your specific situation. Many experienced brokers have market knowledge and negotiating skills that could potentially get a better price for your property. Deciding which route to take shouldn’t be an overnight decision. Check leading FSBO and broker sites and talk with knowledgeable friends, attorneys and real estate professionals to learn as much as you can.

Think twice before spending on improvements. Not every home construction project pays off at sale time. Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report tracks both pricing and cost recovery for leading remodeling projects. Before fixing up a bathroom, kitchen or any other area of your home, research whether the work will actually pay for itself at sale. For many sellers, it might be advantageous to hire a licensed home inspector to identify any structural, mechanical or major appliance repair issues that could delay or compromise a sale.

Don’t forget moving costs. According to the American Moving and Storage Association, a leading industry trade group, the average professional interstate move of 1,220 miles costs an average of $5,630; in state, the average moving cost is $1,170. After all the costs involved in selling a home, don’t forget how much it costs to relocate.

Bottom line: Selling your home requires planning. Before putting it on the market, get solid, qualified advice on how to sell smart in a still-recovering housing market.


By Nathaniel Sillin


Frugal Fill-Ups: 30 Ways to Save at the Pump

Gas-Money-TipsDon’t let skyrocketing fuel prices drive you crazy—there are many ways to put an immediate dent in your gas bill.

First, nothing will save you more money at the station than a fuel-efficient car. Large, heavy vehicles can burn up to three times as much fuel as small cars—and as gas prices rise, your wallet will groan with every extra pound. If it’s time for a trade in, seriously consider purchasing a car that was built to get good gas mileage. There may even be tempting tax breaks for investing in the latest technology. The following 29 additional tips will speed up your savings even further—print them out and keep them in your car as a daily reminder.

  1.   Keep your tires filled with the right amount of air
  2.   Keep your clutch adjusted
  3.   Use the manufacturer’s suggested engine oil and maintain the level and cleanliness
  4.   Choose the route with the flattest terrain and fewest stops
  5.   Use your air conditioner sparingly
  6.   Remove unused bike and luggage racks to make your car aerodynamic
  7.   Keep the windows closed when traveling at high speeds
  8.   Work earlier or later to avoid traffic jams and stop-and-go traffic
  9.   Remove heavy objects from the car
  10.   Bike, walk, or use public transportation whenever possible
  11.   Turn the car off rather than idle (when appropriate)
  12.   Don’t warm up new cars – most don’t need it
  13.   Avoid traveling at fast speeds in low gears
  14.   Drive the speed limit
  15.   Use cruise control on the open road, when safe
  16.   Accelerate slowly when leaving the stoplight
  17.   Buy gas with the lowest octane rating (check the owner’s manual)
  18.   Don’t rev your engine
  19.   Arranging for carpools to share the cost of gas
  20.   Avoid routes where construction work is being done since the stop-and-go will use up a lot of gas
  21.   Use your navigation system (if available) to avoid getting lost and wasting gas
  22.   Combine errands into one trip when it makes sense
  23.   Use websites and mobile applications that list gas stations with the lowest prices
  24.   Drive conservatively and leave a buffer between you and the cars in front of you
  25.   Don’t “top off” at the gas pump
  26.   Don’t drive far out of your way to save a few pennies at another gas station
  27.   Walk into restaurants instead of using the drive-through
  28.   Avoid circling a parking lot to find a space that is just a little bit closer
  29.   Ask your employer if they will let you work from home a few days per month


© 2012 BALANCE