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What's New in Technology for November 2016
Posted by S2C Staff on 05 November 2016 06:29 PM

Technology: Handling Negative Online Reviews

If you have a business that deals with the public, it is almost inevitable that you’ll get a negative online review at some point. To a small business owner, a highly critical review can be alarming, especially if the business is local and has a relatively small base of potential clients. If you are providing a specialized service (e.g. high-end wedding planning, special event catering, etc.) personal referrals and word-of-mouth carry much more weight than they might for a business with high volume and a varied base of customers.

Your reputation is the most precious commodity you have. Like it or not, we live in a digital world, and it is a good idea to be prepared to handle online reviews. Here are some steps to take to safeguard your good name.

  1. Time is of the essence. Know what is being said about your company on influential sites as soon as possible. If your business attracts the attention of reviewers on the bigger sites – Google, Yelp, Trip Advisor, etc. – consider investing in a service that can monitor multiple platforms in real time and will alert you when reviews appear online.
  2. Stay focused and calm when you see a negative review. It is very difficult (read: almost impossible) to persuade a review site to remove a negative post unless it comes from a competitor and you are able to prove it. Most sites will not arbitrate disputes between companies and customers; they will leave reviews up whether they are good, bad or indifferent.
  3. The sheer number of reviews and reviewers works in your favor. If you spot a bad review or two, encourage your repeat (happy) customers to write something with a different perspective. Along with your customer comment card and/or usual feedback mechanism, ask customers to review you on Yelp and/or other popular sites.
  4. Reply to all comments – not just the negative ones. Remember, you are managing your online reputation, not putting out fires. An acknowledgement or thank you for a compliment is just as important to your overall image as a measured response to a customer complaint.
  5. If you are replying to a bad review, make sure your response is polite, constructive and professional. If this is difficult because you are too angry, delegate the task to someone who can write well without succumbing to put-downs or sarcasm. Try to approach the criticism as an opportunity to identify a need for change. If you are genuine and helpful and offer a way to resolve problems, you take the sting out of the criticism and demonstrate to other customers that you are a caring, respectful business owner.
  6. If you discover a genuine mistake and realize that the customer’s complaint is legitimate, own up to it as quickly as possible. Everyone – no matter how committed to customer service – drops the ball once in a while. The willingness to step up, apologize and offer to set things right publicly demonstrates that your company is committed to providing good service.

Make sure your employees know that you value an open and honest approach to customer communications. Don’t fear bad reviews or let a negative comment create a disproportionate amount of distress in your company. View criticism as a chance to fix problems in a timely manner and to demonstrate a true commitment to customer care.


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What's New In Technology For OCTOBER 2016
Posted by S2C Staff on 04 October 2016 03:31 PM

Technology: Data Breaches - What To Do

It is hard to know which is more alarming – that a security breach can affect more than 500 million people, or that it has taken nearly two years for the public to be informed of such an incursion. Yahoo’s major data breach is but the latest to hit the headlines. It might be somewhat reassuring to read that financial details like credit card and bank account data were not breached, and that encrypted passwords were not stolen, but let’s not forget that the leaks did include some users’ security questions and answers along with addresses, phone numbers and birthdates. 

If you haven’t already taken steps to reinforce your personal security measures, now is the time.

  • Change your Yahoo password. If you haven’t been a Yahoo user for a while, don’t assume you are home free. If you’ve ever had a Yahoo password, get online and find the old one, replace it and opt for the two-step option even if you are planning to close the account immediately.
  • If you are still using the same passwords for multiple sites, get busy replacing them with different ones. If you have any that are similar to your Yahoo password, change them. Avoid anything that might be gleaned from your publicly available data (significant dates, locations, etc.) or might be guessed from your social media. Your passwords should be so random that you need a password manager to remember them. Find one and make use of it.
  • Password management programs have come a long way since the first ones entered the scene. The early versions stored your passwords in an encrypted vault. Today’s options allow you a variety of real-time options, which include syncing passwords and the ability to change online passwords with one click. If a password manager seemed as if it might be as onerous as tracking your passwords in notepads, it’s time to check out the latest generation in password safeguards.
  • Whenever you have the option of using two-step authentication, take it. This method generates a unique login every time you access your account. And, yes, you will be relying on your smart phone to do this, which is sometimes rather inconvenient. Remember, it will never be as inconvenient or devastating as scrambling to protect your assets if a cyber thief accesses your account.
  • Security questions and answers don’t always provide the added security we might hope they would bring. Avoid anything that might prove simpler for crooks to uncover. Consider how easy it might be to find your mother’s maiden name or the town where you were born when public records can be accessed and checked at super-speed on the internet. Think, too, of all the personal data we happily share on social media.
  • Because cyber-security essentially remains a reactive business (solutions are developed in response to actual threats rather than in anticipation of them) we don’t have the luxury of letting our guard down. The best defense against cyber-crooks is vigilance. Always be suspicious of unusual emails from financial institutions or requests for you to update your personal data. Similarly, be very suspicious of unsolicited phone calls from makers of your computer, its operating system or software manufacturers with news of patches or security updates.

Although the response to hackers is in the hands of corporate computer security experts and cyber law enforcement, as individual consumers we all can try to minimize our chances of being easy targets.


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What's New in Technology for September 2016
Posted by S2C Staff on 01 September 2016 05:31 PM

Technology: Update on Chip Card Technology

Back in October 2015, retailers experienced a liability shift when the onus for absorbing the cost of counterfeit transactions shifted from the banks to the individual merchants if the retailers had not migrated from swipe card systems to the newer EVM technology. Those merchants who installed EMV (chip) technology in their cash register networks by the October deadline were able to continue to enjoy liability protection from the card issuers. The ones who missed the deadline were left to do the best they could – making good on any counterfeit transactions or other thefts from scammers.

In the 10 months that followed this deadline, it has become clear to almost anyone who uses a credit card that the new EMV systems are slower than the swipe format, and that there’s often serious confusion – involving both the consumer and the employee at the cash register. The last few months have shown us the practical shortcomings of the EMV technology and have also underscored the major problems – financial and organizational – that large national retailers have encountered in making the switch.  

Some merchants were able to make a fairly smooth transition, but many weren’t. Some of the largest companies installed the new EMV – but not throughout their stores – and others found the process extraordinarily complicated, costly and time-consuming. What seemed like a good move to improve security at the cash register has, in many cases, proven to be a major headache. So where does all this leave us, what solutions do we have and what do the experts predict?

The EMV Advantage

The point of replacing the traditional swipe credit card payment system was to ramp up security. Swipe systems transmit the same card information over and over again. If cyber crooks intercept the card data, they can use it over and over again to run up fraudulent changes. EMV technology or chip technology transmits one-time/one-use encrypted data and is extremely difficult for scammers to counterfeit. (EMV is named after Europay, MasterCard and Visa, the companies that originally developed the technology.)

Status Report

Credit card companies estimate that a staggering 70 percent or more of all merchants in the United States have NOT adopted the EMV technology, choosing to cope with increased liability rather than deal with implementing a new system. Some are overwhelmed with the costs and the time required to adapt their large-scale systems. Others may have made a business decision to deal with the additional fraud risk rather than see longer lines at the cash register.


For their part, the credit card companies and the hardware makers are working on newer, faster technology. However, any update to existing EMV systems – just like the original rollout in October 2015 – will involve lots of different parties and will be time consuming and potentially costly. Some observers think the EVM woes may deliver an unanticipated boost to the mobile payments industry. Store-specific apps (Starbucks and some fast food chains) on consumers’ cell phones are fast and secure. Other consumers don’t want to load their phone with multiple payment apps and they prefer options like Apple Pay or Android Pay, which have integrated payments with stores’ loyalty programs. In the fast-paced world of payment technology, it remains to be seen who will win market share. As things stand with EMV still evolving, smartphone payment technology may well be emerging as the winner.


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What's New in Technology for August 2016
Posted by S2C Staff on 03 August 2016 09:07 AM

Technology: Biometrics = Better Banking Security?

Earlier this year, one of the world’s largest banks, The Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp. (HSBC), announced the largest rollout of biometric security technology in the U.K. with a voice and fingerprint authentication system that will encompass some 15 million customers. The HSBC biometric security technology will give its customers access to fingerprint authentication using readers built into iPhones loaded with HSBC banking apps, and the bank also will utilize Nuance Communications voice recognition technology, which uses 100 distinct identification factors to identify a speaker.

Why Biometrics?

Biometrics involves using the unique aspects of human beings – fingerprints, retinas, voice patterns and facial features – as identifiers for security systems developed to authenticate identity. Of course, the idea is not new. The police have been using fingerprints in investigations for more than 100 years, but consumer-level biometric verification systems have not made great strides until recently. Our increasing use of the internet, smart phones and other devices to make purchases, manage financial transactions and access our personal data has required all of us to use and protect a variety of passwords – passwords that cyber crooks increasingly are able to hack. Financial companies have been at the forefront of the development of biometric systems and have been seeking customer opinions and exploring biometric authentication as a viable replacement for trouble-plagued password authentication.

Will Biometrics Take off Here?

In the United States, response has been mixed. Some industry pundits argue that biometrics are inherently public and no more secure than passwords – they note that fingerprints can be “lifted” and that high resolution photos can be taken of people without their permission. In the public sector, law enforcement has embraced biometrics with Homeland Security and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol working together to collect iris scans and foreigners’ fingerprints to add to the FBI’s national database.

Issues involving privacy and consent have yet to be settled. Currently in 48 states, it is legal for people or organizations to use software to identify you using images taken in public without your consent. In Texas and Illinois, such images may not be used for commercial purposes. The use of biometrics remains largely unregulated, and Washington has not clarified the question of consent or determined how to regulate the industry.

Last year, an effort to develop a voluntary code of conduct for facial recognition technology, which was spearheaded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, failed to achieve any consensus. The industry remains self-regulating, and some private sector industry leaders regard the whole topic as a can of worms.

Finally, some experts note that hackers are already finding ways to spoof biometric identification, and that biometrics may be no more secure than passwords and PINs. Others wonder if the tradeoff – privacy for convenience – might turn out to be too high a price to pay.


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What's New in Technology for July 2016
Posted by S2C Staff on 04 July 2016 05:49 PM

Security Reminders Courtesy of Zuckerberg

Being an acknowledged leader and innovator in social media doesn’t provide immunity from cyber attacks. It has been reported that Mark Zuckerberg, head of Facebook, recently experienced hacking of both his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Cyber thieves continue to up their game, and regardless of whether you are a high-profile billionaire or an ordinary citizen, you need to be mindful of the same security basics.

Speculation abounds on how hackers got into Zuckerberg’s account, but a common reason people are hacked is user complacency. We all know what we should be doing, but sometimes it is easy to get a little lax or lazy. In Zuckerberg’s case, it appears he may have overlooked some basic privacy safeguards – namely not using a two-step authentication process and possibly failing to use different passwords for different websites.  

Interestingly, a recent Instagram posting (Facebook owns Instagram) by Zuckerberg provided sharp-eyed viewers with clues to some steps he might have taken to thwart a certain type of Peeping Tom cybercrime. The photo showed Zuckerberg sitting a desk with a laptop in the background. The webcam and the microphone on that laptop appeared to have been covered by tape.

What’s the point of putting tape over webcams and mics? Odd though it may seem, several prominent public figures have said they do this, too. Hackers have been known to install malware that allows them to switch on the computer’s camera and microphone. In other words malware known as a Trojan can turn the user’s laptop into a bugging device with a camera, allowing a hacker to gain access to sensitive business information and intellectual property. Some users have had their privacy violated by hackers stealing personal photos, which crooks and extortionists post on the Internet. This type of voyeurism activity usually targets young women.

What to Do

  • Follow basic security steps – buy quality antivirus software and keep it current; use a firewall; don’t click on dubious links in emails.
  • Unplug the webcam on your desktop.
  • On a laptop, covering the camera is your best option. Covering a mic will be less effective.
  • Mac users see a green light when the webcam is recording. However, this can be bypassed by a Trojan interloper so blocking with tape may be a better solution.
  • Ironically, there are rumors that Facebook has the ability to listen in on conversations and view videos made by users. This alleged privacy breech is purportedly used to gather data useful to advertisers. Facebook has strenuously denied this. If you are determined to block Facebook’s access to your mic, go to Settings in iOS to de-select Facebook. On an Android device, go through Settings to Personal to Privacy to App Permissions to Mic, where you can de-select Facebook.

We might not all have the high profile of a Zuckerberg, but we are liable to the same risks. If a few simple bits of tape will help protect you from a virulent type of Trojan, why not do a little DIY to protect your personal privacy.

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