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Protect Yourself Against Gmail Phishing Attacks

When the White House and the FBI get involved in hack attacks, you know it’s a big deal.

Google announced earlier this week that cybercriminals from China were using what seemed to be phishing attacks to hack Gmail accounts, including government authorities. With this news comes the revelation that Hotmail and Yahoo! e-mail accounts have also been the target of spear phishing attacks.

What can you do to protect your small business?

First understand what a phishing attack is. According to Wikipedia, phishing is a way of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Phishing is typically carried out by e-mail or instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter details at a fake Web site whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one.

“Phishing attacks range from the incredibly obvious to the believable and well crafted. There will always be those that cause a person to second guess themselves, which is exactly what they need to do,” says Fred Touchette, a senior security analyst at AppRiver. “We have seen more and more directed spear phishing attacks against individuals and/or specific companies over the past few years. This is troubling news because they are usually harder to notice due to their customization, but in no way will this affect the cast net style approach of phishing.”

When it comes to Internet security, a little common sense can go a long way. Here are Touchette’s top four tips for protecting your small business from a phishing attack.

Avoid opening e-mails or attachments from unsolicited sources.

When clicking on links, pay attention to where they’re actually taking you. In this recent attack the emails appeared to come from sources known to the victims which can certainly add to the obfuscation. The telltale sign to note here was the fact that it took them back to a Gmail login screen after they were already in their account, that’s never a good sign.

If there’s ever any question, close the browser, open a new one and go directly to the site. The fake log-in screen in these attacks also had multiple flaws that should have clued the victims to the fact that something was amiss as well. Oftentimes I see the attackers using outdated Web pages in these situations.

Overall, remain cautious and use safe email and browsing habits consistently to avoid becoming aloof.
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Entrepreneur Launches a New Model for Angel Investment

Looking to win $50,000? You’ve got a shot at the prize if you are technically inclined.

Starlight Technology Transfer just announced a contest for the most promising new high-tech business idea. So fire up your word processing software and start writing your proposal if you’ve got one. Or get together with your three most tech-savvy friends and start brainstorming.

Maybe you have a new idea in the realm of robotics, artificial intelligence, green technology, web technology, mission-critical smart energy grid technology, mobile applications, cloud computing, business analytics, aerospace, or something else. You’ve got between now and July 29 to come up with a bright idea and submit a proposal.

"We know what it's like to have a great idea, but lack the resources to get it off the ground. With this prize as a beginning, our company intends to become an incubator for new American businesses,” says Starlight founder and successful entrepreneur, Jack Beavers.

“Over time we hope to gather many good ideas from creative young minds and translate them into jobs for our community. We believe the 2011 Starlight Tech Prize is only a beginning—a first step toward creating a number of new businesses. As a long-term objective, we'd be delighted if we can find ways to create high tech jobs and bring manufacturing jobs back to America."

The Starlight Tech Prize comes on the heels of President Obama’s call to out-innovate, out-educate, out-build the rest of the world. Starlight’s response is a new form of angel investing. The Starlight approach is to team with young entrepreneurs. The company's experienced entrepreneurs will facilitate development of new and competitive products, while simultaneously mentoring new and competitive generations of American innovators. Prospective winners of the Tech Prize will be offered not only the $50,000 cash award, but will also be given opportunity to propose the terms of a teaming agreement as well as employment with the company.

A board of advisors recruited from industry, including CEO's, marketing specialists, and engineers, will review the proposals. Among other selection criteria, contest judges will be looking for an idea that can be grown into a $50 million dollar business within five years. Additional criteria will include the potential for social benefit, and job creation, and environmental responsibility.

Check out this video to learn more about the contest:

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Is Your Small Business Prepared for Hurricane Season?

Small Business Crisis Communications, Part 1

There are two types of companies in the world – those that have had a crisis and those that will. No industry is immune.

Crises come in all shapes and sizes, from natural disasters that could bring your operation to a screeching halt to criminal acts to workplace violence to data breaches. Bankruptcies, major lawsuits and other incidents may also potentially destroy your reputation or cripple your small business.

“A crisis is not just bad news. Every brand will face bad news. A crisis is when something occurs that keeps you from handling your regular business in a normal fashion,” says Vince McMorrow, vice president of public relations for RMD Advertising in New Albany, Ohio. “A crisis is an event that has the potential to cause great harm to your organization.”

Of course, PR pros say you can’t wait until there is a fire to get your fire hose ready. Just as you plan for future growth, you should also plan for a crisis. That’s because making decisions in chaos could lead to rushed judgments, a public perception that your company is hiding from the truth, or executives who appear inept at handling corporate affairs.

“In the midst of a crisis, a crisis communications plan is invaluable,” says Denyse Dabrowski, vice president of The Marcus Group, Inc. a Secaucus, N.J.-based public relations firm. “When I say ‘plan’ I do not mean a 30-page book your company puts together about its crisis response, because, quite frankly, that’s out of date before it hits the shelf. I’m talking about the plan as far as who is part of the crisis team and what everyone’s duties are.”

PR pros agree that while not every crisis can be avoided, increased knowledge, preparation and proper training can help a company put the events that do occur under immediate control, and keep them under control as the issue is addressed.

Stay tuned for practical tips in part two in this series.
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Verizon Wireless Launches Domestic Violence Entrepreneurship Grants

Verizon Wireless just launched a program we should all applaud. It’s called the Domestic Violence Entrepreneurship Program. Verizon Wireless is offering grants from $1,000 to $5,000 per applicant, and awarding $45,000 in all.

The goal is to provide funding to entrepreneurs who have escaped the cycle of domestic violence and are ready to put their skills to work to get a home or small business sup and running.

As Verizon sees it, there is a strong likelihood that many domestic survivors are especially well-positioned to benefit from self-sufficiency programs that focus on entrepreneurship models over traditional job-training options. That’s because domestic violence survivors have developed strong coping and problem-solving skills. What’s more, many were employed before the violence and they all have a strong incentive to be self-sufficient and violence-free.

Verizon is betting that the successful development of a home or small business can offer these women more control over their working lives, create important financial and social opportunities for them, and help ensure their long-term safety and stability.

How can domestic violence survivors use the funds? Some examples include making a down payment on a work space, purchasing a computer or other office equipment, purchasing initial product inventory, as collateral to support the receipt of a small business loan, or to help pay the costs of attending an entrepreneurship program or business course.

Want more information? Call 585-321-7264.
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