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Prepare Business Defenses: How World Events Impact Us

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Mark Roberts


It’s easy to watch world affairs and think they’re happening half a world away, so they don’t directly apply to business at home. However, we can’t just watch world events; we need to know how they impact us. World events are affecting our cybersecurity.

World Event Carry Potential Security Ramifications

But world events carry potential security ramifications and impact how we do business. We can no longer passively observe world affairs, nor take a bury-your-head-in-the-sand approach — these approaches are short-sighted. It takes proactive action when it comes to business security and the burgeoning cybersecurity threat.

Cyber-attacks are continually increasing, and everyone with an Internet connection is a possible victim. It’s no longer a matter of if an attack will happen; it’s a question of when a bad actor will target a company — your company.

Lower-Profile Businesses are the Low-Hanging Fruit, Ripe for Cyber-Infestation

Cyber-attacks make headlines when they involve high-profile companies, but they are the “lower-profile” attacks that companies need to consider. Even when cyber-attacks don’t make the headlines, they can still pose a significant problem for businesses of all types and sizes. Unfortunately, in the absence of regular headlines, many companies don’t keep the threat of cyber-infiltration top of mind.

Criminals Have Always Targeted People and Businesses

Remember that bad actors and criminals have always targeted organizations in our country and worldwide. However, today criminals, theblack hat cybers” (cyber-criminals) have learned well from the past, and they’re getting better and better at their craft.

According to the FBI, there are more than 4,000 ransomware attacks every day in the United States. But most of these don’t garner any headlines.

These attacks did not slow down amid the COVID-19 pandemic but instead accelerated. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear they will subside any time soon. It’s a well-known fact that economic hard times in businesses or the economy will bring out more crime in every sector, and cybercrime and attacks are no different.

Pay Attention to Data Breaches

The Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) 2021 Annual Data Breach Report revealed that ransomware-related data breaches doubled in the last two years. At the current rate, in 2022, ransomware attacks could surpass phishing as the number one root cause of data compromises.

Companies are increasingly acting to protect themselves. But they can do more to safeguard their companies’ operations: they should be securing cyber insurance.

Why do Companies Need Cyber Insurance?

Many cybersecurity experts have predicted that bad actors could launch cyberattacks worldwide, especially in the United States. While their specific targets are anyone’s guess, no one, and no business, should leave their safety to chance.

Many companies make the mistake of thinking bad actors won’t target them. They might think they have a small staff or lack broad name recognition that can fly under the radar.

However, previous cyber-attacks have shown that hackers usually start small. They will often use an initial breach — targeting a company that doesn’t take its security as seriously as it should. Then, with many small successes, cybercriminals up their game and use newly acquired tactics as a jumping-off point to reach larger and higher profile targets.

Who Will Find and Exploit Your Businesses’ Weaknesses?

Unfortunately, no one is fully protected — and you want to protect your business, clients, and customers. Every customer has a weakness somewhere, and bad actors will find and exploit those weaknesses.

According to Hiscox, an international specialist insurer, roughly a quarter (23%) of small businesses suffered at least one cyberattack in the past year. The average financial cost to a small business was more than $25,000.

You Have Car and Homeowner Insurance — Now’s the Time for Cyber Insurance

The cyber insurance industry has grown in recent years. According to Insurance Business, what was a $7.8 billion industry in 2020 could grow to $20 billion by 2025.

While companies carry general liability and other more specialized insurance policies, many companies may not realize that those policies exclude cyber risks.

However, many traditional insurance policies exclude cyber risks considering the increased risks. As a result, companies need a separate policy to safeguard against a possible cyber-attack or breach.

How Does Cyber Insurance Differ From Regular Insurance?

As ransom attacks and cyber security threats have intensified, insurance companies, too, have changed their approach. So read any policy carefully and know what you are purchasing.

Cyber Insurance protects businesses from Internet-based and information technology infrastructure and activity risks. Providers typically exclude these risks from traditional commercial general liability policies. Generally, Cyber Insurance may not be defined in traditional insurance products.

Purchase a Cyber-Specific Policy

Insurance providers have developed cyber-specific policies — but many companies will not just offer a policy outright. Typically, companies must meet specific criteria to be eligible for coverage, and policyholders must maintain their eligibility annually.

Additionally, there may be specific dates when companies can renew their policies. While dates may vary from one insurance provider to another, key renewal dates for cyber insurance may include July 1 and August 1.

Yes, it may seem like double-talk, and buyer beware — but the fact remains that all insurance appears to have gone in this direction. Watch your policy carefully and ask for what you want — then read the policy to ensure you got what you specifically asked for.

How Can a Company Start the Process of Obtaining Your Cyber Insurance?

Every business needs cyber insurance, whether e-commerce, retail, state and local governments, or professional services. Many organizations may have IT professionals on staff but don’t necessarily have cyber security experts.

Companies must heed the warnings, stay abreast of the risks and proactively prepare.

Increasingly, companies are aware of cyber risks as news accounts regularly highlight high-profile cyber-attacks. But, unfortunately, many companies don’t realize their vulnerability until it is too late.

About a Third of U.S. Businesses Have Cyber Insurance

The good news is that many insurance companies act on the need and provide needed coverage. About a third of U.S. companies have a standalone cyber insurance policy, according to the Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report 2021.

Insurance companies will require companies to secure a third-party assessment — a risk assessment or a cybersecurity gap assessment — to ensure they do the basic “block and tackling” tactics.

Insurance Providers May Not Cover all Companies.

Insurance may deny coverage to companies that do not meet minimum standards to prepare for and defend against cyber threats. The specific criteria may vary slightly by provider.

Cyber insurance coverage may include data destruction, extortion, theft, hacking, and denial of service attacks. But the coverage extends beyond recovering a company’s infrastructure and could protect organizations against litigation and other liabilities.

Coverage could also indemnify companies for losses that others caused to suffer from defamation or a failure to safeguard data. Other coverage benefits may include reimbursement for security audits, criminal rewards, and investigation expenses.

The First Step in Cybersecurity is to Take Action.

Many government agencies and industry associations have issued security frameworks, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These frameworks often include industry-specific standards, including the payment card industry (PCI), the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

Increasingly, companies are worried about computers and their IT hardware, but it’s not their primary focus. These protocols can be confusing, and many companies don’t know where to start the process, so they don’t act.

Inaction is probably the biggest mistake a company can make.

Companies do not need to go it alone; businesses should partner with an expert who can help identify vulnerabilities and ensure their actions are effective and comprehensive. Companies can act to better position themselves to prepare for a cyberattack.

Credible third-party companies can conduct such an assessment and offer many of the insurance companies’ services. In addition, these assessments may make companies eligible for cheaper premiums as an added benefit.

Impliment MFA, Encrypted Backup, Endpoint Detection and EDR

Companies serious about organizational security should consider implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA), encrypted backups, and endpoint detection and response (EDR). Hybrid work has become the norm and will perhaps, more than anything else, become an issue needing regular security training awareness.

Nearly 90% of successful breaches are caused by human error.

Therefore, user training is essential to educate teams on the proper cyber hygiene and how to identify possible cyberattacks they may encounter via email or on the web.

Companies should employ continuous training techniques to ensure cyber best practices stay top of mind, rather than training employees once or twice yearly.

You Don’t Have to Be or Have a Cybersecurity Expert

Acting does not require everyone to be a cybersecurity expert. However, they must start with the basics, such as a ransomware training program.

Conducting a gap assessment is an excellent way for companies to understand where to begin. In addition, cybersecurity renewals are essential and require a third party to validate a company’s approach.

Many of the requirements for cybersecurity are best practices for business.

The world continues to become an even more dangerous place. Those who want to harm will continue to evolve their methods, putting the incumbency on every business to develop their approach to prepare for the unseen dangers similarly.

No one has a crystal ball to determine when or where an attack might happen.

But, luckily, every business has the power to control the most critical element of a cyber-attack: preparing their defense.

Acting is no longer a “nice-to-have.” Instead, preparing defenses is a business imperative, and it needs to happen now. As things get worse in the world you will want your business protected.

Feature Image Credit: Photo by Cottonbro; Pexels; Thank you!

Mark Roberts

Mark Roberts serves as TPx’s CMO responsible for all marketing operations worldwide, driving growth opportunities and building brand recognition for the company within the communications market. He has over 25 years of experience in the technology industry building brands, driving demand and transforming high-tech companies.

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A Quick Guide to Understanding Your phpMyAdmin Area

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phpMyAdmin


If you use a WordPress website, it probably uses a MySQL database. Another one that it might use is called MariaDB.

Every website needs one of those to store information like passwords, posts, and user data. When WordPress can’t connect to your MySQL database, your website probably won’t be accessible.

There are a handful of reasons why it’s important to understand how it works. Here are a few that I can think of.

  •   You may need to delete old data or tables
  •   You may need to update the titles of a ton of different posts at once
  •   An individual database table might need to be imported or exported

In order to get to the area we’re going to talk about, click “phpMyAdmin” from your website’s control panel. It may say “Access PhpMyAdmin” or some similar variation like mine does below.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

The next screen you should see looks like this:

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

On the left-hand side, click the database that corresponds to your website. In my case, it’s “backupweathersite” below “New” in the tree. Then, you should be at the screen we’re talking about:

phpMyAdmin

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

The menu highlighted in red has some useful tabs on it for doing the types of things I mentioned above. Starting with Structure, here’s what you can do with each one.

Structure

Structure is probably the most important of all the tabs because it lists the tables of your database. Each table has its own set of options, like emptying it if you want to delete all the data. You can also drop the table if you want to get rid of the entire thing completely.

Be very careful with that. Instead of deleting everything, you can clear out things like old posts by running SQL queries.

SQL

Selecting SQL will give you this screen:

phpMyAdmin area

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

There, you can run SQL queries. For example, on one of my sites, I need to remove expired jobs pretty often. If I don’t, the database fills up even if the jobs are deleted on the frontend. This causes the site to slow down a lot, and I can’t add new posts or other data.

The solution? Running this query: delete from `wp_posts` where `post_status` = ‘expired’

That takes care of thousands of old jobs in about a second, which is pretty nice!

As a side note, the screenshots in this article are from a local WordPress installation I have for a different project.

Search

Search does what it sounds like it would. When you put something in the main search field, it will automatically go through the entire database, looking for anything that’s a match. 

Here’s a tip that might also help: you can choose to include or exclude searching specific tables if you want so it doesn’t search everything.

phpMyAdmin

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Query

The Query tab essentially does the same thing that the SQL tab does, except it offers guidance for creating the query. You can select the table that you want the query executed in from a dropdown and then click “Update query” to see it in the window below.

phpMyAdmin screenshot

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Export

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Export allows you to download all of the tables from your database. This is useful if you want to do manual backups periodically (although there are some great plugins that can handle that). You can export the tables in a bunch of different formats, too.

These include SQL, PDF, CSV, XML, and a handful of others that you’ve probably never heard of. Mainly, Texy! Text and YAML.

Import

The import function allows you to bring in outside database tables to yours.

phpMyAdmin

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

You can only import a table if it doesn’t exist in the current database. If the table exists already, you will get an error, and the import won’t finish, according to DreamHost.

The file can be compressed or uncompressed in a few different formats. Those include bzip2, gzip, or zip files. Something you may not be used to is the compressed file name.

It needs to be structured like “.[format].[compression]”. An example of a common one is “.sql.zip”.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

 

You can choose from a handful of different formats. These include CSV, ESRI Shape File, MediaWiki Table, OpenDocument Spreadsheet, SQL, and XML.

There are also a number of different SQL compatibility modes. The compatibility mode setting will dictate how MySQL works. We won’t go into each one and talk about the differences, but your options for those are ANSI, DB2, MAXDB, MYSQL323, MYSQL40, MSSQL, ORACLE, and TRADITIONAL.

Operations in phpMyAdmin

This tab gives you the ability to perform a handful of different operations, like creating a table and renaming the database. In order to create a new table, just put in a name, and the number of columns, and click Go.

Siteground has a great tutorial for creating tables since things can get kind of complicated. Below that, you can rename the database. The check box that says “Adjust privileges” is there because MySQL does not adjust the original privileges related to the database on its own.

When you check that box, phpMyAdmin adjusts the privilege table, so users have the same privileges on the new items. If you do that, the privileges for all the database-related elements are also adjusted to the new name. That includes things like tables, columns, or procedures.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

This section also allows you to do things like copy the database to another one and change table collations. A collation is a set of rules that defines how to compare and sort character strings.

You probably won’t ever need to mess with things like collation, but it’s nice to be semi-familiar with that, just in case.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

 One other thing is that you can’t really rename a database. When you do that, phpMyAdmin will create a new one (example below) and drop the old.

phpMyAdmin area

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Routines in phpMyAdmin

The Routines section looks like this:

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

“Filters” won’t do anything unless you actually select a database to search. Putting a word into the “Containing the word:” section will find all of the tables containing that word in your database.

Routines are procedures and functions that do various things, like the job data cleanup function mentioned earlier. You can add one there, and it will be displayed under that tab.

Events

In the event scheduler tab, you can create and run tasks automatically based on a schedule. The schedule can vary a lot, like running a task every couple of seconds to every few weeks. In order to use it, you will need to manually turn it on by clicking where it says “off” in the picture and then clicking “Add event”.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Triggers in phpMyAdmin

A trigger is a named database object that is associated with a table and that activates when a particular event occurs for the table. You could use a trigger to perform checks of values to be inserted into a table or to perform calculations on values involved in an update.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Privileges in phpMyAdmin

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

The Privileges section allows you to make changes to current user privileges or export them to a new database. There are a handful of options for editing the privileges:

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Designer

The Designer tab can be kind of a mess, as you can see (it’s in the “More” dropdown):

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

The Designer feature is a graphical way of creating, editing, and displaying phpMyAdmin relations. These relations are compatible with those created in phpMyAdmin’s relation view.

To use this feature, you need a properly configured phpMyAdmin configuration storage and must have the $cfg[‘Servers’][$i][‘table_coords’] configured. It’s unlikely you’ll ever need to do anything in this tab.

Wrapping Things Up

Going into the phpMyAdmin area for a WordPress site can be pretty daunting. If you find yourself in that position, it’s important to be familiar with all the different aspects of the dashboard. Understanding the basics of what each section does will help you navigate and get things done a little quicker with less of a headache.

Featured Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Thank you!

Bob Buckley

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How to Help Women in Business Get Past Gender Barriers to Management

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Free Your Money: Strategies for Keeping Your Money In The Best Place Possible - ReadWrite


According to a recent Women in the Workplace study from Lean In and McKinsey, the most significant barrier women face in business these days isn’t the glass ceiling. Instead, it’s the floor—the barrier to entry-level management positions.

Although women now own 4 out of every 10 businesses in the U.S. and are making great strides at the top of the career ladder, they’re still missing from entry-level and middle management positions. That’s something companies of all sizes need to address.

Women in business means greater success

It’s not just about diversity (although that’s a worthy goal in itself). Statistics suggest that hiring women for positions of leadership helps your company succeed. For example, one study from Peakon revealed that when a company’s management includes 50% or more women, its employees feel more loyal to the company and its products or services.

2017 Morgan Stanley report echoes these findings, suggesting that gender diversity in a company translates to enhanced productivity, more significant innovation in product and service design, improved decision-making, and decreased employee turnover, with an associated higher level of worker satisfaction.

Try implementing these three strategies to fix that broken rung at the bottom of the career ladder and get more women into entry-level management roles.

1. Start from the ground up.

As the Women in the Workplace study suggests, the first task for any business committed to helping increase the number of women in leadership positions is to hire and promote women more often.

Your job is to make your workplace more attractive to diverse candidates. Start with neutralizing your job notices and ads. Go over every ad line by line before you release or publicize an open position. Avoid potentially off-putting terms like “rock star” and “ninja.” Some of the more qualified female candidates might interpret those as code for “male candidates preferred.”

Also, consider following the example set by Buffer. Based on the understanding that women are far less likely than men to apply for a job if they don’t precisely match the image created by the ad, Buffer encourages all candidates to apply, even if they feel they don’t meet every single qualification.

If you want to reach more women candidates, consider going where they are. For example, open up your job search by sharing the job notice on platforms and websites with audiences with a significant female component.

2. Commit to taking action

Set actionable goals for both hiring and promoting women into first-level management. Clear establishment of metrics and a commitment to meeting those metrics can help foster positive change for your company as you seek to diversify its management.

For example, if there are two candidates, one male, and one female, the female candidate has a 50% chance of winning the job. However, if there are three female candidates and one male candidate, the possibility that one of those women will win the job goes up to 67%.

However, if you reverse that scenario, with three men and one woman, her chance of winning the job plummets. One way to combat this kind of unconscious bias is to set a concrete goal of advancing an equal number of men and women to the final round of evaluation. Creating this type of rule helps you see beyond mere lip service to the ideals of “promoting the qualified candidates” to truly evaluate your candidates based on their qualifications without unconscious bias.

Finally, seek to establish clear, neutral evaluation criteria. Ensure your hiring and promotion evaluation criteria are based on the actual duties required in the position, not on some outdated assessment that hasn’t been standardized and edited for gender neutrality.

3. Get to the root of unconscious bias.

Training evaluators and supervisors to spot and combat unconscious bias can help root out the obstacles to promoting women to leadership positions in your company. But how do you identify a bias when it’s not consciously held?

One way is to test your systems. For example, the next time your company is hiring for a potential leadership or feeder position and a female candidate is weeded out at a pre-interview stage, consider advancing her to the next round regardless. If she proves herself qualified at the interview based on the feedback you get, you might have some bias at work in your processes.

Additionally, implement committed-based evaluation processes. Groups with balanced representation can help root out and neutralize individual biases. At the same time, they can help provide a more robust assessment of each candidate’s strengths and challenges.

Published First on Due. Read Here.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by RODNAE Productions; Pexels; Thank you!

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Simplifying AI Can Optimize Your Entire Business

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Simplifying AI Can Optimize Your Entire Business


Artificial intelligence is becoming less of a futuristic technology and a more integral aspect of today’s business landscape.

The usage of AI across the business universe is revolutionizing every industry, and Gartner reports that at least 75% of organizations use deep neural networks today.

In financial departments, AI is automating menial tasks and reducing errors in traditional manual workflows.

AI’s unfounded fears

There’s no doubt that businesses utilizing the right AI for the right reasons are seeing exponential benefits. Unfortunately, not every business unit is as excited about the available AI solutions that finance departments are gifted with. Change management is a significant component of failure when implementing any transformative technology.

Many humans still have unfounded fears about it gaining sentience or replacing them, and workers are wary of becoming obsolete once their daily tasks are automated.

But that’s never been the point of AI, machine learning, and automation because they augment human intelligence.

Humans are still very necessary

Take OpenAI’s GPT-3 and Dall-E 2 text- and image-generating models for example. Although they can generate a 1,000-word blog post with images within seconds, there could be a lot of legal liability issues if you were to publish raw content generated by one of these models directly on your website.

The content is never 100% accurate; human interaction is still essential to train, implement, and use AI across the business.

Simplifying AI for the average worker

AI data sets and outputs need to remain accessible, and making them accessible means tapping into everyone throughout the organization to apply their professional judgment to the data sets. This provides the machine’s velocity, variety, and veracity as it learns.

AI in financial departments

AI’s use in financial departments is so successful because payroll, compliance, accounting, taxes, etc., is complicated — especially when you’re a multinational corporation or utilizing the remote global workforce unlocked by the pandemic.

Expansive data sets

But you can import expansive data sets into AI to make it more useful. Streamlining all of this and optimizing processes not only reduces errors, but it frees up human workers to perform more advanced analytics that are closer to the reason they got into the industry in the first place.

How simplifying AI can open up usage possibilities

Simplifying AI for the average worker means they can focus on less menial, more innovative tasks and accomplish much more in less time.

GPT-3 and Dall-E 2 may not have flawless, production-ready outputs, but they utilize neural networks on large datasets of about 175 billion parameters across 45TB of text data. As a result, they’re perfect for ideation and conceptual work to get a firm visual image of the final product to work from.

Pass it around

Although their outputs seem wildly different (text versus images), both of OpenAI’s creations work similarly. While it seems like AI leads to faster advancements, what really happens is we discover one important concept that opens the door to new possibilities.

This is why getting the technology in as many hands as possible is important to see how others find use in the outputs it creates.

How AI brings more value to a business

As the quality of content-generating AI debate rages in the media and online forums, the technology’s uses for internal business functions are even more remarkable.

New ways of looking at things — skilled data scientists

AI across the business continues to open new ways of looking at things and allows skilled data scientists to develop complex models to predict anything you need to know — from machine health to possible market conditions and forecasting.

AI across the business can and will go beyond personal assistants, voice-to-text, and personalized recommendations to bring value to the roles of individual employees.

Better use of time

Leveraging specific AI technologies throughout the business keeps human workers at every level working only on tasks that cannot be automated. This includes processing exceptions to the rules (which there will always be), analyzing AI-generated outputs, and more.

Instead of spending our days manually putting together reports, we will be analyzing pre-generated reports and making advanced intelligent decisions.

Embracing artificial intelligence

When GPT-3 and Dall-E 2 were released, both writers and designers feared for their jobs. However, those fears were relieved as they tested the tools and got more comfortable with them. These tools can generate amazing work to assist writers and designers, but it still requires skill to understand how to prompt it for the desired results.

A professional can edit and polish it throughout the process in a variety of ways that will always require human instinct.

And an experienced photographer or graphic designer will get higher-quality outputs and know how to fix them in posts.

Focusing on higher priorities

Familiarizing yourself with these types of tools helps to better understand what they’re truly capable of and how they can be implemented into existing workflows while seeking better, faster, and more optimized ways to do things. That’s how finance departments leveraged AI to accomplish the most laborious and error-prone aspects of their jobs so they can focus on more important things.

And it won’t be long before AI transforms every aspect of every business.

Featured Image Credit: Sergey Zolkin; Unsplash; Provided by the Author; Thank you!

Melissa Chan

Director of Customer Success at MindBridge

Melissa Chan is Director of Customer Success at MindBridge. She has made it a mission to innovate accounting and auditing.

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