Monthly Archives: December 2017

Beware the Cyber Grinch

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December 26, 2017

At this time of year any mention of holiday theft conjures up images of doorstep package stealers copying the habits of the Grinch. As holiday shopping transforms from busy mall visits to ecommerce, many more vulnerable parcels are left outside homes. You might be tempted to protect your deliveries by buying outdoor cameras, or even leaving out fake packages rigged with blank shotgun shells (these exist now!), but such actions alone would ignore the clear, present day danger: the compromise of your personal information.

During the holidays, there is increased activity which helps hackers operate even more covertly. People travel more and, as a result, spend more time on their computers without the security they have at home. Advertisers increase their promotional attempts in ever evolving ways, making it harder to discern real from fake. Consumers transact more during this period and shippers must handle the added volume both before and after the holidays with returned items. All of this increased traffic creates a fertile environment for fraudsters to steal your information. Mindful of this risk, here are some best practices to reduce vulnerability to cyberattack.

Email – Treat unusual emails with great caution, and be especially suspicious of links and attachments. This time of the year you might receive emails inviting you to “click here” to view an e-card, video, or animation. Be sure to check the actual address to ensure it is from someone with whom you are familiar with no misspellings, and that this is a person who would send you something of this nature. Remember, think before you click!

Advertisements – Double check offers via search. Each year we are peppered with emails announcing attractive year-end deals and savings. Be sure to search the offer to determine its validity. If it’s real you can still take advantage of the offer through accessing the retailer’s site securely. Also, make sure to shop only with businesses you trust.

WiFi/Travel – Always use private or secured WiFi networks wherever possible during your holiday travel. Never access sensitive information from unsecured networks.

Software – Keep upgrades up to date for all your devices, including phone, phone apps, operating systems, anti-virus, firewall, and anti-malware software.

Card Monitoring – Routinely check your purchase history for any unapproved transactions. Many companies have our credit card information so you can never be too diligent.

Passwords – Schedule to change passwords at least every 90 days.

If you feel as though you have been the victim of a cyber-attack, two quick steps might save a lot of headache down the road. The first is to disconnect from the internet immediately. This is the best way to stop an attack that may be in progress. You can disconnect by unplugging from the router or disabling network connectivity through the Start menu settings. Second, let your anti-virus and anti-malware software scan your computer to address and eliminate any vulnerabilities, and make use of the free telephone support offered by many of these software providers.

Have a Cyber-safe Happy New Year!

Adam Stimpert

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Some Like it Cold

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December 18, 2017

Start bundling up – meteorologists are predicting an extra cold winter in the United States. Temperatures could drop to negative 30 degrees in some areas (luckily not Atlanta). Let’s take a look at what industries could benefit from these chilly temperatures.

Roughly 40% of total salt sales in the US are used for road de-icing, which means that salt companies are one of the biggest beneficiaries of a cold winter. More than 22 million tons of road salt are used every year to keep just America’s roads free of snow and ice. A severe winter will likely be a major boon for companies like K+S – the world’s leading producer in the salt business thanks to their acquisition of Morton in 2009.

Another industry that might be positively affected by cold weather is tourism. Many will head to the ski slopes to take advantage of any fresh powder, boosting stocks like Vail Resorts over the holidays. Vail Resorts owns four resorts in Colorado, three in Lake Tahoe, and many more across the states and outside the country. Others will want avoid the cold at all costs, and Florida gets the biggest uptick from winter visitors year after year. If the predictions are correct, hotels and theme parks should see an even bigger boost this year.

Online retailers, who are already very well-positioned given the trend away from traditional brick and mortar shopping, should receive an uplift from buyers who prefer to stay out of the cold, and shop from the warmth of their living rooms. Information from online retailing platforms suggest that the products benefiting most from cold weather include home improvement items like appliances and decor, arts and crafts items, wine accessories and music equipment. The COO of one online retailer provides the somewhat obvious explanation that “our data seems to indicate that in cold weather, our customers spend a lot of time at home”. In practice there is a dual commercial benefit to cold weather, people shop online more, and spend more on their homes.

Even more obvious is the conclusion that winter apparel makers will be delighted with the latest winter weather forecasts. Companies that should see success include VF Corporation, who own North Face, known for its coats, and Timberland, famous for its winter boots. North Face has been a dominant brand among outdoor enthusiasts for years, but recently even the average couch potato can now be seen sporting North Face gear.

Pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson do well in the winter for many reasons. As temperatures drop, sales for its moisturizing products like Aveeno and Neutrogena rise. J&J also benefits from its extensive lineup of flu and cold products such as Sudafed and Tylenol, which sell well in the winter when more people catch colds. It will be interesting to see which industries benefit most from what promises to be the few unusually cold months ahead.

Dan Hall

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