Other Ways To Connect

Friday, December 27, 2013

Charitable Giving and End of the Year Bookkeeping

One of the things I tackle in the last couple weeks of the year is reviewing our accounts and making final charitable contributions for the year.

While I give to various organizations throughout the year, my household's income varies from year to year, so doing an end-of-the year review shows how much we can afford to give in a given year.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas from SafelyFiled

We want to take this time away from our normal blogging topics and simply wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2014.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Your Digital Afterlife

We have the ability to access and track finances, purchase items, store digital assets such as books and music in the cloud to save room on our devices and stay in touch with friends and family who may live across the globe, all without leaving the house.  It’s great to have this convenience.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Black Friday

The Frenzy is Coming!  The Frenzy is Coming!

Back when I was in my 20's I usually started my Christmas shopping on December 24th with a trip to the liquor store.  Even grandma got her schnapps.  But those days are long gone and though I don't really miss them, I miss that blissful stupidity that let me think that I had Christmas covered.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Caregivers

Did you know that November is National Caregiver month in the U.S?  Is that a big deal? 


According to an article by the Department of Health & Human Services' Administration On Aging, family caregivers provide an estimated $450 billion worth of uncompensated care to loved ones annually.  It goes on to say that unpaid family caregivers will likely continue to be the largest source of long-term care services in the U.S.  You can read the full article here.  So yes, it's a pretty big deal.

SafelyFiled's Mark Snow wrote a blog earlier this year about caring for his 90-year old mother that gave some good information regarding what you may need to consider when caring for elderly parents.  In his case, his Mom is still able to live independently in her own home but for many caregivers, they are the sole full-time caregiver for their loved ones without any additional funding or assistance.  With all that caregivers have to do to care for their loved ones, the last thing they need to do is to worry about finding important information in the event of a medical emergency, death of loved one, or any unforeseeable legal issues.

Ideas to Recognize and Encourage Caregivers in your life

 

Caregivers are giving out so much of themselves for others.  There are some things you can do to encourage them.  Here some ideas mentioned in the Administration On Aging article mentioned above:

  • Recognize caregivers in your community, in your organization and in your family and host a get-together to honor caregivers in your family and/or community.
  • Locate a community care center or community space and organize a Caregiver's awareness event.
  • Send an e-card to a caregiver. AoA offers free e-cards for caregivers.
  • Post on Facebook that November is National Caregivers Month and encourage your network to acknowledge caregivers in their families and communities.
Although caregivers may know that they should gather, organize and secure necessary important documents and records for themselves and those they're caring for, they probably don't have time to make that the necessary priority so here are some ways you might be able to help them in that regard:

  • Download our free checklists that are applicable to the caregiver's situation which can be used to gather, record and organize necessary documents.
  • Read specific information about how SafelyFiled can be used for caregivers on our Caregiver's page.
  • Volunteer to help the caregiver gather those important documents/files and then offer to scan them or use your smart phone to make digital copies of them.

SafelyFiled Discount Code for Caregivers 

 

We are offering a special promo code for Caregivers.  Use the promo code GIVECARE when signing up for a SafelyFiled account to get the first year of secure file storage and access for only $42.  This account can hold up to 1000 documents, images and/or videos for that price.  Each file can be as large as 1GB each.  Enroll at this link and that discount code will be filled in for you automatically.

Then maybe you can help upload those important documents for the caregivers and even set up reminders for certain actions that need to be done in the future.

How else can you recognize and assist a caregiver today?  The holidays are coming.  Consider helping with Christmas shopping, mailing out cards, and putting up decorations.  Small things that many of us take for granted can be of great help to someone who is focused on helping others.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Protecting Intellectual Property

Theft Is Too Easy Now


Property is property, whether it is real estate, cash or intellectual.  And getting ripped off is getting ripped off, whether you're being held up with a gun, are a victim of a financial scam artist or see your work copied or even sold on the Internet, without any payment to you.


In a very interesting article in last week's New York Times' Sunday Review, writer and cartoonist, Tim Kreider discusses the "special" way artists, whether writers, illustrators, composers or musicians, find their efforts viewed.  For some reason, while their work is valued, it's not valued enough to command payment.  Many people think that the artist will benefit from "exposure" or "eyeballs."  That's a serious problem because, as he correctly points out, exposure and eyeballs are not accepted currency at the grocery store.

He also argues that valuing intellectual property (IP) is a problem for many.  "People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing." 

So, whether you are wildly successful or struggling, you've got enough of a problem getting appreciated (and paid) for doing what you love and what you're good at.  Don't make it any easier for the thieves.  Protect your intellectual property and do all you can to keep it safe. 

Protect Your IP Like It's Cash

If you had a pile of hundred-dollar bills, you wouldn't keep it on the front seat of your car, windows opened and doors unlocked.  You wouldn't keep the money in the oven, thinking that nobody would look there for it. You wouldn't just hand it to an acquaintance, thinking that you'd get it back whenever you asked for it.

You would get most of that money out of your house.  You'd deposit it in a bank or keep it in a safe deposit box.  But you wouldn't get it out of your house by mailing it in a clear envelope to the bank for deposit.  You'd take it there yourself.

Though we understand that our Intellectual Property can be as valuable as cash, we often don't treat it like cash.  We email it unencrypted to our agents or publishers, trusting that no hacker will have put a sniffer on a server, intercepting the email as easily as picking up a pile of cash from the front seat of an unlocked car.  We store it on our computer, where a hard drive crash or a malicious virus can destroy the property as easily as an oven can incinerate cash.  And we often think we are putting it in a safe place by uploading it to a remote server, sending it out unencrypted like cash in a clear envelope, and trusting that dozens of people, from the letter sorter at the post office to the bank delivery person will never be tempted. 

What Do You Do?

There are services available that encrypt your documents, store them encrypted, keep them off of your computer and scan them for viruses.  Not all are right for everybody, but take a look at them.  You will want a service that enables encryption both in storage and in transmission, provides a virus check, and encourages you to not just back up the file, but actually take it off of your computer so spyware can't get to it.

You will want a service that demands strong passwords and that keeps an audit trail of every time a file was uploaded, downloaded, viewed or modified.  You'll want to use the service as a substitute for unsecured email, meaning that you can give secure access to certain individuals like your agent, editor or publisher.  

And you are justifiably wary of "free" sites but you don't want to pay too much.

There are a number of companies that offer some of the services that may work for you.  We are, of course, partial to what our own company, SafelyFiled offers.  Check it out out here.  But no matter who you use, we urge you to think about your work as if it were cash.  Stay alert for the bad guys who want to steal it, from the people who simply don't think they are doing any thing wrong by copying it without your permission and from computer crashes and viruses.

It's your property.  Protect it likes it's cash.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Remembrance of Passwords Past

The weakest point of security in most systems is when you log in.  If the attacker can convince the system he is you, then fancy encryption and cryptography doesn't help.  

The act of proving your identity to the system is called authentication.  On most web-based systems authentication is performed by submitting a password.  Today passwords are a necessary evil, and we have discussed them in a couple articles in the past year: Password Frustration and  Password Perils.

Are you who you say you are?  Prove it to me!

The problem with passwords  

The tricky thing about passwords is they need to be hard for others to guess and easy for you to remember.  So there is a tension between complexity and randomness.  Your child's name is easy to remember, but also easy to guess for anyone who knows you.  Also any regular word is likely to be checked by an attacker with an automatic password checking script.

As a trade off you end up with a somewhat random password.  But your bank has different password requirements than your credit card company, and they both want you to change your password every 6 months.  So now you are tracking many passwords that change over time.

Remembering passwords 

In Password Frustration, Terri discusses her experience using LastPass to store all of your passwords encrypted and unlocked by a single password, but even a low tech paper-only password list can work.  This is my mother's solution.  In her home office she has a notebook that has a list of all of her accounts and the associated passwords.  A simple and effective solution.

Of course, there are downsides to a paper password list.  If an attacker gets your list, then he is in.  This is a problem if you are worried about people in your family breaking into your accounts.  But if you are worried about the far off Romanian hacker, then a paper list of passwords in your house is pretty safe (as long as there isn't a fire or a flood).

Resetting passwords 

Ultimately though, most of us will forget passwords and will need to get our passwords reset.  This password reset process is the other major weak link in most systems.  It is very vulnerable to social engineering or just a bit of research about your target.

The service provider wants to make resetting passwords easy for their customers.  After all, they want to keep you happy and using their service as much as possible.  But a good service provider will protect their customers from others trying to take over their accounts at the cost of some short term inconvenience.

Most services will reset your password if you can answer some security questions.  Sounds great.  No one should know the answers except the customer.  In general this may be true, but not if you are well known to your attacker.  An extreme example is a famous person like Sarah Palin.  An attacker was able to reset her yahoo email account password (and thus access her email) during the 2008 presidential campaign by researching the answers to her security questions (such as her high school and her birth date).

But even a regular person can have their account taken over through social engineering an organization's customer service.  Last summer tech reporter, Matt Honan, had his digital life erased in the course of a couple hours.  The key to the attack was getting customer service at Apple and Amazon to reset a password and give them some key bits of information.  Honan had "daisy-chained" his accounts, so getting into the amazon account meant that the attacker could use that account to get into other accounts (e.g. Apple then Google then Twitter).  Most of us have some daisy-chained accounts these days.  For example, many services will allow you to register with your Facebook ID.  If your Facebook account is compromised, those other accounts that use the Facebook ID are also compromised.

That is scary stuff.  What can you do about it?  Give up the Internet and hide in a cave?  Probably not.  Here are some things you can do to protect yourself.  
  • First, set your security questions on your online services, but think about your answers.  If the answer is something that is widely known or could be easily looked up (e.g. What is your wedding date?), come up with a scheme for adjusting your answer that you will remember (e.g. add 10 years to the date).
  • Second, review the password reset policies of your online services.  Read about their policies, or call customer service and see what data they need from you to perform actions or give you sensitive information about your account.  If it seemed too easy to access information, reconsider using that service.
  • Third, be careful of "daisy-chaining" your accounts.  This was what made the attack on Matt Honan so devastating. Once the attackers reset one account password,  they were into his other accounts as well. This daisy-chaining is very convenient (fewer passwords to remember) but as with most things in security has its risks.
In security, as in much of life, there are no easy answers.  The best thing you can do is be vigilant about where your data is and who has access to it.  Make the tradeoff between security and availability that works best for you and your family.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Sandwich Generation


What is the Sandwiched Generation?


The definition from Wikipedia reads:  The Sandwich generation is a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children.

According to the Pew Research Center, just over 1 of every 8 Americans aged 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent.  In addition, between 7 to 10 million adults are caring for their aging parents from a long distance.
This number will continue to increase. US Census Bureau statistics indicate that the number of Americans aged 65 or older will double by the year 2030, to over 70 million.

Are you traditional, club or open-faced?

 

Carol Abaya from www.sandwichgeneration.com has even identified different types of situations, each with their own challenges.  Her definitions are amusing, yet very insightful:

  • Traditional: those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and/or help and their own children.
  • Club Sandwich: those in their 50s or 60s sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren, or those in their 30s and 40s, with young children, aging parents and grandparents.
  • Open-Faced: anyone else involved in elder care. [1]


How do you manage and track important information for everyone? 


We all know that there are very important documents that we need to keep for our own household.  The USA Government website here gives some very detailed information regarding what files every household should keep and have available for different scenarios. Now multiply this by the other households (families) you're responsible for.  That is a lot of information you need to keep safe, sort, find and make available to others when it’s needed.  And sometimes, say during an emergency or sudden illness, it’s needed very, very quickly.

This is the very reason that SafelyFiled came to be.  Most of us at SafelyFiled are in the sandwiched generation.  We are executors of our parent's estates or are responsible for their care full or part time.  All of us have children or young adult offspring who are dealing with college or setting up their own careers.  We all have families who look to us for guidance and assistance, and some of us have grandchildren getting ready to move into the young adult stage or in one team member's case, depend on us for most of their care and well-being. These are big responsibilities and we certainly need all the help we can get.

There are ways to make it easier


You probably could have separate paper folders for each person, with all the important documents in them.  But what if you have siblings who help with the care?  Are you going to set up and maintain their files too?  Can you trust them to do it themselves?  It’s a lot of work keeping track of every change in medication, every immunization, and every password you use to pay bills online.  Do you need to notify your sister or brother every time mom changes her meds or you pay her taxes?

And what if you take a much-needed vacation or are traveling on business?  Your responsibilities don’t stop just because you’re not at home.  What if you needed an actual paper original?  Could you or somebody else quickly find it?  If you’re not at home, could you tell your spouse or one of your children exactly where to find it?

There is no way any one of us could easily organize, store and then find all the important documents in a paper-based system.  And the challenge is even greater when we are caring for family members who live hundreds of miles away. 

Secure, organized and sharable cloud (remote) storage


Unless you have attorneys or accountants on retainer and available to you 24/7, the only way to efficiently organize, manage, share and have access to all the files you need as a member of the sandwiched generation is to take advantage of the remote storage and organization services offered on the internet.  Take a look at them.  Whichever one you choose needs to be highly secure, lets you identify where originals are located, helps you organize, helps you share certain documents with siblings or others and is accessible from anywhere.

And please check out SafelyFiled.  We designed it for ourselves, sandwiched, responsible adults with too much to do, too much responsibility and too little time.  When you use it, we hope you’ll find, like we do, that it makes your life a little easier and that you’ll sleep better at night knowing that at least one of your responsibilities is fully under control

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Nonprofits & SafelyFiled

There are great not-for-profit organizations doing wonderful things in and for our communities.  Here at SafelyFiled, we want to say "thank you".

 

It's hard to image where our country would be without the nonprofit organizations that are working behind the scenes in our communities.  People come together as volunteers to give of their time, talents and treasure.  This is a great testimony to the love that many have for their fellow man.  But it is not without challenges. 

One such challenge relates to proper storage, safeguarding and sharing of important and often times sensitive information.  This can be especially challenging for volunteer organizations where there is a constant turn-over of personnel.   The people leading or working on a team today may not be the same from yesterday or tomorrow.

 

Practices that make for profit business successful should be used for nonprofits as well

 

For profit businesses and organizations know that an important key to success is learning from past mistakes, keeping good records, and ensuring business continuity is in place. If something happens to members of their staff there is documentation in place to ensure that someone else can step in and keep things going. 

Unfortunately, these same disciplines aren't always applied in nonprofit organizations.  The cost of storing and sharing these files is a big factor.  Here at SafelyFiled, many of our team members are involved in nonprofit organizations and know first hand the risks and frustrations associated with records not being kept, accessible or effectively communicated with the appropriate people when needed.

So, in the spirit of sharing from lessons learned and providing a very inexpensive solution to the problem, we're offering the following information.   


Problem
Solution
Sensitive records are needed to be kept for historical, financial or tax purposes. They need to be kept safe but take up lots of storage space.
Scan those documents and store them in SafelyFiled for safe keeping that doesn’t take up space in your offices and are accessible only by authorized persons. (Not sure how long they need to be kept?  Check out our Doc Retention Checklist)
Teams keep changing and many things are reinvented because historical data isn’t available.
Keep meeting minutes, lessons learned, past project processes and other pertinent information in SafelyFiled and share those files with whomever is currently on the team.  Those person’s access can be removed at any time when they no longer need that information.
We need to track who reviews certain records or files
SafelyFiled provides activity logging that cannot be removed or edited in any way.  From the moment a document is uploaded, everything that is viewed, uploaded, downloaded or printed, is recorded in the activity log along with the date/time stamp, and the user’s login who took the action.
We have multiple different teams working on projects that need to share information for a short time.
With SafelyFiled’s Manage Sharing feature, you can grant access to folders or files on an as needed basis.  You can even send automatic reminders regarding certain files or records.
Sometimes we need to communicate sensitive information between teams quickly and email is the only solution for us at this time.
Email is not secure.  You can type in the wrong address that would put the info in the wrong hands and emails can be easily intercepted.  SafelyFiled provides a way for you to send a link to a specific document located within the account via email for quick notification.  The receiver then has to sign into SafelyFiled with their own login and password to access the sensitive information.  You also will have a record of that activity as mentioned above.
We have volunteers coming off and on projects frequently and we struggle with how to communicate information to them regarding those projects.
Again, with SafelyFiled, you can invite those new volunteers to participate in your organization’s SafelyFiled account, grant them access only to the project files they need to see, and at the same time keep all of that information in one location without risk of loss or damage.
Project delays happen often because key volunteers or project members are traveling with business or otherwise out of the area.
SafelyFiled is accessible from anywhere (as long as there is internet access), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Simply send a link to the document you need that person(s) to review or comment on and they can log in and take the necessary actions. 
We have years and years worth of records and files, sometimes it is very hard to find what we’re looking for.
With SafelyFiled’s tagging and keyword features, finding needed information among thousands of documents is easy.  Everything that is input in the title, notes, tag(s), the location field (if a paper copy is needing to be kept and filed) and the "Relates To" field, are all searchable. 
We have lots of files that need to be scanned and uploaded to SafelyFiled
This might be another opportunity for volunteers to help. Start slow with documents that are important today and then build on that.  For documents that are not of a sensitive nature, you can use volunteers or even look around for paid services that are willing to do this for you. We have some listed on our Affiliations page.

Get the word out to nonprofit organizations you know!


SafelyFiled Pro Lite comes with a whopping 1 terabyte of storage and up to 50 sharing participants for the low price of $48 a YEAR!  Enroll and sign up and see more feature options here.

We are available to host one-on-one training sessions for nonprofits via virtual webinars if needed.

Thank you for volunteering and serving us all in our communities!







Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What are Life Hacks?

Improving productivity is easier than ever.

"Life hacks" or "lifehack" are terms that you'll be hearing a lot next year.  And they are not a bad thing.  In fact, they're the NEXT BIG THING  from internet start-ups in improving productivity.

So we thought we'd give you a head's up.

What's a Hack?

You hear people say things like, "I've been hacked."  Usually they mean that a bad guy somehow got their personal information from their computer or smart phone.  That certainly is not good, but a few decades ago, the term, "hack," was meant as a compliment to a computer programer who figured out a way to do something new.  So, for example, the programmer who figured out how to make the text in your emails get wider or narrower depending on how you sized your screen, well, he probably got some great compliments from his fellow programmers.  They probably said, "That's a nice hack."  That's the ultimate programmer compliment. (But getting paid millions for the hack still beats a compliment any day.) 

What are Life Hacks?

Life hacks are something that make your life more efficient.  They're not necessarily computer-related.  It could be something as simple as putting rock-solid ice cream in the microwave for a few seconds so you can scoop it, or pre-printing labels for packages you send to your kids at college.  There's even a site, lifehacker.com that blogs about all sorts of life hacks. Here is another very interesting site with quite a few original ideas for life hacks.

Some time next year you'll hear quite a bit about new "Life Hacking" companies with new products, or apps, usually for smart phones, tablets or laptops, that try to make your life easier.  There are some already out there.  One that I've used for years, Yelp, helps me and millions of others find restaurants, gas stations and drug stores while we're traveling.  It wasn't originally called a "Life Hacking" app, but it is.

A Life Hack for Important Stuff

If you find yourself spending too much time trying to find important information and papers, then you might just be a candidate for improving productivity with a life hack app.
  • Can't find your car title?  There's a life hack app for that.
  • Need to keep track of your meds?  There's a life hack app for that.
  • Want the kids to be able to find your life insurance policies and will?  There's a life hack app for that. 
  • Want to be able to share 40 minutes of old birthday party video to torture your kids?  There's a life hack app for that too.
But if you have an individual app for each of those functions, you'll need a life hack app to keep track of all of your life hacks apps.  So, what do you do?

A number of companies, SafelyFiled included, offer a way to organize, store and share important documents, photos, videos and audio files.  Most of them offer security and a way to search for the stuff you've saved, even if you didn't do a good job of organizing it.  Take a look at as many as you can and figure out what's right for you.  We've already done a blog comparing SafelyFiled to Dropbox and we'll be releasing some other comparisons soon.  I personally prefer SafelyFiled.  (What did you expect?)  No learning curve to figure out how to use it.

Why Should You Be Interested?

We seem to be busier now than we ever were.  The demands on our time don't seem to be decreasing.  So, any life hacks that really work are worth a look.  If you are an employer, a good hack can improve labor productivity.  On the personal side, a good life hack can help anybody improve productivity.  And one that helps not only you, but your entire family, is certainly one to consider.

And now you have a new term to sprinkle into your conversations, too.

If you want to know more, here's a list of interesting sites to explore.  They represent various and conflicting views of lifehacks.

Blogs
Cracked

Video






Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Business Records in the Cloud

Do You Hide Your Money In The Furnace?


My Uncle Ed was born in 1919.  He had 4 uncles, all born in the 1890’s.  His Uncle Frank is the one I remember best.  He lived through World War I and the Great Depression.

During the Great Depression, many banks failed and because there was no FDIC, depositors lost their money.  So many of that era never trusted banks again and literally kept money in a mattress, in the ice box (this was before refrigerators), or anywhere else they thought a thief wouldn’t look.

One October day, many years ago, Uncle Frank asked my Uncle Ed to help him get the furnace started.  (As their only living relative, Uncle Ed watched over his elderly uncles.)  It was a very old coal furnace and so Uncle Ed checked the firebox and saw a paper bag inside.  He took the bag out, opened it and saw thousands of dollars in cash.  He questioned Uncle Frank who said that that was where he hid his money.  Uncle Ed could only wonder how many tens of thousands of dollars literally went up in smoke over the years.

Uncle Frank explained that he had lost money when his bank went out of business in the 1930’s and he learned his lesson, “Never trust a bank again.”

Learning a lesson too well

Unfortunately he learned it too well.  He never took into account that things change - the FDIC, the reporting requirements and the powers of the Fed made his suspicion of banks obsolete.   But, he just couldn’t unlearn his lesson and as a result it probably cost him tens of thousands of dollars.

As a business owner, you’ve run up against similar attitudes.  There are customers who refuse to give you their email addresses, fearing that you’ll somehow pave the way for a hacker to get into their computer.   But what about you?  Have you learned any lessons too well?  Does that put your business at risk?

Where do you keep your important business documents, like business licenses, corporate minutes, inventory records and tax returns?  Your accounting system may offer off-site or cloud back up, but do you take advantage of it?  What about your prospect list and other data about your customers?  If something happened to your office, could you duplicate those records?

Most business owners know about identity theft and mistakes that some large companies make by failing to secure data.  Your email may have been spoofed, and you may have accidentally put an attachment on the wrong email.  Maybe you were a victim of cyber fraud or your computer was hacked.  Perhaps you've learned a lesson to never trust anything online again.

Your business’s data is as valuable as cash
But you might be like Uncle Frank, failing to consider improved technologies and procedures.  Theft of your laptop or a fire, flood, hurricane or tornado can destroy all your data just as quickly as a furnace can burn cash.  So, we urge you to closely look into what is commonly referred to as “cloud“ storage.

Cloud storage means you move your data over the internet to a hard drive that is in a location you have no control over.  Risky?  Well, if you use a bank, you let them actually use your money and lend it to businesses and homeowners you don’t know.  You have no control over it.  All you have in return is a promise by a stranger to the bank to repay your money over time.  But you accept that risk because you have confidence in the bank and the controls it has in place to prevent loss.

Data can be safer “in the cloud” than in your office
A well-managed cloud storage company that has procedures in place to protect your data both during transmission and in storage is like a well-run bank.  It has ways to make sure only authorized persons can withdraw your data, like a bank makes sure only authorized persons can take money out of your account.  Encryption during transmission is like having cash move via an armored car, with bonded employees.  Not having encrypted transmission (like just about all email) is like having the bank call a cab company and asking the cabbie to deliver the cash.  Will it get there?  Usually, but I don’t think you should feel comfortable.

What about encryption during storage?  Without it, it’s like the bank not locking its doors at night.  And how about the teller requiring an ID before cashing a check?  Strong passwords and serious rules on dealing with forgotten passwords are the cyber equivalent of the mandatory ID.

So while you may feel you are in control, keeping data on your own hard drive has risks that are actually greater than keeping the data in the cloud.  Even if your computer is not lost, stolen or destroyed, you are vulnerable to malicious programs that can take over your computer, transmit your data to a bad guy, then wipe it out or corrupt it.  Even more likely, your hard drive can crash and your data can be wiped out.  Just like keeping your cash in the furnace.

Let the experts protect your data
There are some online storage and organizational companies that have all the necessary procedures, rules and protections in place to protect your data.  Not all do, so you need to do a bit of research.  We encourage you to look around.  We think you'll find that SafelyFiled is superior in many ways, including the level of security, organization, ease of use and price.

Most websites provide an explanation of the protections they have in place.  Read the security page.  If something important like data encryption during storage is not on the list, email or call and ask why.  If it’s not part of the security, look at other companies.

But once you find a good storage company, consider the benefits of having your data protected by experts.  It’s a great way to protect your company’s important information and sleep better at night.

Don’t be like Uncle Frank.  Keep you data out of the furnace.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Tips for Parents Sending Kids to College

Every time we took the kids to college, the car was so packed that we didn't have room for even an extra stick of gum.  This was because we had spent the two prior weeks at Target, IKEA and Kohls.  

We made dozens of trips to Chicago, New York and Boston.  Over the years I co-signed for 10 years of apartment leases, three credit cards and who knows what else.  I wiped away my wife's tears every time we left the kids at school.  (It got only a little easier as the years went by.)  And I lost count of the health insurance cards I had to mail out.

We argued with landlords for a full return of security deposits.  We sent out copies of birth certificates and social security cards for jobs.  We had to report to the police the serial numbers of the stolen TV and make sure the State Department had the number of the stolen passport.

It all worked out just fine.  But there are a few things I would have done differently.  So please take a minute or so to keep reading and maybe you'll see something you hadn't thought of.

 

Some tips for parents

1.  Make sure you have extra tissues in the car for the tears.
2.  Take pictures of the apartment or dorm room before anybody moves in.
3.  Get your own copy of the lease, with the signatures of every lessee and all the co-signers.  (I can guarantee you won't be able to easily find it if you don't have your own copy.)
4.  Save the receipts for all the electronics and other expensive stuff.
5.  Make sure you have a copy of the health insurance cards, whether your child is on your plan or a school plan. (Wallets and purses get lost or stolen.)
6.  Make copies of birth certificates, passports, immunization records, important medical records and credit cards.
7.  Take pictures of the dorm room or apartment after the kids move out (so you can prove it was in good shape).
8.  Record the location of the stuff your child will need to get a job, like original letters of recommendation, key projects, and business cards collected over the years at school.  You have no idea how hard it is to find a piece of paper or a business card hiding in a garage or basement full of cryptically labeled boxes.
9.  Make sure you get a copy of the gym membership your scholar signed up for.  (In the fine print you may see that the only way to cancel is to send a certified letter to a special address.)

Events at college inspired SafelyFiled

In our patent application, we were required to describe some real-life uses for SafelyFiled and my family's experiences with the children's moves to and from school were a part of the application.  Unfortunately, there was no SafelyFiled back when my kids were in college and I can remember spending quite a bit of time filing the documents mentioned above and then, when I needed them, trying to remember where I had filed them. 

With the kids being so far away, we also had to send some sensitive documents via email - something that I would never do again.  Sending an email is like sending a postcard - not too secure.  But now with SafelyFiled, your kids can securely access their own documents (stored in your account) and maybe you won't get a call from the kids, like I did, at 11 at night saying they needed copies of their birth certificates for job applications by 9 the next morning.

The pre-move in and post-move out pictures of the apartments can be sent into SafelyFiled, and with the audit trail time stamp, there's proof of when the pictures were uploaded. (That really helps when talking to a landlord.)  But what you might find the most valuable is your peace of mind when you know you have a way to quickly transmit medical records in the middle of the night to a hospital or emergency clinic.  It's important for a treating physician to know about allergies, medical conditions and medications.

And when they come back

When my daughter was moving back from New York, she had a cache of business cards and original letters of recommendation that we put in a special place, a place that we would never forget, so we could find them while she was applying for a job.  I wish I had just taken a picture of that special place and saved the picture with an attached note.  We found the cards and the letters 18 months after she moved back, in a nightstand we had shoved in a corner of the basement because we didn't need it in her old bedroom. 

And that health club - every month when I opened my credit card bill, I saw that health club charge.  I think I once saw it laughing at me.  I tried to cancel with the credit card company, but they refused to do so, saying I had to send that stupid cancellation letter to that stupid secret address.  And every month I vowed that the next day my daughter and I would search for the contract.  Of course we forgot.  I don't want to admit how long this went on,  but we eventually did get the cancellation to stick.

Cancelling three months earlier would have more than paid for two years of SafelyFiled.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

September is National Disaster Preparedness Month---What's Your Plan?

Ah.....summer is here.  Don't you just love summer?  Hot days spent outdoors at the beach, in the mountains, by the pool or at campgrounds.  I can sense my blood pressure dropping as I write this.


Now that the summer months are here, the threat of tornadoes has lessened somewhat but now hurricane season is here.  For those who live in coastal areas, hurricane season is a real concern.  Even if you don't live right on the water, many living hundreds of miles inland of the hurricane's path can and often are affected in the form of flooding from torrential rain, high winds and tornadoes. (So much for that low blood pressure).

What if you had to evacuate your home?


SafelyFiled has recently become a member of FEMA.gov's National Disaster Committee where businesses, non-profit organizations and private citizens come together to provide information and services to the public regarding disaster planning and response.  One helpful article put out by that committee is Evacuation Preparations which you can read here.


If you find that you need to evacuate yourself and family, the article above lists some things you can and should do as a part of that plan.  But one thing it doesn't mention that should be a part of your evacuation plan is your important documents.  Documents such as your passports, medical records, mortgage paperwork, immunization records, insurance policies and the like.  Many of us have these documents in our homes in a "safe" place but may not even think about taking them with us if we had to vacate our homes. If your home is destroyed in a disaster, those original copies of documents may be destroyed as well and it can take weeks and even months to get them replaced and at a cost. 

No plan?  Here's some ideas to get you started.


We have a few ideas for you to think about getting into place as a part of your action plan where your important documents are concerned:

 1.  Scan or take digital images of all your important documents and put those digital images into SafelyFiled.  Give access to those files to loved ones, friends or professionals who may need access to them in the event something happens to you or if you're in a place where you can't get internet access yourself.   Use the Location Field of SafelyFiled to indicate where the original copies of those documents are if originals are kept and needed for legal purposes. 

 2.  Put originals of documents in a place where they are safe from fire, flood or other disaster but are accessible where you can get to them quickly to take with you if needed.  One of our affiliates,  LifeInCase, has a handy case that you can purchase to store originals in and be easily grabbed for quick evacuation.  Watch their video for more info.  They offer SafelyFiled members a 10% discount on these handy cases if you place an order using the promo code SAFELYFILED at check out.

 3.  Take a photo inventory of your home and contents, including serial numbers of electronics and appliances and put those photos in your SafelyFiled account.  Be sure to scan and upload any associated warranties with those items too.  This is a great idea to do anyway and then grant access to those files to your insurance agent.  There are services available to do this for you if don't have the time.  One such service can be found on our Affiliation page called Picture This Inventory (www.picturethisinventory.com).

We have free checklists on our website for you that can be downloaded and used to help gather together important documents.  Included in our checklists is one that specifically talks about the retention periods for certain files and suggestions on who you may need to share those files with. Be sure to take advantage of those checklists as needed.

Peace of mind


There are so many things that we have no control over.  But there is great peace of mind knowing you've been proactive in taking necessary precautions in the event of tragedy.

Now my blood pressure has dropped again :-)





Monday, July 29, 2013

Protecting yourself from the phisher

Not a day goes by when you don't receive an odd email, tweet, or Facebook update from a friend or acquaintance imploring you to click a link to see a funny cat video or learn about a hot stock tip. Unless you have a very unusual set of friends, it is unlikely that these are legitimate messages. How does this happen?  How can you protect yourself from becoming a victim and becoming a source of spam messages for your friends?


How does the bad guy hack my account?

Perhaps he blindly guessed your password. Historically, many people have had very weak passwords, but most services impose some strength checks on passwords these days. Or perhaps the service you were using was hacked and your password was released. If this was the case, you either have read about it in the news, or your service was required to notify you. 

Be careful to not get hooked!
It is more likely that you were phished. The bad guy tricked you into clicking on a link that you thought was legitimate but in fact led to a site or software owned by the bad guy. This is primarily a social attack. The email or tweet appears to be from your friend or your bank. Either the message was spoofed (not really sent by the bank or friend), or your friend has already been hacked, and the attacker is using a legitimate account to send you a message.

In the past 5 years, phishing attacks have escalated to more directed attacks called spear phishing. A basic phishing attack is not directed at all. It gets a bunch of email addresses and sends a generic message about their Bank of America account with no knowledge of whether their target has a Bank of America account or not. With spear phishing, the attacker knows something about you, so the message will be more personalized and believable. If the attacker knows you just applied for a loan with Citibank, he can send a message about your loan application, and you will be far more likely to open that link.

What happens when I click on a bad link?

It is possible that the item you are tricked to click on is an executable or an infected word or pdf file. Perhaps it appears that your friend has sent you a MS Word document with the secrets of great riches. By opening that document, you are giving the bad guy the ability to execute code on your machine. That means he can install programs to use your machine later (e.g. to send spam to others) or to gather information from your machine (e.g. tracking your keystrokes to find other passwords and account numbers).

So never open documents, zip files, or executables sent to you when you are not expecting them. Legitimate companies do not send attachments. Most friends are not going to send your attachments either unless you are actively collaborating on something.

The link may just be to another web site. That can harm you in a couple ways. The page may include some malicious javascript. Javascript is limited in what it can do, but it can grab session tracking cookies and potentially take over an active session you have with your bank or credit card company. When accessing sensitive sites like your bank, you want to limit access within the same browser to other sites.

In the classic phishing attack, the link will take you to a web page that looks like the real login page for your bank. So you enter your username and password. The bad guy stores that away, logs in for you, and redirects you to the real bank site. Now the bad guy has your user name and password to login to your account at his convenience. In the case of social media sites, the bad guy may log in as you to propagate the attack to your friends.

While having the bad guy get access to your facebook or twitter account may be embarrassing, it could be worse. Many people use the same password everywhere, and the bad guy knows that. He will be trying more interesting services like banks and credit card sites with the social media login information.

How do I protect myself?

Always be cautious when clicking on links from emails, tweets and facebook. Most email, twitter, facebook, etc. clients will show the actual link as a pop up or at the bottom of the page. Many messages are formatted now to show user friendly names for links. So while the email says "Bank of America Login", the link may well be http://hackmenow.com instead of http://www.bankofamerica.com.

The Wombat Security Technologies group from Carnegie Mellon University has a game called Anti-Phishing Phil which trains you on identifying untrustworthy links. Check out the demo version.

Be skeptical about whether an attractive email is legitimate. Do you have a relationship with the company in question?  If Bank of America sends you an email saying they owe you $10,000, it is probably not legitimate particularly if you don't have an account with Bank of America. Or your Aunt Matilda is probably not going to be sending your links with opportunities to get rich via a hot stock tip.

Do not share passwords between services. At least do not share passwords between services that  have less critical information (e.g. Facebook) and those that have critical information (e.g., your bank). Getting hacked on Facebook is embarrassing. Getting hacked on your bank site can be bad for your financial future.

I clicked on an unsavory link. What should I do now?

The attacks are getting better and more sophisticated. It is likely that at some point you will be tricked into entering your Facebook account information first thing in the morning. What do you do now?

If you downloaded and opened or executed a file (e.g. a pdf, exe, doc, or zip file), run a deep virus scan on your computer. If the scan doesn't reveal anything, don't be too relieved. If it is a new attack, it may not yet be characterized by the scanners. You may want to take your computer to a local computer service company to perform a deeper analysis. Do the scan even if you are running an Apple device. While Windows devices have the bad reputation, Apple devices are also vulnerable to attack, particularly if you execute the program for the attacker.

If you entered your password into a bogus site, change your password now. If you use the same password on other sites, change your passwords there as well. Don't wait for folks to tell your that you are sending odd emails. Do it now!

If your friends start reporting getting odd emails or tweets from you, assume you have been hacked and didn't realize it. Change your passwords for the service sending the odd messages and for any other services that share that password.

Good luck out there! A little vigilance will keep your safe in your Internet travels.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Grow Your Practice With SafelyFiled


For lawyers, financial and estate planners, accountants and professional organizers - an easier way to organize and securely communicate with your clients.

Last year we introduced SafelyFiled as a secure and organized electronic safe deposit box for your important documents.  But we always knew that that was just a start.  So in the past few months, based on member requests and suggestions, we have made some changes that take advantage of SafelyFiled’s powerful and flexible architecture.

A number or our professional members who need to maintain confidential communications with their clients see SafelyFiled as a way to replace cumbersome encrypted email software.  Others, who spend a lot of time holding their clients' hands, see it as a tool to keep their clients organized, making the clients happier and reducing the time spent helping clients find lost documents.

Making It Even Easier With You In Control

So we made it easier for you to get and stay closer to your clients.  Just give them sponsored accounts.  In other words, you can now set up your clients’ folders and upload their documents.  Then, with a simple click of a button you get your clients started with their own SafelyFiled account.  Your clients simply click a link in their email invitation and it takes them to a SafelyFiled page where in about about two minutes they have a 256 bit encrypted account.  Now your clients are in the SafelyFiled secure “bubble."
And once in that bubble, it gets a whole lot easier to stay in touch with your clients - securely and with you in control.

SafelyFiled Benefits

Using SafelyFiled for your clients gives you four important and easy-to-use functions that you need in your practice.

First, it enables easy, one-step encrypted communications with your clients, something that is especially important when your communications come under the HIPAA or other regulations.  And, given the recent changes in Gmail, with Google sorting email for its users and putting it into tabs, SafelyFiled is a great way to make sure your clients actually see all of your communications. (Think automated text messages to let them know you've put something in their SafelyFiled folders.)
Second, the audit trail verifies that documents are available for your clients to read or download and whether or not your clients have seen them.  And with the SafelyFiled’s organization system, your clients can easily find their documents.
Third, you can use SafelyFiled to send reminders to your clients, in text or email form, about important documents you've prepared or that they need to look at.
And fourth, your clients can securely send you their documents.

Create Loyalty and Increase Exposure

As a sponsor, you can easily brand your clients’ view of their SafelyFiled documents.  Your logo and message can be on the top right of every client’s page.  Since SafelyFiled was designed to let your clients add their own documents, they’ll use it even for important matters that you are not involved in – but they’ll still see your name.  And when they share their documents with their family members (e.g. a medical power of attorney with adult children) their children will see your name too.

Try It Risk Free 

We offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on your own account, so you can try SafelyFiled without any risk.  It’s not expensive.  And when you decide to become a member and sponsor your clients, you can always cancel a client (or former client) and get a pro rata refund.  At $36 per year for a sponsored client, that’s less than 10 cents per day.  And once your clients use SafelyFiled, you’ve got a great excuse for a yearly call or account review.

More To Come

Thanks for helping us grow.  We hope that we can return the favor and help you grow your practice by using SafelyFiled.  Towards that end, please keep giving us your suggestions.  You help us make SafelyFiled even better.