Tuesday, April 9, 2013
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Hack After Hack After Hack...
The old idiom was Another day, another cyber threat. Yet lately, it seems more like every hour that we learn of a new risk to our online safety. There has been a flurry of activity in the cybercrime world as of late.
Don't think for a minute that you're safe as long as you don't bank online. Most every function today depends on information. Information stored in a database.
Use a credit card, write a check, pay your utility bill, buy your groceries, use your smartphone. There's a record of each and every transaction. A record that can be compromised if someone hacks into the computer system charged with safeguarding your personal information.
I'm not trying to scare you here. Well, maybe a just little bit. You wouldn't take this seriously otherwise.
But the good news is that most of these attacks are thwarted before being distributed in the wild. Anti-malware groups devote tremendous resources to testing software and utility code to try to find ways it could be potentially compromised. Patches are written and released before news of the finding goes public.
The latest threat targets your mobile device. A spear phishing attack was detected that delivers a Trojan to not only your smartphone or tablet, but infects your PC or Mac once it's connected. This is the first Trojan to cross between the mobile and online channel.
It targeted Android devices through a program that allows users to download Gmail attachments to their devices. The Trojan would harvest information stored on the device, such as contacts, call logs and SMS text messages. It would send the information back to a command-and-control server.
Once a cybercrook has access to your contacts, they're next in line to be targeted. You've probably all gotten an email from someone in your address book with nothing more than a link in the message body. Clicking that link downloads nasty stuff to your computer.
Savvy users know this and avoid clicking unsolicited links, no matter who sent them. But enough folks take the bait to make this technique valuable to a thief.
Now the same fraud methods that threatened your PC or Mac can also harm your phone. If you don't already have security software running your mobile device, stop reading and do it now.
Why is it so important? Your contact information isn't the only data a Trojan can harvest. Most are designed to capture account information and online banking credentials.
A Trojan recently detected had a twist to the typical Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that have been bringing down a wave of bank websites lately.
This one captured a user's login credentials and ran an algorithm that deciphered the server's encryption code. By altering the code, it rendered every one of the institution's online banking passwords unreadable. Each and every customer got an invalid password error message. Their call center was flooded by customers who could not access their accounts.
You not only place your own accounts at risk if you don't adequately protect your equipment, but now you can bring down the entire financial institution. Or your workplace if you unknowingly download malware while on the job.
On second thought, maybe it's a good thing if you are afraid. You should be.
Long-Term Care Insurance - Part 2
People are living longer these days. As the American population is growing older, more and more people are faced with the question of figuring out how to pay for long-term nursing home care or long-term home health care. It is impossible to predict whether or not you will need long-term care. But if you do, having a long-term care insurance policy is a way to protect you against exorbitant medical bills. In Part 1 of this article, I covered what exactly long-term care is, some typical costs associated with long-term care, and some long-term care insurance options. Read it from the March 12, 2013 edition of GCFlash.
In today's article, I will review various types of policies and coverage options. One thing to note is that there are no policies that guarantee to fully cover all your expenses; and you are responsible for your nursing home or home care costs that exceed your policy benefits.
There are different types of long-term care policies, but the most common are indemnity policies or expense-incurred policies. An indemnity policy (or "per diem" policy) pays up to a fixed benefit amount regardless of what you spend. An expense-incurred policy reimburses you for actual expenses up to a fixed dollar amount per day, week, or month. The fixed dollar amount and daily, weekly or monthly limit are options you choose when you purchase the policy. Both of the types of policies typically include separate benefit limits for different types of care, (ie: $150 per day for nursing home coverage, $50 per day for at-home coverage, etc).
Another type of policy that is available is a pooled benefit policy (or "integrated benefit" policy). This type of policy provides a total dollar limit that can be used for all different types of services. For example, a pooled benefit policy with a maximum benefit amount of $200,000 and a daily benefit limit of $200, will pay $200 per day for 1,000 days as long as your heath care costs more than $200 per day no matter what type of care you are receiving. If you health care costs less per day, you would receive your benefits for a longer period of time.
Since health care costs are constantly rising, be sure to look for a policy that includes an inflation adjustment. Typically, inflation adjustments automatically increase your policy benefits by a specified rate each year.
Most policies will include an elimination period (or "deductible" period). This is the period of time you must wait before benefits begin. The longer the elimination period, the lower the premium. Just know that you are responsible for any costs incurred during this period.
Some policies will have an exclusion period for pre-existing conditions, generally not more than six months. A pre-existing condition is a health issue you already had at the time you purchased the policy. This means if you need long-term care due to your pre-existing condition within six months of purchasing your policy, you may be denied benefits.
Typically, there are some mental or nervous disorders that are not covered. And usually, alcoholism and drug abuse are not covered. In addition, care required after self-inflicted injuries is not typically covered.
Some typical things to look for in a policy include: at least one year of nursing home or home health care coverage; coverage for Alzheimer's disease if the policyholder develops it after purchasing the policy; a guarantee that the policy cannot be cancelled or non-renewed if the policyholder's physical or mental health deteriorates; and the right to cancel the policy within 30 days of purchasing it and receive a refund.
In addition, look for a policy that does not require the policyholder either first be hospitalized before receiving home health care or nursing care benefits; first receive nursing home care before receiving home health care; or first receive skilled nursing home care before receiving intermediate or custodial nursing home care.
All policies will contain limits and exclusions to keep premiums affordable. These will differ from policy to policy. Be sure to understand exactly what is and is not covered before you purchase a policy. Ask your insurance agent for an outline of coverage that describes the policy's benefits, limitations, and exclusions in detail. Be sure to shop around and compare coverage and prices.
If you are in need of long-term care services or for additional information on long-term care, you can contact your local Area Agency on Aging or Office on Aging. To find your local agency, call the Edlercare Locator at 800-677-1116.
Tip of the Week
April 15th tax deadline is right around the corner. Can't file on time? Request an extension. You'll have an extra six months. Your return won't be due until October 15th. But you'll still have to pay any amount due by Monday, April 15th. Make your best guess and submit it by Monday to avoid late-pay penalties.
GCFlash is a weekly e-mail sent only to its listed customers and associates free of charge. GCFlash informs customers of special product offerings which may be of interest, current interest rates on both deposit and loan products, selected financial news and other financial tidbits. GCFlash is intended to supplement the more comprehensive information listed on the GCF Web site at http://www.gcfbank.com.GCFLASH PRIVACY STATEMENT
GCF maintains your e-mail address in a confidential and secure database along with much of your other account information, such as mailing address and telephone number, etc. Before aggregating our e-mailing list each week, we filter out any duplicates. In most cases, this inhibits the unintended e-mailing of multiple copies of GCFlash to a single e-mail address. However, because these account records are kept by both individual and account, there is a chance members of the same household could each receive a copy of GCFlash or any other transmission at the same e- mail address - resulting in multiple copies. For example, a husband and wife that both have accounts with GCF may both receive a copy because the names are different but listed at the same e-mail address. This is similar to the manner in which each individual may share a common telephone number. To handle this situation, GCF recommends you simply delete any extra copies of GCFlash as this will ensure that ALL individuals receive any future promotional mailings, which might only be targeted or offered to specific accountholders meeting certain criteria. GCF has the capability to suppress customer e-mail addresses so they are omitted from our transmission list. If you would rather have a specific household member's e-mail address suppressed in our electronic database, simply send us a reply, as stated below, and indicate the accountholder for which you would like to have e-mail suppressed. Please keep in mind that this suppression will mean that NO future e-mails are sent, including special promotional offers. If you have any questions about this process or need additional information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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