Cyber Security Tips for Business Owners

CyberSecurityTipsIf you own a business, your list of stressors is probably vast: Sales, employee turnover, competition — so the last thing you want to worry about is your cyber security. Nevertheless, it’s important to establish an official security plan. Why? Cyber fraud (any crime that involves a computer and/or network) is becoming more and more of a frequent issue. In fact, companies with 250 employees or less suffered more than 30 percent of all online attacks last year (up from about 18 percent in 2011), according to Symantec.com’s 2013 Internet Security Threat Report.

“Cyber criminals are business people, too,” said Arild Jensen, owner of Secos Security, a Granada Hills, CA firm that specializes in cyber security for small businesses. “They’re going to go for the easiest, most rewarding target.”

Fear not. Here are five easy ways to make sure your business’s Internet environment is as secure as it can be.

1. Choose strong passwords. Make sure passwords — for e-mail, Wi-Fi, websites and other platforms — are secure. The most important aspect of creating a password: How long it is.

“The length of the password matters more than its absolute complexity,” explains Steve Gibson, president of Gibson Research in CA. They should be eight or more characters. For even more protection, include letters, numbers, punctuation or special symbols, like an exclamation point.

2. Stay up to date — on everything. That means having the latest security software, web browser, operating system, etc., which can help guard against viruses, malware and other online threats. Most of these programs can be set to update automatically. Also important: Whenever you update your antivirus software, make sure to run a scan afterward. Installing or updating your antispyware technology is crucial as well. Spyware — as the title suggests — essentially spies on you, and is able to access personal information from your business without you knowing.

3. Pay attention to Wi-Fi. Rename your office network and change the password often, about every five or six months.

“Almost anyone can go online and find software that will automatically break into [the network],” explains Michael Hicks, director of the University of Maryland — College Park’s Cybersecurity Center. Tip: Avoid making the network title your company’s name.

4. Work with your financial institution. Ask your financial institution about protection programs. They may be able to offer a plan that allows you to monitor any suspicious activity that has occurred, like checking payments that you don’t recognize. This can help you prevent any unauthorized transactions before they occur.

5. Back up your data regularly. Sometimes, even when you do everything right, hacking can still occur. Having backup copies of important business data and information ensures that you’ll never have to start from square one. Store extra files (everything from Word documents and spreadsheets to human resource info and financial files) at a location other than your office. To make it easier, set up your files so they get backed up automatically.

6. Educate your employees.
Making sure workers are up to speed on the safest online tactics means less of a chance of a cyber mishap. Also instill the importance of not posting any confidential business-related information on social media platforms they may have, and that they don’t store business-related information on personal hard drives. Your employee’s passwords should also be different from what they use for personal passwords.

 

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Students and Apple Valley Booster Receive a Total of $3,360 from Merchants Bank Money Ball

Apple Valley students who made lay-ups, free throws and half-court shots during Merchants Bank’s Money Ball halftime shootout at Apple Valley High School basketball games this season earned $1,680. Because of their efforts, Merchants Bank will match the $1,680 earned and donate that money to the Apple Valley Basketball Booster Club.

“It was great fun. The students and fans alike really enjoyed the halftime shootout. We’re happy to do it and happy to match that sum to the boosters who are supporting these great high school athletes,” said Merchants Bank’s Twin Cities Regional President Lawrence Stovern.

Students signed up before each game and were chosen in a random drawing to be the Money Ball shooters at both boys’ and girls’ games. The students reached the total by receiving a $10 gift card each time a participating student made a lay-up, a $25 gift card was given each time a participating student made a free throw, and $100 in cash was given each time a student made a half-court shot. The half-court shot was a progressive jackpot and there were three big winners during the year – one for $500 by Ja’Quan Robinson, another for $300 by Mohamed Kone and $100 to another Apple Valley student.

“The best part is the kids were actually the ones who raised the money for the boosters by making the shots,” Stovern said.

Apple Valley High School Booster Club donation from Merchants Bank

Pictured from left to right: Debbie Jones (Apple Valley Basketball Booster Club), Brian Wester (Merchants Bank), Tiffany Elliot (Apple Valley Basketball Booster Club), Dale Trobroxen (Apple Valley Basketball Booster Club), Lawrence “Skip” Stovern (Merchants Bank)

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Reports Another Strong Year With Income of More Than $11.6 million in 2013

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Rodney Nelson

WINONA, Minn. – Merchants Financial Group, Inc. ended 2013 with its second best year ever in terms of net income at $11,612,049, according Merchants Financial Group, Inc. President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson.

“We were pleased with our results. We finished well ahead of our plan for the year, and we continue to be well positioned for continued growth,” Nelson said.

The $11,612,049 is a slight decrease from the record year of 2012 when, aided by extraordinary mortgage volume, Merchants reported net income of $12,439,492. Merchants saw increases in many other key indicators in 2013. Loan balances increased 12.2% to $972.26 million, up from $867.15 million in 2012. Equity increased to $116.0 million in 2013, up from $112.2 million. Deposits increased to $1.13 billion, up from $1.07 billion in 2012. The asset size of Merchants also increased to $1.366 billion in 2013, up from $1.286 billion in 2012.

Merchants acquired locations in Rushford and Lanesboro in November, and recently acquired a new location in Eau Claire. Merchants also made changes in leadership as Nelson succeeded Richard L. Mahoney as Merchants Financial Group, Inc. President & CEO on January 1. Greg Evans was also recently named President & Chief Banking Officer for Merchants Bank and will oversee operations at its 21 bank locations. Both Nelson and Evans are long-time leaders in the Merchants organization.

“As an organization, we are prepared for growth. We look forward to the coming year and continuing to serve our customers in the manner they deserve,” Nelson said.