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When you think about cyber attacks on businesses, the first thing that pops into your head is probably the large-scale breaches in the recent past, like the Target, Yahoo, and Equifax hacks affecting hundreds of millions of people. (Maybe you were one of them!) When massive breaches occur, it makes headlines across the globe.
If you think your business is safe from cyber attacks because you’re “too small to hack,” think again—small businesses are a major target of hackers precisely because of this mentality.
Let’s take a deep dive into the cyber threats your business faces, and how you can protect yourself from them.
Small businesses lack resources for security
According to the 2016 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, 51% of all cyber attacks were targeted at small businesses. By 2017, that number had jumped to over 61%. What we’ve been seeing is a clear shift in focus with hackers targeting small businesses over enterprise business.
While enterprise-level businesses can invest millions in security, the majority of small businesses do not have a dedicated IT team, think they are protected by their vendors and, as a result, are ripe targets. Cybercriminals are increasingly using ransomware attacks and the consequences can be devastating to small businesses.
Some basic security measures you should take to protect your business include:
Update all systems and browsers when new updates come out
Require employees to add passcodes to their phones if they use any public wifi networks
Add multi-factor authentication to your access points
Install anti-virus software if you haven’t already
Shred all documents containing sensitive information
The true cost of a data breach
You may be thinking, “I don’t store a lot of customer information, so a breach wouldn’t cost me that much.”
You are legally required to report a breach and notify your customers of every record of theirs that has been compromised, and though it can vary across industries, the average cost per breached record is $141.
And that all adds up. According to UPS Capital, the average cyber breach costs a small business owner between $84,000 – $148,000. Not exactly pennies we’re talking about here.
Even more alarming is the rate at which small businesses go out of business after a breach. Over 60% of small businesses fold within six months of a data breach. When something as simple as an employee opening a phishing email can doom the business you’ve worked so hard to create, the cybersecurity stakes are sky-high.
Security measures only take you so far
Speaking of phishing emails… most businesses don’t realize that their greatest vulnerability is not weak security measures, but their own employees. Numbers vary across studies, but nearly all show that over 50% of data breaches are caused by human error, with the most common being an employee clicking on a compromised link in an email.
As you’re reading this, think back to a time when you clicked on an email from an unknown source. Was it yesterday? This morning? It happens all the time, and sometimes that’s all it takes. Scary, right?
Invest in a backup plan: Cyber liability insurance
“It’s not a matter of if, but when,” is a fear that is becoming more common to small business owners. As small business owners hear about similar companies being hacked, they are adding a layer of protection in the form of insurance.
Cyber liability insurance covers the financial costs of a cyber attack, including the costs of stopping the breach, replacing lost or damaged data, analyzing your systems, identifying and fixing vulnerabilities, adding new security layers, notifying customers, dealing with any PR fallout, and legal fees if you face lawsuits or fines.
Cyber liability insurance is highly customizable, with limits generally starting at $500,000+, with $1M in coverage usually costing $1,000 or less. In a world where over 60% of all attacks are targeted at small businesses, it is a small price to pay to know your business is protected in the case of a breach.
AP Intego removes the pain from securing important business insurance. We harmonize the traditional capabilities of a national insurance broker with ourpassion for technology, making the insurance-buying process easier and more efficient. We promise speed, carrier breadth and depth, and superb customer service, while advising you on the best coverage for your business. Through AP Intego, more than 42,000 small businesses in all 50 states have gained greater peace of mind so they can focus on what matters most, running their business.
While your biggest risk for identity fraud is being caught up in a data breach that exposes consumer information, you’re also at risk when shopping online. That’s important to remember, since e-commerce fraud has increased significantly in recent years, jumping 30 percent from 2016 to 2017 alone. In all, combined phone and online shopping fraud is expected to cost consumers nearly $20 billion per year by 2022.
Fortunately, protecting yourself from identity theft when shopping online is straightforward, as long as you follow these key steps:
Only buy from reputable companies
Online data thieves can set up a convincing storefront and start processing payments within minutes, so you should never trust that “hot new brand” that you know nothing about. Instead, only shop from reputable companies that have an established business history. While you can’t guarantee they won’t suffer a data breach, at least you’ll know that they’re not data thieves themselves. In addition, watch out for fake sites that mimic popular sites.
Always check website security
These days, every business website should be fully secured, period. That means every URL should start with “https://” instead of a simple “http://” prefix. Additionally, you should always check to make sure your web browser has marked the website as secure. In most cases this means you’ll see a green button or padlock icon near the address bar.
To be sure, click on that icon to observe the site’s security information and make sure its certificates are up to date. Most modern browsers will proactively alert you if any of these details seem questionable, but it never hurts to check yourself.
Don’t shop on public networks
Public Wi-Fi is one of the most common ways for hackers to find targets, and data thieves can even set up phony networks or redirect legitimate traffic from open networks to their own servers. That means a public Wi-Fi network is never safe—even when protected—because you’ll have no way of knowing whether a data thief is “spoofing” the connection protocols to steal data or monitor your activity.
Entering or transmitting your payment information in that scenario would be handing it directly to the thief, so stay safe and only shop when you’re at home or on a secured network at your workplace.
Use credit, preferably disposable or virtual
If a thief gets your debit or checking account numbers, they might have cleaned the entire account out by the time you realize something’s wrong. While you’ll eventually get that money back, it can take a long time and is often more complicated than disputing a credit card transaction.
Additionally, credit cards usually have stronger fraud protections than debit or checking, and most major issuers have aggressive fraud monitoring that will alert you when a suspicious transaction has occurred.
For the ultimate protection, only shop with disposable prepaid credit cards or virtual card numbers. A virtual number is usually a single-use payment number that automatically deactivates once you’ve made your purchase. Many major banks will generate a virtual number for you for free, or you can use a third-party service.
Don’t store private information
Though it’s convenient to let your phone or computer automatically remember your login and payment information, you should resist the temptation. In the event your device is hacked or lost, thieves will immediately have complete access to your financial life, and would even have the additional information from personal emails and other data that they would need to answer security questions and bypass other screening measures.
With smart network usage and good payment practices, you can keep yourself reasonably safe from identity theft when shopping online. If you still have questions about shopping safely online you can ask a lawyer today.
In many cases, no. A wide range of employee work-related expenses are no longer deductible starting in the 2018 tax year. In fact, many tax filers may not itemize deductions at all since the standard individual deduction has been increased to $12,000. While preparing your taxes may be simpler, some individuals may lose deductions they have claimed in the past such as work-related travel expenses. In many situations, the company can still claim travel as a business expense, but the employee cannot. This change in the tax law is expected to last until 2026.
Deducting business travel expenses prior to 2018
In the past, employees often deducted miscellaneous work-related travel expenses if the total exceeded two percent of their adjusted gross income (AGI). Expenses included unreimbursed travel and mileage.
Deducting travel expenses for 2018
For the most part, you will not be able to deduct unreimbursed travel expenses. Businesses can still deduct travel expenses. Self-employed individuals can also still deduct travel expenses. You will also not be able to deduct moving expenses, and if your company pays for you to relocate, you’ll need to claim reimbursed moving costs as taxable income.
Can I deduct commute costs in 2018?
Again, no. You may be able to claim some expenses if you need to travel to a temporary work location for a limited amount of time. You may also be able to deduct expenses related to traveling between multiple job sites. If you qualify for this deduction, you need to include the latest version of Form 2106 with your return.
Other tax deductions going away in 2018
When filing for the 2018 tax year, you will no longer be able to deduct:
Tax preparation fees
Unrestricted home equity loan interest
Casualty and theft losses (except in disaster areas)
Employers will no longer be able to deduct parking and transit costs
Job expenses such as license and regulatory fees
Employees will not be able to deduct expenses such as tools, scrubs or classroom supplies (over $250)
Home office costs
Work-related legal fees
Medical examinations required by an employer
Alimony if divorced after December 31, 2018
What can I do to improve my tax situation?
Many tax professionals are suggesting that you consider one of three options. Whether these strategies will work for you depends on your situation, but they are worth considering.
Talk to your employer about the company absorbing some of your costs that the company can then claim as a legitimate expense. Or ask them for a raise to cover your out-of-pocket costs.
Consider becoming a freelance or independent contractor so you can claim the expenses yourself.
Start your own business.
Since many of the new tax law changes favor businesses, now may be a good time to form your own company if you have any aspirations to do so. If you have a good business idea, we can help you start a business.
We surveyed thousands of landlords, and they told us that late rent is their #1 headache. We know that when rent doesn’t come in on time, you’re left wondering how to deal. In this article, we’re excited to share our tips for handling late rent—plus, how to avoid it in the future.
Communicate (and keep good records)
First, you should communicate before rent is even due by reminding your tenants about their upcoming rent payment. If it’s the first month of your lease, then you should also provide detailed instructions for how they can pay.
If rent is late, or the payment doesn’t clear, contact your tenant right away. Communicate what the issue is, so your tenant knows to take immediate action.
You can also send a Bad Check Notice to let your tenant know the payment didn’t clear.
We also recommend that you communicate in writing so that you have a record of the correspondence. In the case that your tenant repeatedly pays late, you’ll want documentation to prove it.
Charge a late fee
We highly recommend including a late fee in your lease. Even if you never need to use your late fee, having it, as a rule, will show your tenants that if they are late, there will be a financial consequence.
As soon as the late fee applies, you should charge it. This shows your tenants that if you have a rule, you stick to it. You can benefit from automatic late fees if you allow tenants to pay rent online.
Keep in mind that some states have a legal grace period, which means that you have to wait a certain amount of days before you actually charge your late fee. Even if it’s not the law, most landlords choose to give tenants a 5-day grace period to allow them time to pay.
Late rent notice
As soon as rent is late, you can also send a more official Late Rent Notice. This can be especially helpful in the case that you need to move forward with an eviction. If your tenant continues to pay rent late, you may want to consider sending a more serious Eviction Notice, which notifies your tenant that you expect them to resolve the issue at hand or move out by a certain date.
The eviction process varies greatly based on the location of your property. Typically, the steps include:
Go to your local court and file for an eviction
You and your tenant will receive a Notice of Hearing, which tells you when and where your court date is
You’ll attend the court hearing
If you win the eviction case, the court will send a sheriff to provide a Writ of Possession (or Writ of Restitution), which tells your tenant he or she needs to leave the property by a particular date. It typically provides the tenant 8 days to leave.
If you are considering evicting a tenant, it is highly recommended that you talk to a lawyer.
While this article discussed how to handle late rent, there are also several ways to avoid past-due payments in the future:
Until now, landlords with less than 10 units haven’t had access to online tools designed specifically for them. Avail is an intuitive app that helps you advertise vacant units, request rental applications and credit reports, sign leases, and collect rent — all online. Today, 75,000 landlords use Avail because it’s the only end-to-end platform that helps you scale from beginner to professional with tools, support, and education.