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Sinu Blog: Playing with Sand

  • Thursday

    Businesses Must Shift to EMV Credit Card Machines by October to Avoid Risk


    If you’ve replaced your credit or debit card lately, you may have been told about a new “chip” being added for extra security. That chip, or its wireless “contactless” payment system counterpart, is part of a planned migration to a new Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) security standard. For consumers, this will be an effortless transition as new and replacement cards will simply come with the chip or wireless technology. However, many small business owners do not realize they may be at risk if they have not upgraded their credit card machines by October 1, 2015.

    On the upside, Quickbooks reports “the United Kingdom has been very successful at reducing credit-card fraud since its own EMV migration. Since introducing EMV-chipped cards into its market, face-to-face credit-card fraud has dropped a whopping 72%. A similar trend took place in Canada, where, between 2011 and 2013 (the years immediately following Canada’s migration to EMV-chipped cards), domestic counterfeit fraud dropped 42%.”

    On the downside, they go on to note that after October 1st, “fraud liability shifts to the party with the least-secure means of accepting payments. This means that the party without EMV-capable payment processing will be liable for counterfeit fraud.”

    This liability shift means that small businesses who have not upgraded their hardware to meet the new standard will be responsible for fraudulent purchases, and not the issuing banks. 

    A recent Wells Fargo report noted that more than half of all small businesses don’t even know the transition is happening, let alone that the deadline is just around the corner. According to the report, “Among business owners who report accepting point-of-sale card payments, only 31% say that their existing credit card processing system accepts chip-enabled cards. When asked if they plan to upgrade their point-of-sale credit card terminals to accept EMV chip cards, just 29% of business owners said they intend to make the change before the Oct. 1 deadline. Another 34% of business owners reported they will at some point in the future after October, and 21% say they never plan to upgrade.”

    Square is providing incentives to its consumers to upgrade by absorbing all faulty charges on behalf of its customers who have pre-ordered their latest card-reader, reports reports that Intuit is also working to help small business owners by offering a $30 mobile EMV reader for iOS and Android phones in advance of October 1st.

    "Knowing that the mechanics of handling EMV cards will be unfamiliar territory for merchants, their employees, and their customers, we've designed in features like an easily visible LED and in-app indicators to provide visual cues for successful and unsuccessful card reads," Ralph Matlack, director of product management for Intuit's payment offerings, said, adding that the battery was also tweaked to last a full week on a single charge.

    For business owners looking to mitigate their risk in advance of the looming deadline, Quickbooks advises folks do the following:

    1.) Audit their hardware

    2.) Discuss EMV-compliant options with their servicer

    3.) Purchase appropriate hardware

    4.) Get terminals Level 3 certified, if applicable

    5.) Train their employees

    6.) Know the difference between “chip-and-pin” and “chip-and-signature”

     7.) Educate their customers

    At Sinu, we’re always looking for ways to help our clients increase security while minimizing risk. This is an important issue we hope you’ll share with your colleagues and other business owners to help raise awareness of the new EMV security standard and avoid the risks associated with using obsolete technology.   


    Six Tips to Avoid Bank Account Hacks

    Here at Sinu, we spend our time safeguarding critical data so our customers can focus on what they do best - running a business. But often, the greatest threats to our data security come through our email. We’ve all been repeatedly warned to check for suspicious downloads, but often Trojan horses come with a logo from your local bank or credit union. Why rob a bank in person, when you can just politely ask for someone’s account information… and get it?

    Cyber bank robbers have the resources and the financial incentive to develop sophisticated techniques to convince unsuspecting victims to hand over information to them. In the online fraud world, it’s called phishing. Instead of putting a worm on the line, they just send you a friendly notice from “your bank” with a logo that looks real. Hackers can even uncover your location from your email address and use a regional bank logo. Even the most wary of email users can be caught off guard.

    According to the Charlotte Observer, phishing schemes are on the rise because… well, they work. Karl de la Guerra runs a Charlotte-based company that provides security-consulting services to businesses and law enforcement agencies. He told the Observer, “The criminals involved in phishing can be found all over the world, although Asia and central Europe are hotspots.” De la Guerra said some of the fraudsters tap away on laptops eight to 12 hours a day in warehouse-size buildings that can house 100 or more cybercriminals.

    Email has become a central part of our lives, but it was never designed to be a secure communication medium. As such, banks don’t use it to request information from you. Never trust an email asking for bank account information. Call your local bank branch instead to verify an email communication that asks for sensitive information.

    Here are some tips to keep you - and your company’s bank account - safe from cyber criminals:

    1. If you receive an email, check for misspellings and poor grammar. This is often a dead give-away.
    2. Before clicking on a link, check the URL. Often the fake URL will have the bank name in it, but it will not be a direct bank link.
    3. Use two-factor authentication for your bank accounts.
    4. Don’t store your bank or personal security passwords on an online storage system or email system. If a hacker gets into your online account, they then also have access to your passwords and other sensitive information.
    5. Set limits on who and how much can be wired from your accounts and be sure to close any unused bank accounts.
    6. Trust your instinct if you get a bad feeling in your gut about an email or an attachment. Sometimes your subconscious sees patterns that you may not have consciously put together yet. If you have even the slightest doubt, delete the email and call your financial institution. 

    Anyone can be vulnerable to attack. CSO reports that Ubiquiti Networks, Inc., a company that manufactures high-performance networking technology, fell prey to a more sophisticated email phishing scam, costing them more than $39 million. More importantly, it reminds us that even if companies use heavy encryption and coding to protect their data, security can easily be breached right through the front door. With the increased use of online banking and big potential payoffs for cyber criminals, this threat will only increase.


    3-D Printing Offers New Opportunities for Small Business

    3-D Printing, or additive manufacturing, is a process that uses a digital file to create three-dimensional objects. Rather than spraying toner on paper, like traditional printers, it puts down layers of something more substantial (such as plastic resin) until the layers add up to an object. The technology was originally used to produce prototypes, but it has advanced so quickly that, in some cases, 3-D printers are replacing traditional manufacturing and building the final products. 

    “How Does 3-D Printing Work?” Video from the Wall Street Journal

    Calling it “Click to Manufacture,” The Economist suggests this may be the next Industrial Revolution:

    “The printing of parts and products has the potential to transform manufacturing because it lowers the costs and risks. No longer does a producer have to make thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of items to recover his fixed costs. In a world where economies of scale do not matter anymore, mass-manufacturing identical items may not be necessary or appropriate, especially as 3-D printing allows for a great deal of customisation [sic].”

    While most commonly used by manufacturers, architects, and inventors, 3-D printing has expanded to other industries, including pharmaceuticals. The FDA recently approved a quick dissolve drug from Aprecia called Spritam to fight epilepsy – produced entirely with 3-D printing. reports, “The medication uses a porous, 3-D-printed formula to help deliver even very high doses (as high as 1,000mg) while remaining easy to swallow – all you have to do is take a sip of liquid to quickly disperse the drug and get it into your body.”

    3-D printing is part of a larger trend where software is collapsing layers. It used to take many layers of creation and hand-offs for architects to build a building. Today architects can use software to quickly go from brainstorming to showing their customer a 3-D model with landscapes and surroundings from Google Maps. This collapsing of layers is also helping car companies redesign their models every three years and many other companies to innovate faster than ever with fewer people and with faster collaboration.

    According to the Harvard Business Review, “Among the numerous companies using 3-D printing to ramp up production are GE (jet engines, medical devices, and home appliance parts), Lockheed Martin and Boeing (aerospace and defense), Aurora Flight Sciences (unmanned aerial vehicles), Invisalign (dental devices), Google (consumer electronics), and the Dutch company LUXeXcel (lenses for light-emitting diodes, or LEDs). Watching these developments, McKinsey recently reported that 3-D printing is ‘ready to emerge from its niche status and become a viable alternative to conventional manufacturing processes in an increasing number of applications.’ In 2014 sales of industrial-grade 3-D printers in the United States were already one-third the volume of industrial automation and robotic sales. Some projections have that figure rising to 42% by 2020.”

    The real magic with 3-D printers is that they can level the playing field for small businesses. Prototype development or product manufacturing is no longer just for big companies with large R&D budgets, now individuals with big ideas can leverage the technology to design, develop, and bring to market a variety of products. 

    Brooklyn-based Spuni used 3D printing to develop its prototype at the fraction of the cost of what traditional manufacturers would have charged.A small company based in New York, Spuni, which makes small spoons designed to transition an infant to solid food, used a $2,000 3-D printer to develop its prototype, testing the product more than 30 times to tweak it until it was just right. “By using 3D printers, the company had their first prototypes within months, at a fraction of what traditional manufacturers would have charged,” said Spuni CEO Marcel Botha in a CNN Money report.

    Although its flagship spoons are now mass-produced, Spuni continues to use 3-D printers for work on new products and packaging, reports CNN. The company is located in a co-working space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard called New Lab, where there are additional 3-D printers the team can use.

     While the technology is evolving quickly, one blogger who reviewed 3-D printers made it clear that individuals should be cautious about the printers they purchase, because the technology is still new and “quirky.” However, as the technology continues to evolve, it will become more affordable and reliable.

    In the meantime, if your business would like to utilize 3-D printing without making an initial investment in the hardware, there is an entire ecosystem developing around access to 3-D printing and design. 3D Hubs allows you to upload your design and select a local 3-D printer location to pick up your design in locations around the world. Shapeways allows you to create 3-D prints in over 30 materials, made to order, and delivered wherever you are in the world. Even UPS is getting in the game. After a successful launch of 3-D printing in six U.S. markets, The UPS Store® has expanded 3-D printing services to meet the growing demands of its small business customers to nearly 100 additional locations nationwide, including New York City and Washington, DC.

    We advise our customers to approach the adoption of any new technology strategically. What’s the proper mix of traditional versus new technology? What’s the risk? These crossroads in technology provide an excellent opportunity to assess your operations, review hardware and software replacement plans, and identify opportunities for increasing productivity.