Terrorism 2.0: Businesses Face a New Cyber Threat

During his keynote address at BusinessTECH18, cybersecurity expert John Carlin cast a spotlight on the changing tactics hackers are using to infiltrate America’s companies.

American businesses are facing a new and more sophisticated threat from today’s cybercriminals, John P. Carlin, former assistant U.S. attorney general for national security and chief of staff to then FBI director Robert Mueller, said during a keynote address at the recent BusinessTech18 conference held at Cleveland Public Auditorium.

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    Carlin shared that terrorists and hackers have become proficient at crowdsourcing and using social media channels to turn humans into weapons to create havoc. Terrorist groups, he said, are targeting specific people by hacking their personal identification information and using that as an in to steal proprietary business data contained in company emails, such as pricing information, to undercut and compromise these companies.

    Terrorists are also hitting companies at sensitive times, he said, citing the example of Westinghouse getting hacked just before its joint venture with a Chinese partner.

    “This new threat is hitting countries where the infrastructure is in private hands,” said Carlin, who also serves as Chairman of the Aspen Institute’s Cybersecurity & Technology Program and whose new book “Dawn of the Code War: America’s Battle Against Russia, China and the Rising Global Cyber Threat” was distributed to conference attendees.

    Businesses on defense

    Given that no Internet-connected device is safe from being hacked, how can companies protect themselves from being the next victim? Carlin said publicly sharing these tactics, such as through his keynote at BusinessTECH18 (which was presented by MCPc and OHTec), is one good way to nullify these new hacking attempts.

    “It’s important to make tactics like this public,” he said, adding that by sharing what is known about these attacks, it will better enable governments and businesses to partner together to ensure better designed security against cyber threats.

    As for individual businesses themselves, IT executives should take a good, hard look at their own devices that are connected to the Internet and ask whether it’s essential that these devices are connected to the Internet. He also suggested companies have a strategy around how to get back up and running after it’s hacked.

    BusinessTECH18 is just one example of the many events the Greater Cleveland Partnership, its programs and affiliates are involved in each year. Click here to view a list of additional upcoming events that can help your business succeed.

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    Next up: The Benefits of Solar: A Case Study
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  • The Benefits of Solar: A Case Study

    The benefits that come along with energy efficiency aren’t always immediately apparent. Sometimes they can take a while to materialize. A perfect example of this is a company in the Greater Cleveland area that found its journey toward energy efficiency progressed in over the course of nearly two years. It started with an interest in saving money on utilities and an identification of areas of the business that could be improved, moved on to the securing of financing and permits for the project,  and ended with a solar photovoltaic array that will produce approximately 80% of the business’s annual electric usage.

    The benefits that come along with energy efficiency aren’t always immediately apparent. Sometimes they can take a while to materialize. A perfect example of this is a company in the Greater Cleveland area that found its journey toward energy efficiency progressed in over the course of nearly two years. It started with an interest in saving money on utilities and an identification of areas of the business that could be improved, moved on to the securing of financing and permits for the project,  and ended with a solar photovoltaic array that will produce approximately 80% of the business’s annual electric usage.

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    The journey begins

    So, how did it all come together? COSE was contacted in June 2014 by the owner who heard about the Dominion Nonresidential energy assessment program. He thought he was spending too much money on his utility bills and was interested in finding additional ways to save. An assessment was done and I went out to visit the business to learn more about its goals and to discuss savings opportunities.

    The report from the energy assessment revealed mainly behavioral tweaks that wouldn’t cost anything but time. The building itself was relatively new and the lighting had been upgraded for efficiency and light quality a couple of years prior. While this particular assessment did not identify significant savings opportunities, the owner appreciated the information provided and was excited to have a new resource in COSE when energy questions developed. From our initial meeting in June through November, I received several questions from the business regarding electric and natural gas rates, contract terms and other related issues. Now that the he was confident in the efficiency of his facility, the question of what could be done next was bound to happen. We met again in November 2014 to discuss the options for generating electricity on site.

    Questions answered

    The business owner was interested, but like many in Northeast Ohio, skeptical of the opportunity solar provides in this region.  After our meeting and the introduction of Bold Alternatives, a local solar installer and member of the COSE energy contractor network, all the questions that needed to be answered before entering a project like this were figured out. 

    • What are the security risks to the investment (vandalism, theft etc.)?
    • How much electricity does the facility use?
    • Is the building well situated for solar with minimal shade (i.e. trees) and the correct orientation to the sun?
    • What will be the cost of installation and how long is the payback? W
    • What are the financial opportunities in terms of tax credits, rebates and other incentives?
    • How long does the system last, what are the warranties and other implications for adding it to the existing structure?
    • How much experience and what certifications do the installers have?

    Once the business and Bold Alternatives answered these questions and the true benefit of a solar array was made clear, there were only a few hurdles left: financing, permits, and installation.

    The number of options for financing solar arrays and other energy efficiency projects has grown in recent years and the owner was able to find a method that he was comfortable with a good rate.  Once permits were secured and everything was ready to go, the installation required less than a week and ended with a beautiful solar array creating power and saving dollars for the business. 

    It can be done

    The energy efficiency journey of this business started with an interest in saving money and led to the point of securing their electricity rates for the next 25 to 30 years. Many people think that Ohio does not get enough sun to make solar an option but this project providing 80%of the electric need and generating a 9% rate of return shows that it can be done. The opportunity to save money on utilities and add to your businesses’ bottom line is real and should be investigated.

    One thing to keep in mind is the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that applies to solar arrays will be decreasing in value from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016. The tax credit is not the reason to do solar but it does help reduce the payback period so if you are considering this step, the time to act is soon.

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    Next up: The Best of Tech Awards Recognize Greatness
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  • The Best of Tech Awards Recognize Greatness

    Nominations for the 9th annual Best of Tech Awards opened a few weeks ago and we still have many weeks to go. Here's a little more information on our categories this year.

    Nominations for the 9th annual Best of Tech Awards opened a few weeks ago and we still have many weeks to go. Here's a little more information on our categories this year.

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    Best Software Product 

    This award recognizes an outstanding software product based on creativity, market needs addressed, market traction and strategic potential.  Nominated products: 

    • must be an application developed and offered specifically for a mobile device.
    • must be currently available for commercial sale in the market (no prototypes or beta versions)
    • may have been developed for the nominating company’s own business OR developed for a client

    Best IT Services Company

    This award recognizes outstanding achievement for firms providing information technology related services and/or products. Companies considered in this category commonly provide:

    • infrastructure support (e.g. hardware and/or networking implementations)
    • staffing solutions
    • custom application development
    • help desk support
    • other related or similar services

    Most Promising StartUp 

    This award recognizes an early stage business with great early traction, sound fundamentals, a unique value proposition and that’s poised for success. Company qualifications include: 

    • must be in business for four years or less;
    • have a product or service that is in at least a beta phase;
    • products or services provided can include custom software, websites, proprietary applications, IT services, etc.

    Tech Company of the Year

    This award recognizes a growing tech company which is adding new products, services, customers and staff, and supports the tech community in the region.  To be considered, nominees must meet the following criteria:

    • headquartered in NEO
    • tech company
    • in business for three years or longer

    Tech Team of the Year 

    The talented people working in tech in tech here are the key drivers in growing this incredible industry in this fantastic region. Recognizing their innovation, commitment and success is an important aspect of the Best of Tech Awards. To be considered for this award, nominated companies/teams must meet the following criteria: 

    • All team members must be employed by the same company 
    • Company must be headquartered in Northeast Ohio 
    • Projects/engagements  must have occurred and/or been completed between 1/1/2014 and 12/31/2014 
    • Nominated teams may be form either a small, entrepreneurial tech company or a large, enterprise IT department

    Best Device/Application Innovation 

    Technology and innovation go hand-in-hand, so we’re proud to recognize an innovative, new information technology device, application or service created and launched by a company in Northeast Ohio.  To be considered for this award:

    • the nominated company must be headquartered in Northeast Ohio 
    • the nominated product must be past the beta stage and generating revenue or reducing costs

    More details on the awards including nomination links and links to the nomination questions can be found here.


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    Next up: Do companies understand the cost of losing their employees? ERC Leadership training can help fix that.
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  • Do companies understand the cost of losing their employees? ERC Leadership training can help fix that.

    Do companies really know what it costs them to hire a new IT employee? How does that compare to the price of retaining an existing team member? Many companies shy away from the idea of implementing a formal retention plan because they fear it will cost too much and take too much effort, but could that tedious and sometimes costly process really save the company time and money in the long run?

    Do companies really know what it costs them to hire a new IT employee? How does that compare to the price of retaining an existing team member? Many companies shy away from the idea of implementing a formal retention plan because they fear it will cost too much and take too much effort, but could that tedious and sometimes costly process really save the company time and money in the long run?

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    According to James Del Monte (IT Employer Information), "On average IT professionals change jobs every 2 to 3 years. Younger professionals tend to change even more frequently, and in many cases they opt for project-based work as opposed to long-term employment altogether. This constant churning, which is in large part caused by the ever-changing nature of the industry, leaves most companies in an endless battle against turnover in their IT department, regardless of market conditions."

    The cost of losing employees is extraordinarily high versus the alternative of giving them training (see pictures below).

     

     

    OHTec gives its members an opportunity to hedge against the cost of employee loss by offering a discounted Emerging Leader training through ERC. View the training schedule here.

    Time and seats are limited. To receive your OHTec member code, please reach out to me ASAP at pantos@gcpartnership.com or 216-592-2396.

     

     

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    Next up: The Full (Tech) Cleveland
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  • The Full (Tech) Cleveland

    The Full Cleveland: a none-too-kind phrase mocking Cleveland’s supposed sartorial predilection for white belts and white patent leather shoes. The phrase has kind of waned over time and honestly, I don’t know if we ever, collectively, dressed like that. But I always thought it was kind of funny. And now I want to bring it back, if it’s ever actually been gone, with an improvement: The Full (Tech) Cleveland. 

    The Full Cleveland: a none-too-kind phrase mocking Cleveland’s supposed sartorial predilection for white belts and white patent leather shoes. The phrase has kind of waned over time and honestly, I don’t know if we ever, collectively, dressed like that. 

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    But I always thought it was kind of funny.

    And now I want to bring it back, if it’s ever actually been gone, with an improvement: The Full (Tech) Cleveland. 

    And it’s this: a long term, successful tech company, emphasis on long-term.

    And this: an innovative tech company with visionary leadership.

    And this: a tech company with a team of passionate, hungry, cool, crazy talent doing whatever it takes.

    But mostly it’s this: success over time, incremental growth, passion for success and commitment to helping all of us succeed. Aka, not that sexy.

    OverDrive and its CEO Steve Potash are great examples of Full (Tech) Cleveland. They’re a 29-year overnight success, dominating digital media with obsessive devotion to innovation, serving their customers and running a profitable business.

    Steve shared the company’s story at our OHTec luncheon today from the early days to their recent acquisition by Rakuten for ~$400M.

    Vision in their space, innovative convergence of software and hardware, a 99% customer retention rate and more are hallmarks of the company’s success over time.

    The Full (Tech) Cleveland, maybe OverDrive is our first member of the club. 

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    Next up: The Value of Long-Term Contracts
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  • The Value of Long-Term Contracts

    Learn how longer-term energy contracts of 36 or more months can help relieve budget headaches.

    Budgeting, especially budgeting for energy spend, can be tricky to say the least. There are so many variables that go into determining energy pricing that coming up with a number to put on your budget often turns into a maddening exercise for many small businesses.

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    We’ve mentioned this before, but devising an accurate estimate of exactly how much your energy expenses will be on an annual basis is a critical part of your budget planning. But what’s the best way to stay on top of your energy spend (which, by the way, is likely one of the biggest expenses your business faces.)

    RELATED: Read success stories of companies that have had success in managing their energy expenses

    With energy markets currently in backwardation—meaning contracts in 2019 are below 2018 prices—many owners are seeing an ideal hedging opportunity for electric and natural gas. One way to keep your energy costs budget-friendly is to lock in long-term energy contracts that are 36-plus months long. Why does the COSE Energy Team recommend such long contracts? Easy. It’s because long-term certainty on a historically volatile budget item is of most importance to small business owners.

    That said, we recognize that longer-term products might not be the right fit for your individual goals, objectives and needs. That’s why we’re always willing to work with you, our pool of suppliers and the consulting team at OnDemand Energy to help devise a plan that works best for your situation. We are always closely monitoring the current state of affairs with our consulting partner OnDemand Energy to ensure rate stability as well as a broad array of energy choices for our members.

    RELATED: Learn more about the COSE Energy Team’s partnership with OnDemand Energy

    One call to COSE’s Energy Team handles both your natural gas and electric issues. You can reach the Team by dialing 216-592-2205 or via email at energy@cose.org.

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