Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Targeting the Consumer

The biggest technology shift in access control and video security in the last 10 years has not been the move to IP/IT devices, which was and still is a necessity. The real change impacting every new product is customer-centric design.

Long gone are the days when manufacturers ventured into the night to provide a service that few people understood and even fewer knew they needed. Today the products that gain the greatest amount of usability are not just because of the technology deployed. Dare I say, they are developed around what the customer is asking for.

Security devices are now just another part of the corporate culture, and the value proposition for access control is now deeply ingrained into both the building administrator and system users. Building administrators know why they want access control and how they want it used, but they aren't ready to take on the task of putting it in themselves. This is, after all, a big investment.

Manufacturers are now starting to realize that the customer drives the business. Long gone are organizations where the primary driving force is a “cool new technology” developed in someone's garage that now needs a market. Today's security market is mature, and manufacturers understand the growing trend to be market-driven. So the question for manufacturers now is, “How do I get closer to what my customer needs?” Some of those answers fall into the IP/IT space.

Consumers are forced daily to learn new technologies in the IP/IT market space. Whether it be a new VoIP phone system, a new wireless system in a campus infrastructure or even just new ways to control information flow on the corporate network, every computer now has a window open to the Internet. The IP/IT market is one of great technological advancements, and there is growing commoditization. The savvy security manufacturer understands that serving the market involves embracing standards and understanding that the end-user can and should know how a security system works.

Once one has come to that realization, development can begin on products that not only gain consumer acceptance by using base technologies already being adopted, but also expands the consumer's options for choosing installation companies. This widens the range of personnel who can administer the system. And the security manufacturers gain by having a much larger resource and talent pool of engineers, marketers and sales personnel to bring the “next big thing” to market.

Is IT/IP a trend? Yes. Are IT/IP devices and policies the number one trend in the market? Not any longer. They are currently just part of the mandatory feature list.

So what is the “next big thing?”

It's the consumer. You are driving the business now. And it's about time.

Monday, February 27, 2012

How "Security Aware" are you?

See just how "Security Aware" you really are

Do you believe you're a little more Security Aware? Can you identify the threats that exist in your environment and the steps you should take to avoid them? Take the following quizzes and find out.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Four Tips to Help Keep Your Computer Secure

1.     Anti-virus. A reliable, effective anti-virus program with the latest updates. Both licensed and free anti-virus software are available. Whichever you use, make sure it scans incoming and outgoing emails for malware.

2.     Anti-spyware. Reliable effective anti-spyware is a must for securing your computer. Both licensed and free anti-virus software, such as Windows Defender, are available.

3.     Two-way Personal Firewall. Two-way personal firewall software monitors network traffic to and from your computer and helps block malicious communications.

4.     Anti-Keylogger software. Anti-Keylogger software products, like AntiLogger and Keyscrambler Personal, help prevent what you type on your computer, especially sensitive information such as the usernames, passwords, and financial information you use in making online transactions, from being hijacked by Bad Guys. Learn more at www.millennium-groupinc.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Is your website optimized for search engines?

1. Choosing Keywords
The basic premise of keyword optimization is simple: Discover the search words that potential customers are using to find products or services like yours, and then build your Web content around those words. What complicates matters is that countless other websites are trying to do the same thing.

Understand the competitive ratio. Generally speaking, the more popular (or potentially lucrative) the search term, the more websites compete to rank high for that search term. Yes, you want to rank high on popular terms -- but if you don't have limitless resources, it is wise to target search terms for which you have a realistic shot at a high ranking. The best keywords, says Jill Whalen, a longtime SEO practitioner and head of the consultancy High Rankings, are "words and phrases that are being searched but that may have been overlooked by other websites."

An effective way to find such terms is to calculate the ratio of the number of pages a search returns to the popularity of the search term. "You have to look at the competitiveness of every keyword phrase that's relevant to what you offer," Whalen says.

Do the math. First, draw up a list of the keywords -- or, better yet, keyword phrases -- a potential customer might plausibly search if he or she were looking for your product. (A bike retailer, for example, might start with variations on bike, bicycle, and cycling; a specialty shop might also try bike frames and bike components.)

Then, see how often users search for these terms by plugging each into keyword-tracking tools such as Wordtracker (wordtracker.com), Keyword Discovery (keyworddiscovery.com), or Google AdWords's Keyword Tool (adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal). The Google AdWords tool is free, and the website SEOBook.com offers a free, though less robust, version of Wordtracker. Besides showing how many times these phrases are searched on average in a day or month, these tools will suggest other relevant terms. You may learn, for instance, that bicycle parts is a much more popular search term than bicycle components.

Next, run each phrase through Google. The more websites returned, the more competition you will have with that phrase. (In general, Woessner recommends devising terms that generate fewer than one million page hits.)

Finally, divide the number of indexed pages by the number of daily searches. The lower the result, the more promising the term. Ideally, says Woessner, the ratio should be 500 to 1 or less.

Narrow your keywords. If your ratio is higher than 500 to 1, you will probably want to choose narrower or more specific keywords. For example, if you do most of your business locally, you would be smart to add a geographic term to each keyword used on top-level pages. (Bicycle shop becomes bicycle shop Poughkeepsie.) Such a search is less popular, but the competition to win it is much less fierce, so it is likely to generate a better ratio.

There's no need to generate an exhaustive list of phrases. However, because each page of a website has a different focus or objective, each should have its own keywords. The homepage should have the most general terms, and keywords should become more tailored and specific as you burrow deeper into the site.

2. Placing Keywords Strategically
Once you have determined the best keywords to use, you need to employ them strategically, in two places.

In the code. It is the search engine that ultimately associates a keyword with a webpage, and the first place it looks to decipher a page is at the top of the page's coding -- within the so-called head tag that defines the page's overall characteristics. (A webpage's code, of course, isn't normally visible in a browser window; to see it, use the browser's "source" or "page source" command.) Incorporate the keywords you have chosen in the title, description, and keywords tags. These are often called meta tags, and the code often begins with that word.

The title will appear at the top of the user's browser window, and the description is often quoted by search engines, so these should be coherent and concise -- the title should be six to 12 words, according to Bruce Clay, a leading SEO consultant, and the description 12 to 24 words. Your title and description should reinforce each other and the page's visible content. If you have a lot of keywords, choose judiciously, because search engines prize natural-sounding language. You can load all your keywords, even misspelled variants, into the keywords tag field.

In the visible content. Your keywords should appear frequently in the text, as well as in the other elements of a page, including the descriptive "alt" tags that underlie images and in the headlines and subheads atop a section of text. Though there is no agreement among optimizers about how much text a page should include or how frequently keywords should be mentioned, they do agree on this: If people find your copy thoughtful and worth reading, a search engine will, too. Never stuff a page so full of keywords that it doesn't read naturally.

3. Building a Better Website
How your site is organized, designed, and built will affect its search-engine ranking, according to
Andy Robson, managing director of the optimizing firm dzine it. Organize content into themed categories, what Clay calls silos. "By lining up your content by the way people search, you define to the search engine what you're about," Clay says. You can either group similar pages together into separate directories of folders and subfolders, or you can create "virtual silos" by using links that guide a user from one page to the next.

Other strategies are more technical, so you may need to rely on a Web developer for assistance. The site must be hosted on a fast server. The page code should be free of bugs and fully comply with the standards for website structure set by the World Wide Web Consortium. (You can test this at validator.w3.org.) Include in the site's code a special protocol known as Sitemap, which makes it easier for visiting search engines to scan the site. Sitemaps can be submitted directly to the search engines.

Seeding Links

Once you have optimized your website, you want to attract links from other sites. SEO consultants offer a fairly prosaic strategy: Build a good site with useful content to which other sites will want to send their readers. Here are a few strategies to grease that wheel.

Lend your expertise. Forge partnerships under which other sites can publish your repurposed or original content on the condition that they link back to your site. "Sharing your expertise about the product or the service can differentiate your brand," says Stephen Woessner. "The brand story is what gets somebody to purchase one product over another."

Find out who's linking to your competition. Many of them probably should be linking to you as well. The "links" tool at faganfinder.com/urlinfo reports the inbound links to a website detected by the major search engines. Many of those links will come from directories that are important to your industry or community. There's no sin in requesting a link -- or in trading content for one.

Be choosy about linkers. "You want the best sites, not the most, to link to you," says Bruce Clay. "If an expert links to you, by association you're an expert" (provided the expert is in your subject area). By the same token, avoid link farms, or websites that exist solely to provide outbound links, and services that sell links outright. Search engines, says Clay, will penalize you for the chicanery.

SEO Subterfuge

The techniques we have talked about here are often described as ethical, organic, or natural SEO. By contrast, black hat SEO embraces manipulative or deceptive techniques to game the search-engine system. Search engines work hard to keep these techniques from working, so they are seldom effective for long and could even get you blacklisted. Here are several strategies that you are best off avoiding.

Cloaking: Presenting two different versions of the same page, one to search engines and one to users.

Keyword stuffing, or spamming: Loading up the meta tags with popular search terms that have no substantive connection with the page.

Hidden links and keywords: Concealing them in the background color, outside the visible margins, or in other code.

A great example of an optimized website is the Millennium Group website www.millennium-groupinc.com

Monday, August 1, 2011

Online Banking Tips

The ability to conduct your banking activities online is a huge benefit. It is not easy to have to visit your branch every time you need to transfer money, deposit a check or find your balance. Today nearly all bank transactions can be done through a secure online banking platform. This can save you money and give you better control of your finances. But choosing the right online bank can take a little diligence.
Secure banking
When you sign up for online banking your bank will provide you with instructions on setting up a password, security questions and possibly a PIN designed to help keep your banking data safe. The greatest risk for fraud is not from the bank's server being hacked, but it is on your end if you do not protect your login data and passwords. To bank safely online, use firewalls, anti-virus software, random passwords and frequently clear your internet browser history. When visiting your bank's website, look for the reassuring digital certificate padlock in the bottom right-hand corner of your browser that helps verify the website is legitimate. A little diligence goes a long way with online banking security.
If you are comparing online banking accounts it is important to find a bank that offers a full array of features. Free checking, direct deposit, online bill payment, online statements and ATM fee rebates are some of the basic requirements that every online banking customer should expect out of their bank. While many brick-and-mortar banks claim to offer online banking, most still cannot provide all of the features listed above in their online banking platform. Even worse, some charge fees for what should be free online banking services. Don't get fooled by an imitator, find an online bank with a full complement of free online banking features.
Details, details, details
Banks can make it a challenge to earn the best rate. Many of their best rate offers have qualifiers and requirements that are not clear from their promotional websites pages or ads. Make sure you fully understand the terms of any bank deal before opening a checking account, CD, money market or savings account online. You can also call and have a customer service representative explain it to you fully if you don't understand or lack the patience to read the small print. Many times the devil is in the details.
Paying bills online
If you want to save money, consider paying your bills online. First, it is a great way to avoid being charged late fees. It is also is a form of eco-friendly banking. Think of all the extra energy that is expended when you mail physical checks across the country, not to mention the extra paper generated. Finally, paying bills online can help you maintain better control of your money. It is easier to maximize investment income and lower debt payments, when you know exactly when your bills will be paid. Don't delay any longer, start paying bills online today. It's easier than you think.
Watch your fees
When interest rates are very low, bank fees can eat into and even destroy your income from interest paying CDs, money market accounts or savings accounts. As is commonly known, bank profits have slumped in the last couple of years. Can you take a wild guess an area where banks are looking to increase their revenue? That's right, bank fees. While online banks have a significantly better fee structure for consumers than branch banks, you should still check all the fees that your bank plans to charge for banking activities. Make sure basic services like viewing electronic statements, retrieving check copies and ATM withdrawals are free.
Know your FDIC insurance limits
If you deposit funds at a bank in CDs, money market accounts, savings accounts or checking accounts, the FDIC insures your deposit up to $250,000. This means a husband and wife could hold $500,000 of insured money in a single bank. If they opened a deposit account for their two kids, the same family could have a million dollars at one bank - all FDIC-insured. FDIC-insured online banks are treated the same as brick-and-mortar banks when it comes to deposit insurance. The only tricky part is that many online banks have an online identity that is different from their official bank name as listed on their FDIC charter. For instance, Redneck Bank, is an online bank with a very humorous tongue-in-cheek web site. This is their online identity. Depositors at Redneck Bank are actually depositing funds at an FDIC-insured bank titled Bank of the Wichitas. The same principle applies with SmartyPig and their online social savings site at Smartypig.com. Depositors are actually insured at BBVA Compass Bank. If you open an account with an online bank, pay close attention to the exact bank that will be holding the deposits to ensure you do not exceed FDIC insurance limits. You can check the FDIC's website at FDIC.gov for more detailed information on FDIC insurance and determine deposit coverage on online banks.
Don't go phishing
Have you ever received an e-mail from a bank with which you do not even have an account? If so, you have received a phishing e-mail. Unfortunately, countless people are fooled by these official-looking e-mails every year and give up their online account information to criminal enterprises. Remember to never click on an embedded link in an e-mail that you receive from a bank. It could be a cleverly disguised phishing operation. Instead, take the extra few seconds to type in the bank's website URL or have the site bookmarked on your computer when you need to log on to your online banking.
Finding the best bank deals
Part of the online banking experience is searching for the best bank deals and rates. Sites like MoneyRates make it easy to find banks offering great perks for opening a new bank account with them. You can find cash bonuses, free iPads, frequent flier miles, great merchandise, gift cards and more. Check for the latest bank deals before opening a new bank account or if you are tired of your current bank.
Personal financial management
An important component of online banking is incorporating your banking data into personal financial management software or financial management websites. This allows you to easily see your household budget, investments and expenses without trying to organize paper files and statements. Online bank statements can be downloaded into most personal accounting software packages, as well as financial sites like Mint.com that aggregate your financial data. If you want to organize your personal financial information, signing up for online banking is a great first step.
Remote deposit
The ability to deposit checks with your computer and a scanner is a feature that can be very useful to the self-employed and small businesses that process a large volume of checks. Banks will typically charge initial set-up fees and monthly fees, but reducing the number of trips you make to the bank and cutting down your check float can save you money in the long run. Check with your bank to see if they offer this online banking service and if it might be economical based on your volume of check processing.
Reference – MoneyRates.com

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

School Access Control

Every school district faces unique challenges, but they all share a basic responsibility for ensuring the safety and security of the students, the faculty and the staff. To meet this responsibility, many schools systems are including access control within their overall security strategy.

The balance that must be struck in incorporating access control, as it is in all security issues, is maintaining a an open user-friendly environment while establishing a safe and secure facility at all times; including when school is in session, when limited faculty and staff are present, and when the school facilities are unoccupied.

As a component of a complete security solution, access control not only manages physical access to facilities and assets, but creates an audit trail that is valuable for both operational and forensic purposes. Access control often represent the center of an overall security management implementation since the event database that integrates all security-related actions is most typically controlled by the access control system.

The primary reasons for using access control in schools are:
1. Protection of administrative areas and other sensitive areas;
2. Visitor management;
3. Protection of high value assets;
4. Emergency response;
5. Maintenance of records of facility use; and
6. Management of operational costs.

Let’s look at each of these reasons for using access control:

Protection of administrative areas and other sensitive areas
Access control systems are used in schools to protect administrative offices and rooms where personnel files and student records are maintained. The policies for access to these areas will typically be substantially different when schools are in session than during periods when administrative staff is not present.

Visitor Management
Visitor management is a responsibility of all schools today. Visitors will include educational professionals, parents, substitutes as well as support and service personnel. The policies for each of these groups will typically be significantly different. Effective access control requires limitations to the access points to the school, but will permit schools to control physical access [if necessary] as well as to maintain records for all of these visitors. Visitor management may include badging and temporary access to sensitive areas for visitors as required.

Protection of high value assets
In many schools, computer and science labs have significant high-value assets that that can be subject to theft. For this function, access control is typically integrated with intrusion detection and security video. In this manner, access control can provide verified alarms for police response as well as forensic records.
In some schools the access control system may also integrate video surveillance at external areas where there is a history of graffiti or other vandalism. Some schools are using two way audio to warn students that their actions are being recorded and they will be subject to disciplinary action. In general, the school can use the access control system to reduce theft, ensure privacy and reduce damage to school property.

Emergency response
Access control systems can be used to facilitate automatic lockdown and communicate with teachers that are affected to inform them of the event and, most importantly, to communicate with the teacher that the lock-down has ended. Each action is important. When there is an event, it is imperative to communicate the need for a lock down as quickly as possible. It is also important to ensure that classes are not caught in that lockdown after the alarm has passed.

Newer access control systems also provide the capability to communicate with local police. Many school lock downs are driven by an alert from the police that there is a problem in the neighborhood of the school and that there is a possible danger to students if they are allowed to leave the classroom. While remote locking to all classrooms is expensive, it is important if the school wants to institute automatic, remote lockdown. Even during lockdown, all school doors need to be able to be opened from the inside (so that students and staff can exit in the event of a fire or other emergency), but the school should able to reduce the number of doors that can be opened from the outside. The access control system should also be able to facilitate mustering for situational awareness of students and staff during and after lockdown events

Maintenance of records of facility use
One of the benefits of access control is in risk management. A robust security, safety and emergency management program can reduce insurance costs. Many schools are members of cooperative insurance programs and these insurance alliances and associations are focused on minimizing the liability exposure of the schools in the alliance.

Gymnasiums, athletic fields and libraries represent areas with significant potential for liability risk. They typically are made available to community organizations for after-school use. Security in these facilities can be enhanced and liability can be reduced by controlling the access points to the facilities and capturing video surveillance of the activities within these areas.

In middle and high schools, another area of risk management is in the laboratory areas, either where chemicals are stored or where physics experiments are being conducted. These areas are often subject to liability and compliance requirements, for example the policies and procedure requirements relating to the control, storage and disposal of chemicals. Recently, some middle and high schools have added remote duress and panic alarms to their access control systems. Teachers can transmit as many as four different commands-from “I am uncomfortable with the situation’ to “I need help, quick”. This ability for a teacher to communicate quickly and remotely can prevent many high liability events from occurring.

Management of operating costs
A new use of access control is reduction of operating costs. Once the infrastructure for access control is implemented, many schools have added robust wireless sensors to quickly recognize and eliminate operational problems.

One example is the use of wireless sensors to ensure that fire extinguishers are where they should be, and that they are fully pressurized and not blocked. The schools have eliminated the costs of monitoring the extinguishers manually. Another example is the use of temperature sensors to ensure that food is properly refrigerated and being stored at a temperature that complies with normal safety standards. This eliminates spoilage and liability. A third example is to use water (humidity) sensors to monitor bathroom areas that have a history of vandalism and water damage.
Another example is to connect the access control system to field lights to ensure that they are turned off after events and thereby reduce the power costs.

For schools with their own police force or with a designated response team, reports can be downloaded into the system and stored for subsequent analysis. When schools have their own police force or guards, a Guard Tour module can be added to the access control system to ensure the operational efficiency of the security staff. Recently, some access control systems have developed analog to digital interfaces with a wireless reporting capability. These sensors can monitor all utilities and allow for more cost effective use of those resources.

Access control systems represent a significant element for school safety and security. Together with other components such as video, environmental sensors and management of security-related events in a searchable database, they permit school districts to meet their safety and security responsibilities to their students, to their faculty, to their staff and to the community at large. They also can be used to reduce both liability and operational expenses. More schools are seeing the benefit of these systems and are using access control as an integrating platform for their security, safety and emergency management initiatives.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Providing ATM users with safety tips

ATM users should be advised about what steps they can take to reduce their risk of getting robbed. While it is unlikely that providing safety tips will prevent any particular robbery, the larger purpose is to change ATM users' habits. Safety tips can be provided through mailings to cardholders, signs posted at ATMs, messages printed on ATM receipts, messages displayed on ATM screens, safety presentations, and public awareness campaigns. Listed below are some standard safety tips for ATM users:
awareness campaigns. Listed below are some standard safety tips for ATM users:

- Be aware of your surroundings, especially between dusk and dawn. If you notice anything suspicious—a security light out, someone loitering nearby—consider coming back later or using a supermarket or convenience store ATM.

- If using the ATM at night, take someone with you.
- Park in a well-lit area as close as possible to the ATM.
- At a drive-through ATM, be sure the doors are locked and the passenger windows are rolled up.
- If you withdraw cash, put it away promptly; count it later, in private.
- Put your ATM card and receipt away promptly; never leave your receipt at the ATM.
- Keep your PIN secret—don't write it down, and don't share it with anyone you don't trust absolutely. Your PIN provides access to your account.
- Shield the keypad when entering your PIN to keep it from being observed.
- Avoid being too regular in your ATM use—don't repeatedly visit the same machine at the same time, the same day of the week, for instance.

ATM users should further be advised to close any vestibule doors securely and not to open doors for others. In addition, signs at ATMs should state that the site is being surveilled by cameras.
Some victims resist during robberies either to protect their valuables or because they believe the offender is about to get violent. Some succeed in preventing the robbery through resistance, while others get injured or killed.

Offenders want to get the crime over with quickly so they can escape. Any delay increases their nervousness and, therefore, the likelihood they will become violent. Robbers are usually highly agitated and easily perceive the victim's actions as threatening. Drug and alcohol use will obviously influence their emotional state. Some use violence immediately to preempt any resistance. In cases with multiple offenders, the risk of violence increases because each offender is also concerned about appearing tough and in control to the other(s).

As with other violent crimes, victims should assess the particular situation, taking account of nearby assistance, weapons they are threatened with, offenders' behavior and emotional state, their own defensive abilities, and their own psychological need to resist. Given an imperfect understanding of why robbers become violent, compliance is usually the safer course of action for victims, and the best advice for police to offer. Widespread victim compliance, however, undoubtedly leads some offenders to perceive lower risk and, therefore, increases their ATM robbery rates.