Cyber-attack Alert from my Cybersecurity Study Group

For the first time, a US business has been the victim of a destructive cyber-attack.
•On Monday, the FBI released a five-page confidential document to US businesses.
•The document contained technical information about a destructive malware used in a cyber-attack against a US business last week. While the FBI does not name the affected business, it is believed to be Sony Pictures.
•No information was given on how the malware spreads or what an attack looks like. Businesses are encouraged to contact the FBI immediately if they believe that they have been affected.
•This destructive malware overrides data on hard drives of affected computers and makes it almost impossible to get the data back. The malware also stops computers from being able to reboot.
•Similar malware has been launched in the past at businesses in South Korea and the Middle East. Saudi Aramaco, an oil producer was a victim with 30,000 computers affected.
•Some experts say affected computers can be fixed but require a manual replacing of the hard drive or re-imaging which is very expensive and time consuming.
•The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are investigating the attack.

Remember Savvy Cybersecurity Principle #7: E.M.A.I.L.

While it is unclear on how this malware spreads, it is important to stay vigilant and protect yourself from potential phishing attacks. Always Examine Messages And Inspect Links before clicking on anything or sharing any personal information.

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Tablet Safety 101 – Making Your Tablet Safer for Public Use

Tax Tips are not a substitute for legal, accounting, tax, investment or other professional advice. Always consult with your trusted accounting advisor before acting upon any Tax Tip.

Tablet Safety 101 – Making Your Tablet Safer for Public Use

People are relying on tablet devices more and more every day. You use them for work and some for play. Tablets provide users with many of the benefits a laptop delivers, but in a format that’s even easier to take on the go. But, is your information safe when you use your tablet?

As with most things in life, there are things you can do to make your tablet a safer choice to use for business or pleasure while on the go.
•Install anti-virus software for your tablet device. You should only use trusted anti-virus names for this though as some savvy hackers have taken to creating fake anti-virus programs that actually install viruses on your devices.
•Be cautious when installing apps. Apps are notorious for not safeguarding your privacy.
•Enable capabilities to remotely wipe your device if it stolen and notify your provider (if applicable) right away if you have not installed those capabilities.
•Don’t click on advertisements on your tablet. Many ads automatically download viruses onto your device without your notice.
•Lock your screen when you’re not using your device.
•Don’t store log-in data on your tablet device. This makes it too easy for people who “find” your tablet to access your passwords, private, and financial information. The harder you make it for them to do, the less likely it becomes that they’ll go to the effort.
•Backup your data routinely. Some people do this daily. Depending on how often you use your tablet and what kind of data is stored on your tablet, this is a wise move to make.

The Dangers of Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi connection present very specific dangers to your tablet device. Many hackers disguise themselves as legitimate Wi-Fi connections and hang out in hot spots hoping someone will choose their connection to attempt a logging on. Once you’re connected to their device, bad things can happen. Look for secure Wi-Fi connections and be cautious when using public Wi-Fi.

It’s best to avoid it whenever possible though – especially when using your tablet for business or personal financial matters. Tablet devices are somewhat risky to use – especially for personal and financial information like reviewing tax returns or balancing your checkbook in public. However, the steps above will make your tablet safer for limited use in public.

TAX ADVICE DISCLAIMER: In accordance with IRS Circular 230, any tax advice included in this communication, including attachments, is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used by you or any other person or entity, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions, nor may any such advice be used to promote, market or recommend to another party any transaction or matter addressed within this communication. If you would like such advice, please contact us.
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TLC Financial, Inc. (TLC TAX) is a Minneapolis accounting firm that provides a wide variety of accounting, tax and financial management services. Our clients are located in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Midway, Minnehaha, Como Park, Summit Hill and surrounding communities.

Social Media: Business Builder or Time Waster?

In a recent survey, 94% of marketers reported that they are using social media to market their businesses, and many small-business owners were willing to tout its potential benefits. About half (51%) of small businesses (2 to 100 employees) reported that social media helped to improve sales. [1] Although established networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are already well known and widely used, newer communities such as Pinterest and Google+ are gaining regular users at a rapid pace. Usually, there is no cost to join social media sites, but managing one or more profiles may demand a significant amount of time and effort. During a typical week, 59% of business marketers devote six or more hours to social media activities, and 33% invest at least 11 hours. [2]

Here are a few tips for creating and using social media profiles effectively. Focus on operations first. Make sure your business is running smoothly before you start devoting time or other resources to social media pursuits. However, you may want to stake a claim to your business name on sites where you expect to have a presence in the near future. Do your homework. Consider spending several weeks or months exploring the territory, learning to use the technology, and researching the marketing techniques of similar businesses, especially if you are not currently active on personal social media profiles as a consumer. Start with one account. It’s possible that one social network is more popular than others with your target audience. It may take a while to create a workable routine for updating posts and interacting with clients online. Keep your profile professional. Try to provide helpful information that your customers are likely to find valuable. Avoid posting negative or controversial comments. Offer freebies or other incentives to engage potential customers. A contest that gives users a chance to win a prize, or a generous coupon, may be all you need to attract a following. Don’t neglect your network. You may need to respond to client requests, concerns, or complaints quickly. Otherwise, a single, isolated mistake could become a more serious public problem.

[1, 2] Social Media Examiner, 2012 The information in this article is not intended as tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional adviser. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate.

Author Bio: Bill is a past President of Minnesota Entrepreneurs’ Club, past board of directors member of Minnesota Entrepreneurs, Inc., and is a life member of Kingston’s National Registry of Who’s Who which is registered in the Library of Congress and distributed nationally to recognize professionals who are making a difference in their professions and their communities. He also advised the State of Minnesota’s Employees’ Insurance Program and was a Director of the State of Entrepreneurship Conferences Organizing Committee. During his third year as president of Minnesota Entrepreneurs’ Club, Bill followed his entrepreneurial dream and founded TLC Financial, Inc., a multi-faceted business services firm based in Bloomington, Minnesota. TLC Financial, Inc. (doing business as TLC Business Services and TLC TAX) offers the counsel of highly skilled business development specialists each dedicated to Bill’s goal of helping people create, accumulate and preserve personal wealth and business assets.

Get Free Tax Help Using IRS Social Media Tools

You can get free tax help from the Internal Revenue Service through various forms of social media. Here are some ways the IRS uses social media to share information on tax law changes, programs and services.

1. IRS2Go. Use this free Smartphone app to check your refund status, get tax updates and follow the IRS via Twitter. If you have an Apple iPhone or iTouch, download it from the iTunes app store. If you use an Android device, visit the Google Play Store to download IRS2Go for free.

2. YouTube. Tune in to IRS YouTube Channels for short, instructional videos on a variety of tax subjects. Videos are available in English, American Sign Language and other languages, such as Spanish.

3. Twitter. Follow IRS tweets for tax-related tips, news for tax professionals and job announcements. Follow us @IRSnews, @IRStaxpros and @IRSenEspanol.

4. Tumblr. Follow the IRS Tumblr blog for the most up-to-date tax news.

5. Facebook. Check the IRS Return Preparer Facebook page for useful posts for tax professionals.

6. Podcasts. Listen to short IRS podcasts to get useful facts on many tax topics. The audio files (along with transcripts) are available on iTunes or from the Multimedia Center page on IRS.gov.

Protecting your privacy is a top priority at the IRS. The IRS uses social media tools to share public information, not to answer personal tax or account questions. You should never post your Social Security number or any other confidential information on social media sites.

Get connected and stay connected to the IRS with social media. For more about IRS social media tools, visit IRS.gov and click on “Social Media.”

Additional IRS Resources:

Social Media
Multimedia Center
IRS YouTube Videos:

Connect With the IRS – English | Spanish
IRS Podcasts:

Connect With the IRS – English | Spanish

Get Connected to the IRS with Social Media

The April 15 tax deadline will soon be here. Those who wait until the last minute to file may be rushing to find the tax information they need. Tax preparers, businesses, news media and web masters may also be looking for creative ways to help their clients find IRS tax information and tools.

Consider using these IRS social media tools to help you or your website visitors navigate the tax deadline.

IRS2Go. IRS’s free mobile app gives you your refund status, tax news updates, IRS You Tube videos and also lets you request your tax records. IRS2Go is available for the iPhone, iTouch or Android mobile devices.
YouTube. IRS offers video tax tips on a variety of topics in English, Spanish and American Sign Language.
Twitter. Tweets from @IRSnews provide tax-related announcements and daily tax tips. Tweets from @IRStaxpros offer news and guidance for tax professionals. Tweets from @IRSenEspanol have news and information in Spanish, and @RecruitmentIRS provides updates for job seekers.
Podcasts IRS has short audio recordings that offer one tax-related topic per podcast. They are available on iTunes or through the Multimedia Center. Transcripts of the Podcasts are also available.
Tumblr. IRS Tumblr is a microblogging platform where users can access IRS tax tips, videos, and podcasts. The IRS uses Tumblr to share information about important programs. Tumblr can be accessed from your browser, smartphone, tablet or desktop.
Protecting your privacy is a top priority at the IRS. The IRS uses social media tools to share public information, not to answer personal tax or account questions. You should never post your Social Security number or any other confidential information on social media sites.

Get connected and stay connected to the IRS with social media.

Additional IRS Resources:

IRS Social Media
IRS YouTube Video:

IRS Social Media – English