Posts made in December, 2014

When Was the Last Time You Thought About the Flu?

Posted by on Dec 30, 2014 in News | 0 comments

In the middle of winter, snowstorms and severe weather might be top of mind, but when was the last time you thought about the flu? Are you one of the many individuals who don’t think the flu is serious until you experience it firsthand? Those who have had the flu before were significantly more likely to be concerned about flu season versus those who never had it, according to a recent national survey conducted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). The survey also found that while U.S. adults are more concerned about flu this season compared to the 2011-12 season, few take actions to protect against and fight the flu. Among those surveyed, 41 percent receive an annual flu vaccine only after flu hits their local area. “All individuals should prepare for the possibility of flu. If people wait to get vaccinated until after flu is in their community, it may not be adequate because flu antibodies take two weeks to develop following vaccination,” says Dr. Susan J. Rehm, NFID medical director. “If you do get sick and think it may be the flu, contact a healthcare professional right away. There are rapid flu tests available and prescription flu medicines that can help shorten the time you are sick with flu if taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms.” Rehm suggests people know the Flu F.A.C.T.S. to distinguish symptoms from other circulating viruses, including the common cold: Fever Aches Chills Tiredness Sudden onset “When warnings are issued about the weather, it’s common to stock up on supplies, but when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announce a severe flu season, people may not have the same mindset about taking action,” says Marysol Castro, a nationally recognized weather forecaster. “Flu is a virus which spreads from person to person, much like weather patterns move from state to state. You can learn more about the incidence of flu in your area by using trackers on FluFACTS.com or nfid.org.” For more information on how to fight flu every season, view the CDC “Take 3” Actions to Fight the Flu (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm). Get involved and promote healthy behaviors by sharing the NFID #FightFlu memes available at nfid.org/flu-memes on your social media channels, including Facebook and...

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Businesses Hiring Ethical Hackers

Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Home Depot announced that personal financial information from 56 million credit and debit cards was at risk following a data security breach in September. Americans were still reeling from the Heartbleed bug, which compromised the security of some of the country’s largest companies in April 2014. Today cyber hacking – a crime that exploits technology to compromise personal information – is all too familiar. In an increasingly digital world, financial losses from cybercrime will continue to rise. Experts estimate cybercrime leads to global financial losses of at least $375 billion annually, according to a 2014 Intel Security report. How do businesses strengthen protection against cyber criminals? They beat them at their own game by employing ethical hackers. Cyber security expert Dr. Karmaveer Koonjbearry, professor in the Colleges of Business & Management, Engineering & Information Sciences and Health Sciences at DeVry University, explains how hacking can be used for good. What is ethical hacking? Ethical hacking is a legal, authorized process to identify security vulnerabilities in computer systems. Professional ethical hackers identify unnecessary open ports and backdoors that malicious hackers could potentially infiltrate to access files, credit card and Social Security numbers or other personal information. Ethical hackers make recommendations to large companies on how to mitigate such vulnerabilities. Where do ethical hackers work? Jobs for ethical hackers are expected to increase as organizations seek to strengthen their Internet security. Many large organizations already employ ethical hackers to test applications before they are deployed. Smaller organizations typically outsource ethical hacking periodically to check their systems. What training is available for someone who wants to become an ethical hacker? Degree programs in computer information systems and network and communications management can prepare students well for future careers in ethical hacking. The International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) offers a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) course to help professionals develop the skills required and prepare for the EC-Council CEH Certification exam. What soft skills should ethical hackers possess? Ethical hackers must have strong communication skills to explain system vulnerabilities constructively to corporate leadership, Web developers and application owners. They must be efficient yet thorough, and be prepared to work with some people who may not welcome the additional work required to secure their systems. Are there any risks in ethical hacking? Ethical hackers develop extensive knowledge about an organization’s systems, safeguards, vulnerabilities and practices. This information, in the wrong hands, can have disastrous consequences. It is critical that organizations select ethical hackers with the right background and ethical disposition. A “bad” ethical hacker can have significant consequences on an organization’s bottom line and...

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Tips to Beat the Winter Blues

Posted by on Dec 18, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Shorter days, colder weather, icy roads, and less sunshine – winter can be a serious downer. It’s not just in your head, either; 14 percent of Americans suffer from the winter blues and 6 percent have the more serious form of doldrums known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), according to research published in the journal Psychiatry. The winter blues may make you cut back on social interaction, sleep more and engage in comfort eating – all actions that can make your depression worse. Instead, try busting winter blues by engaging with others and taking part in activities that exercise and soothe all five senses. Scent as a pick-me-up Apple pie, a holiday meal, vanilla or roses – almost everyone has at least one scent they associate with comfort and positive feelings. While humans’ sense of smell isn’t nearly as acute as that of other mammals, research suggests that smell is directly tied to mood. In fact, at least one study published in the online journal Chemosensory Perception links poor olfactory function to mental disorders. And the ability of scent to positively influence mood is well documented. Using scent to combat winter blues can be as simple as adding mineral salts to your bathwater. You can also use essential oils to cheer the atmosphere in your home or office. Aromatherapy expert Aura Cacia offers a recipe for a bright, uplifting citrus air freshener you can easily make at home using their essential oils. Citrus is thought to dispel feelings of lethargy, and the clove and cinnamon are both stimulating and comforting. Citrus and Spice Aromatherapy Air Freshener Ingredients: 32 ounces of water 1/2 teaspoon sweet orange essential oil 1/2 teaspoon clove bud essential oil 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon essential oil Directions: Mix oils and water in a 32-ounce mister bottle. Shake well and use to mist the air throughout your home. For more winter time oil information, visit www.auracacia.com. Let the sun shine in A lack of natural light during winter is closely associated with depression and SAD. Get outdoors and in the sun as much as possible. When inside, open curtains and blinds to admit sunlight and sit next to windows as much as possible. If you live in an area that just doesn’t get much sunshine during the winter, or have an office without windows, consider using full-spectrum lights that mimic natural light. Surround yourself with colors and visuals that are uplifting. For example, if you love the tropics but a winter vacation isn’t in the cards, set the screensaver on your PC or your smartphone’s home screen to a tropical scene. Put a brightly colored comforter or quilt on your bed. Treat yourself to fresh flowers for your home or office – they’ll have the added bonus of stimulating your sense of smell as well. Sound advice The link between music and mood is well known. Surround yourself with uplifting sounds. While playing upbeat, summer-themed music is a good tactic, don’t overlook other sources of positive sound. Schedule a weekly phone chat with your BFF, rather than just texting. Consider using an alarm clock that wakes you with natural sounds, such as birds chirping, a babbling stream, or even a thunderstorm. Try to fit in time each day to just enjoy silence. If your home or office is always an active place, break out the noise-cancelling headphones you use on a plane to give yourself some peace and quiet. A taste for happiness Over-eating and weight gain are commonly associated with SAD and milder winter blues. While over-indulging will only make you feel worse in the long run, it is possible to use taste to boost your...

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Do You Qualify for an Insurance Tax Credit?

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in News | 0 comments

Health insurance and income taxes, once an unlikely pair, are now close companions as a result of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate that took effect Jan. 1, 2014. If you have health insurance through the federal or a state-sponsored marketplace insurance, it means a couple of important yet simple changes on your next income tax return. First, you’ll receive a new tax form from your marketplace around Jan. 31, 2015. Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, will include the information you need to report on your federal tax return in order to prove you have health insurance. Form 1095-A will also include information you need for the premium tax credit, a tax benefit to help pay for marketplace insurance. The credit amount is based on household size and income. In general, the lower your income, the higher your credit amount. In order to qualify for the premium credit:   * You must be ineligible for government programs like Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP. * You cannot have employer-sponsored insurance, or the lowest-priced, self-covered plan meeting minimum essential requirements offered by your employer costs more than 9.5 percent of your annual household income. * Your annual household income is 100 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. For the 2014 credit, that’s $11,490 to $45,960 for an individual. (Hawaii and Alaska residents are subject to different amounts.) * You cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return. * Your filing status generally cannot be married filing separately. The credit can be received in advance in order to reduce the cost of your monthly premiums, or you can wait to claim it on your tax return to reduce your amount owed or increase your refund. If your income or family size is different than what you estimated when you applied for marketplace insurance, your taxes may be impacted. If your actual income was less than estimated, you may qualify for a higher credit amount and therefore receive a larger refund. On the other hand, if your actual income was more than the estimated amount, you may need to pay some of the credit back at tax time. DIY tax solutions make reporting marketplace insurance and the premium credit a simple matter. “You can still easily prepare and file your own taxes,” says Jessi Dolmage, spokesperson for TaxACT. “Just enter Form 1095-A information when the program asks and answer some simple questions. The program will complete the calculations and tax forms to help you get every dollar you deserve.” If you plan to enroll in marketplace insurance during the next enrollment period, Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015, Dolmage recommends calculating your taxes beforehand. “You’ll need to enter some tax information on your marketplace application. TaxACT makes that easy. Complete the easy interview and the program will generate a HealthWatch report with all the tax information you need to apply for insurance and the premium credit.” Dolmage also reminds uninsured individuals planning to claim an exemption to visit healthcare.gov/exemptions to check if your situation requires an exemption certificate number (ECN). If so, mail the paper application and supporting documentation to your marketplace now because it can take weeks to process. After your application is accepted, you’ll receive an ECN to report on your tax return in order to avoid the individual shared responsibility payment. Learn more about the premium tax credit at www.irs.gov and healthcareact.com. To get the HealthWatch report and file your federal taxes free with TaxACT Free Edition, go...

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Santa’s Insurance Costs Infographic

Posted by on Dec 11, 2014 in News | 0 comments

On Christmas Eve Santa covers the entire globe delivering presents to good girls and boys. This cute infographic asks the question – how much would it really cost to cover Santa’s Christmas operation from reindeer insurance to health insurance as well as workshop insurance. Read on and get in the holiday...

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