Target Wasn’t the Only Business That Experienced Data Breach

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According to the Secret Service, the retail giant Target wasn’t the only business that experienced a cyber attack that compromised tens of millions of its customers’ credit cards.

The New York Times reported on Friday that more than 1,000 American businesses were hit by the same cyber attack that Target faced earlier this year. A Department of Homeland Security advisory stated that the attacks were “much more pervasive” than initially reported. Hackers received access to millions of payment card data, which are being sold on the black market. According to the report, Homeland Security officials are encouraging all businesses to check for “Point of Sale malware infections,” regardless of the size of the business.

In order to complete the data breach, criminals scan a company’s system for vendors or employees who have remote access. By running programs, hackers are then able to guess username and password combinations in order to gain access to the systems. Once they have done so, they target the in-store cash register systems with malware known as “Backoff.” Backoff then combs through the system and takes the payment card data.

Despite the fact that the Homeland Security, the Secret Service, the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center and their partners have warned companies to check their in-store cash register systems for the Backoff malware, only seven companies have opened up about their systems being affected. The Secret Service has much steeper estimates for the number of businesses that have actually been breached.

Target was heavily criticized in the wake of the announcement about the Nov. 27 to Dec. 15 data breach because of their delay in informing customers that their personal information may have been compromised. Considered one of “the largest data breaches from any consumer business,” the breach affected more than 70 million Target customers.

In order to confront the spread of the malware, the Secret Service and Homeland Security have recommended that companies limit the number of vendors that have outside access to the corporate systems, and require more complex passwords and login lock outs after failing to sign in multiple times. It is also recommended that there be revisions to a company’s in-store cash register system, including a two-step verification process.

Sears Faces Decline

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Thursday marked the ninth straight quarterly loss for Sears and caused shares of the struggling retailer to plunge over 8%. The second quarter loss fell short of already-low Wall Street expectations and comes on the heel of reported sales declines at many of its businesses, including Kmart, Sears Auto Center and Sears Canada.

Sears also reported that it lost profit from major promotional activities that have yet to bear fruit. It is believed that part of Sears’ revenue loss last quarter came from the spinoff of its Lands’ End Clothing line. Although stock received a slight boost around the time of the Lands’ end deal, it was short-lived and shares of Sears are now down over 15% this year.

Once a powerhouse as the largest retailer and employer in America, Sears has since experienced profit decreases after its merger with Kmart in 2004. A retail analyst, Brian Sozzi with Belus Capital Advisors, says that the company failed to invest in their actual stores since the merger, leaving them with an antiquated look. Sozzi was quoted stating, “This quarter once again supports the view that Sears and Kmart are getting pushed out of retail in the United States.”

Despite their obvious decline, experts are saying to not write off Sears just yet. Other retailers have also reported earnings in the past few weeks, and it has been a mixed bag. Wal-Mart warned that it expects to earn less this year than it had previously promised. Additionally, Target is working to overcome issues related to the massive data breach.

10 Terrible Bosses

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Unless you somehow managed to master the “be your own boss” goal of many workers, chances are you have a supervisor. Just like snowflakes, all bosses are different, each having their own method of management, interaction and delegating tasks at work. While we can’t always pick and chose are bosses, there are some management personality types that we are better off avoiding. Unfortunately at some point in your career, you’ll come across a few of the types of bosses that are tough to have. View a list of 10 boss archetypes that you should avoid at all cost:

1. The 24/7 Boss
When you work for this boss, chances are you answer calls at 11PM and check your email frequently outside of the office. He or she expects their staff to be constantly available and work as hard as they do, around the clock.

2. Mr. Anger Problems
This is the boss you avoid when the copier breaks down, or the project goes badly, or in just about every scenario where there is potential to anger him or her. With a short fuse and a big temper, this manager is difficult to handle and requires a thick skin.

3. The BFF
With a manager who can’t draw the line of professionalism, it can be difficult to accomplish tasks at work. While it is certainly important to enjoy your work, distractions from your own boss can send mixed signals as to when you should be serious and when it is okay to relax.

4. The “I Didn’t Imagine My Life Turning Out Like This” Guy
When your boss doesn’t enjoy his job, chances are you won’t enjoy yours. This manager is unhappy in their current position, and often takes their frustrations out on their employees.

5. The Clueless One
“What is that? That think you’re doing?” Nothing is more frustrating than having a boss who couldn’t even do your job. A manager who is clueless to your role, responsibilities and the tasks that you must complete can be overwhelming and cause you to want to rip out your own hair.

6. The Escapist
This boss is never in his office, or available to chat. He constantly ducks out when the going gets tough and avoids conflict despite needing to tackle it head on.

7. The Ancient One
When your boss describes the 40-somethings as a “wacky bunch,” it’s a solid sign that he or she is ancient. While there are benefits to working for someone with substantial industry experience, there are also downsides. Old habits die hard, and older bosses may be more stuck in their ways and unwilling to change.

8. The Hates You Unequivocally
For whatever reason, this boss has decided he or she doesn’t like you, and there really isn’t much you can do about it. Regardless of your work ethic, office successes and desire to be well liked, you will likely feel stuck in a rut working for this employer.

9. The Micromanager
“You’re stapling that weird. Here, let me show you how to staple.” The micromanager stands over your shoulder and makes sure you do each and every task exactly the way he or she feels it must be done.

10. The Substitute Boss
This is the other boss that is sort of like when a substitute teacher played a video in class and everyone loved him or her a bit more than the actual teacher. He or she isn’t invested in making sure workers get their work done, and is more concerned with kicking back and relaxing.

Working for a bad boss can be overwhelming and difficult. While we can’t always control who we work for, having a better understanding of the type of boss we have and the things that make them quirky can improve our work lives and allows us to move on with our days.

Workers Spend More Time Planning Vacation Than Retirement

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Charles Schwab recently surveyed 1,000 retirement savers and found that more than half said they had spent five hours or more doing research the last time they bought a car, and 39% said they spent more than five hours exploring vacation possibilities. While it’s no surprise that people want to enjoy their new cars and vacations, it did come as a shock that a mere 11% said they spent that amount of time evaluating investment options for their 401(k). In fact, about one-third of savers said that they spent less than an hour on investment research.

Although some investments are a little more hands-off, only half of the individuals surveyed said that they felt on top of their 401(k) investments, while 44% said they didn’t know how to select their best 401(k) investment options.

The off-hands approach that many are taking can be costly. Choosing the right combination of stocks, bonds and other investments is one of the best methods to ensure that there will be enough money for you once you reach retirement age.

If you are unsure of the steps to take, chances are your employer may be able to help you. Many companies offer free online investment advice tools as part of their 401(k) offering. Others may even provide access to investment advisers.

Just as you’d research your car or dream vacation spot, it is important that you take the time to research what you are investing in and the fees you are paying Although a change may only be minor, it could be the deciding factor when it comes to maintaining a comfortable life post-retirement.

CEO’s Take On ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

You’d be hard pressed to miss the videos going around related to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Chances are by now, your Facebook feed is flooded with them, and you’ve heard all about the cause. Celebrities, athletes, politicians and just about everyone in between are taking to social media to dump cold water on their heads in an effort to raise awareness of Lou Gherig’s disease. After dumping the bucket, individuals nominate three of their peers to tip the bucket within 24 hours or else donate to an ALS charity. While there is certainly an ultimatum for some, most people are now doing both. Since the challenge went viral in July, the over $13.3 million has been raised as of August 17.

Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association stated, “We have never seen anything like this in the history of the disease.” She went on to state, “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the level of compassion, generosity and sense of humor that people are exhibiting as they take part in this impactful viral initiative.”

And what’s one of the best parts of the challenge, aside from the hefty boost in donations? Top name CEOs are joining in on the fun as well. Silicon Valley, and the numerous tech firms that dominate the area are dousing themselves and donating towards the cause. From Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah to Jeff Bezos, top name execs have answered to the challenge, and done so in some innovative ways. Take a look at some awesome videos of Zuckerberg, Gates and Tim Cook taking on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

 

 

Company Introduces Activity-Based Environment in New Office

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In late June, the Gerson Lehrman Group, a consulting firm that connects business executives with relevant experts, moved into a new space in New York at 60 East 42nd Street. However, when the 250 employees relocated, they seemed to have left something behind: assigned seating.

Imagine walking to an office every day and not having a desk of your very own. That’s right. No place to hang pictures or decorate, and none of the status that comes with the nice corner office or the desk right next to the window. Instead, at Gerson Lehrman Group, workers are provided with a locker, a laptop, and a license to roam across a variety of different office landscapes, including conference rooms, couches, and an in-house coffee bar.

The new office is two-floors with 64,000 square feet, serving as the largest U.S. implementation of activity-based working. Activity based space is a Dutch-born theory that suggests that office workers are happiest and most productive when given the opportunity to utilize a variety of different areas based on a particular task that they are given.

Prior to moving, GLG decided to build its new office based on the principles of activity-based working. The head of public affairs of the company, Richard Socarides stated that the goal is to increase collaboration among employees and to provide a better space for hosting clients. Thus far employees appear to be pleased with the shift. Mike Martin, a systems analyst with the company stated, “I definitely find that moving around helps me get work done.”

Would you enjoy an activity-based working environment?

Fantasy Football Tackles Productivity

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This past summer, the World Cup captivated audiences and had workers across the world flocking to televisions during normal work hours. Though numbers haven’t been released for this year’s tournament, in 2010 InsideView projected that the U.S. economy lost $121.7 million, due to 21 million Americans watching for 10 work-minutes a day. While there is no denying that World Cup soccer and other sporting events such as March Madness college basketball are taking a toll on the economy, the reality is that another sport pastime takes the trophy home for the biggest productivity drain: Fantasy Football.

When it comes to lost productivity, Fantasy Football is the champion. An estimated 31 million Americans participate in drafting, managing and coaching their teams in a make-believe NFL. And most of the highly competitive, team management takes place during work hours.

According to outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an estimated $14 billion is lost in productivity from Fantasy Football for wages paid to unproductive workers. Measly in comparison, the NCAA’s March college basketball tournament is estimated to cost $1.2 billion in lost productivity.

With preseason games already in full swing and the regular season just around the corner, analysts are anticipating reduced productivity thanks to our favorite sports pastime of Fantasy Football. Are you gearing up for the new Fantasy Football season this Fall?

Engagement Has Greater Impact on Employee Health

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According to recent research from Gallup, 96 percent of all full-time U.S. workers have access to a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Additionally, two-thirds of American workers say that the amount of work they accomplish outside of work as increased “a little” to “a lot” due to mobile technology over the last decade.

Citing the information from the Gallup research in the Harvard Business Review, Jim Harter, an executive in Gallup’s workplace management practice, wrote about the debate over banning e-mail after the end of the workday for the sake of employees’ well-being. According to Harter, Gallup discovered some interesting data that could possibly make leaders rethink their position on such bans.

Harter stated, “that just over a third of full-time workers say they frequently check e-mail outside normal working hours—and those who do are 17 percent more likely to report better overall lives compared with those who say they never check e-mail outside of work.”  The results held true even after controlling for income, age, gender and education differences.

On the other hand however, half of workers who check e-mail frequently outside of work are also more likely to report having “a lot of stress yesterday” while compared with just one-third of those workers who never check their email remotely. Though there is some evidence from the Gallup poll, it doesn’t appear that there is enough evidence on which to base an after-hours e-mail policy. Instead, Harter says that companies must first determine whether or not their employees are engaged with their work.

Harter states, “Problems arise when companies make such policy decisions without considering whether their employees are engaged.” By assiuming that work is engaging and rewarding, as opposed to a necessary burden, we risk having over-worked or stress eployees. “Gallup’s research has found that high levels of engagement are more important than specific well-being policies.”

During the research process, Gallup interviewed thousands of U.S. Workers and identified three types: workers who are engaged, not engaged and actively disengaged. According to the data, 30 percent of U.S. workers are engaged, or involved with their work and organization. However, 52 percent of U.S. workers are not engaged, which means they arrive to work and complete only the bare minimum. Additionally, 18 percent of employees are actively disengaged, meaning that they are working against their own organization.

Harter believes that stress levels correlate more directly with the different levels of engagement than they do with e-mail policies. He goes on to explain that, “daily stress is significantly lower for engaged workers and higher for actively disengaged workers, regardless of whether their employer expects them to check e-mail during non-work hours or not.” Overall, the Gallup research suggests that instead of assuming that checking e-mail is detrimental to mental health, companies should make sure that they aim to increase emplopyees’ level of engagement in order to provide a better work environment.

Microsoft Rivals Apple in New Advertisements

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Continuing on in its campaigns to combat its rival competitor, Microsoft is once again taking a jab at Apple, only this time the tech giant is tackling MacBook users. In three recent Microsoft commercials, meant to evoke Apple’s famous Mac vs. PC spots from a decade ago, the company compares the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet to the MacBook. In the three separate ads, a MacBook owner is amazed at how powerful, fast and capable the Surface is, while having tablet-like features not currently available on a Mac.

The string of ads do not mark the first time that Microsoft has attempted to rival Apple during a campaign by giving them a taste of their own medicine. In fact, earlier this year Microsoft launched a similar commercial poking fun at Siri. During the ad, a person is shown asking Microsoft’s “personal assistant” app Cortana to do tasks like set location-based reminders, leaving Siri to state, “Now, that is a smart phone.”

This style of Microsoft’s advertising was also apparent in 2012, when Microsoft showed side-by-side comparisons of the Windows 8 tablet and the iPad. After the commercial displays all of the things that the Windows tablet could do and the iPad couldn’t, the commercial concludes with an exasperated Siri stating, “Should we just play Chopsticks?”

Despite their efforts to compete with Apple, Microsoft’s commercials have yet to place a dent in sales of MacBook, iPad and iPhone sales.

A Glimpse at Apple University

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In 2008, Steve Jobs created Apple University alongside former Yale School of Management dean Joel Podolny. The university has since served as an internal education venture designed to further develop the company’s culture and history. New, inside information regarding the highly secretive university comes from three Apple employees who spoke to The New York Times regarding their time there.

Apple University provides optional courses that have employees lining up to participate in. Classrooms are trapezoid-shaped, the curriculum is high-minded, and an distinguished full-time faculty who come from Yale, Harvard, Stanford, M.I.T. and more lead the courses.

The university offers various classes, including “Communicating at Apple,” and “What Makes Apple, Apple,” in which professors highlight the features and characteristics of the company that allow it to continue to grow and develop the culture that they are well known for.

Apple University is located in the City Center section of the Cupertino Campus. The courses are offered year round in an environment that suits Apple’s signature style. As the first information regarding the school, the review of the university provided by the students gives individuals a cursory glance at the culture and growth of Apple.