No business is too small for cyber criminals

By Kate Miller

No business is too small for cyber criminals

Any size business can fall victim to a cyber attack.

Data breaches make the news when big retail chains get hit with a cyber attack. You may even be notified of the breach by the retailer if they have reason to believe your data was compromised. Or, you may read about data breaches when you receive a new credit card or are offered identity theft protection.

What you might not hear about are the cases where a business owner goes bankrupt after a data breach. A 2012 study by the National Cyber Security Alliance found that 60 percent of small to midsize businesses that suffered a breach went out of business within six months.


Your first line of defense as a business owner is to educate yourself on how to prevent or mitigate a breach. Follow news reports, and take advantage of online materials available to help you prepare for and respond to cyber attacks.


Your local independent insurance agent could be your second line of defense, providing information about Internet exposures and insurance products. Any business that handles private information is at risk of breach and subject to cyber exposures. Private information includes personal identifiers (Social Security numbers, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, etc.), financial information (bank or investment accounts, credit cards, etc.), medical or medical claim history, employee personal data or student records.

Companies that use third parties to process their transactions or record keeping, such as payroll, employee benefits or billing, also have the potential for a cyber loss. Consider the possibility of that third party experiencing a data breach where you might be ultimately responsible for the breached records.


Cyber insurance can reimburse for expenses incurred such as:

  • Breach notification law compliance – 47 states have data breach notification laws that include an obligation to notify those whose information has been breached and certain federal laws, such as HIPAA, may also require similar notifications.
  • Breach response costs – for example, notifying and providing services to affected individuals
  • Opportunity costs and out-of-pocket expenses involved in resolving identity theft problems for business owners and customers
  • Damage to the business computer systems and data due to unauthorized access, hacking, malware or denial of service attacks

Remember, data comes in all forms, paper and electronic, and business owners need to protect data to manage risk.


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Know the limitations when using a crane

By Jeff Heiser

Know the limitations when using a crane

Treat no crane lift as routine.

The world of construction is fast paced. Contractors strive to complete their projects quickly and efficiently without sacrificing quality or safety. Mobile cranes are versatile and powerful pieces of equipment that can help contractors reach those goals by moving materials and equipment great distances and placing them in hard-to-reach areas.

Whether a contracting firm owns or rents a crane or has a crane present on its jobsite, no lift should be treated as routine. There is always potential for death, injury, property damage, interruption of business and the effects of bad publicity.

Accident risk is present from the time the crane leaves the storage yard to the time the job is over – and at every stage in between: in transit, during assembly and setup, during use and throughout disassembly.

Avoid crane accidents and complete lifts without incident by adhering to recognized best practices:

  • Carefully plan all anticipated lifts before construction begins, taking into account weight of loads, maximum height of lifts and maximum radius of lifts. Consider using a crane scale.
  • Properly train and qualify riggers to ensure they can calculate safe rigging loads.
  • Thoroughly evaluate the site to assure or make preparations for adequate ground support. Engineered site work may be needed.
  • Follow regulatory and manufacturer requirements for regular inspections and make any needed repairs.
  • Obtain a copy of the annual and most recent monthly inspections for nonowned cranes prior to permitting them on your jobsite.
  • Ensure that contract stipulations and insurance coverages for nonowned cranes are reviewed by qualified legal counsel.
  • Understand the manufacturer’s notes for lifting capacity deductions such as concrete bucket use, clamshell use and wind effects.
  • Plan for and procure the quality and quantity of blocking, cribbing and fabricated mats necessary to achieve adequate ground support.
  • Determine Stop Work conditions such as wind, changing ground conditions and other hazards.
  • Click for larger image.

    Ensure tires are properly inflated.

  • Properly secure the crane and equipment and engage the house lock prior to transport.
  • Conduct site evaluations at least daily once work begins.
  • Ensure that cranes and outrigger floats are properly leveled and periodically checked for levelness. Most load charts require cranes to be perfectly level. More than 1 percent grade is not permitted.
  • Use properly trained, qualified and certified operators, riggers, signal persons, crane inspectors, lift directors and spotters. Appoint alternates for each position.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and load charts for all lifts, and calculate deductions.
  • Calculate and know the load before EVERY lift …read more

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Protect your mobile devices with some simple precautions

By Mark Welsh

Protect your mobile devices with some simple precautions

Would you leave your wallet, purse or a bag containing $1,000 in cash on your car seat, even if your doors were locked? Of course not, but the message you send when you leave your laptop, iPad or other mobile device in plain sight in your unattended vehicle is similar: “Steal this!” Taking simple precautions can help protect your mobile devices and the information within them.

Locking the doors when you leave your vehicle is a good practice, but will not stop a motivated thief. The opportunity for theft is magnified when you park your vehicle outside overnight with your device inside, whether in your driveway or on the street. Aside from the cost to replace the device, there is the value of what is stored on the machine, whether it be passwords and logins, contact information, pictures, music or personal information belonging to you, friends, family, clients or business partners.

Most thieves can recognize a computer bag, carrying case or tote on wheels. Those do not disguise what’s inside. At the end of the workday, even when your intention is to go straight home, get in the habit – before you leave – of securely storing your laptop or other device where it can’t easily be seen, place it in your trunk if you have one or take it with you.

How many times have you decided to make an unplanned detour on the way home to the store, dry cleaners or mini-mart? It takes less than a minute for a thief to identify something of value sitting on your car seat that can be sold quickly for some easy money. And if you wait to store your equipment once you are in a mall parking lot or other public place, any thief watching will know exactly which vehicle to target. You may think taking your laptop with you to watch your child’s soccer game is overkill, but if your car or SUV does not have a trunk or somewhere to conceal these items, that may be the best alternative.

Even if your data is encrypted and you are not worried about someone stealing the information stored on your device, it won’t deter a thief from smashing your car window to get at something of value. If you become a victim of a mobile device theft, report it to your local police department immediately. Also, if it is company owned or even if …read more

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A whirlwind of questions about severe weather

By Cincinnati Insurance

A whirlwind of questions about severe weather

Be prepared for severe weather, whenever it may come your way. Test your knowledge of severe weather by taking our five-question quiz. Read more at and the National Weather Service.

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Protect your service business from errors and omissions

By Gina Spradling

Protect your service business from errors and omissions

Errors and omissions coverage can protect your hospitality business.

Services errors and omissions coverage is an important part of your insurance portfolio if you’re in the hospitality business.

From small conferences and banquets to elaborate weddings, event hosting is big business. Most hotels, golf and country clubs, banquet centers and restaurants with meeting spaces and ballrooms host events on a weekly, and often daily, basis. Events can be significant revenue drivers for your business.

While the success of these events is important to your venue, it is even more important to your customer. Failure to provide the necessary facilities, goods or services could be detrimental to the outcome of the event, putting your business at financial risk and leaving you subject to lawsuits.

You typically think of insuring against fire, water damage, theft or injury to other parties due to your negligence. But what about an employee error that results in the failure to properly execute an event hosted at your facility? Even the best event planners and coordinators make mistakes from time to time. Consider these possible scenarios:

  • Your events manager inadvertently double-books the hotel ballroom for weddings occurring on the same date
  • Your catering manager fails to order the appropriate amount or type of food provisions for a corporate banquet
  • A third-party vendor responsible for delivering tents, tables and chairs for an outdoor event at your premises fails to deliver on the correct date

Services errors and omissions insurance coverage provides peace of mind should these situations arise.

Consider this important coverage to round out your insurance protection. By insuring your business against covered human errors associated with providing facilities, goods or services, you can greatly reduce the financial impact to your business when they occur.

See your local, independent insurance agent for advice on how to protect your business with services errors and omissions coverage.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your independent agent.

The post Protect your service business from errors and omissions appeared first on The Cincinnati Insurance Companies blog.

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Hiring a commercial contractor? Don’t overlook risk

By Nick Wright

Hiring a commercial contractor? Don't overlook risk

Requiring performance and payment bonds is a cost effective way to protect your construction investment.

If you are growing a business, developing real estate or buying commercial construction services, you probably know “construction” equals “risk.” The safety of the tradespeople working on your property and the potential for physical damage resulting from construction activity all factor into your planning and risk management.

But one important and often overlooked risk is who you hire to do the work. Does the contractor you hired have the financial stability and relevant experience to build your project on time, on budget and to your specifications? Standard insurance policies do not cover these risks. The best and most cost effective way to protect your investment is to require the contractor you hire to provide performance and payment bonds.

What do performance and payment bonds do?

Performance and payment bonds guarantee the contractor will complete your project to the specifications outlined in the construction contract and will pay its subcontractors and material suppliers. If the contractor fails to fulfill its guarantees, a third party – the surety – steps in to finish the job and make sure the subcontractors and suppliers are paid appropriately, helping to keep your property free of mechanics liens.

For decades, federal, state and local government agencies have recognized the value and protection that surety bonds provide. Municipalities require bonds on the majority of public works projects in order to protect taxpayers.

Private buyers of construction services have increasingly followed suit. They realize that hiring an unqualified, financially unstable and unbonded contractor that may not complete the job on time (or at all) can have a devastating effect on their business. Delays could impair their ability to begin producing products and services from their newly constructed or reconstructed facility.

Why is a surety willing to take on this risk?

Construction companies have a disproportionately high failure rate among all businesses both in expanding economies and in recessionary periods. Sureties underwrite their customers thoroughly, examining the contracted company’s financial wherewithal and work history as well as the character of the people who own and operate the company. This involves analyzing years of financial information and performance on individual projects. Often the underwriter also conducts face-to-face interviews with the contractor’s management. The surety underwriter relates all of this information to the project you want to build. The underwriter will provide the bond only when he or she believes the contractor’s credentials match …read more

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Preserving fine furniture for future generations

By Doug Eisele

Preserving fine furniture for future generations
Part 1 of 2 –

Owners can take steps to preserve historic furniture.

It may not surprise you that the majority of historic furniture is in private hands. Items that a family enjoys today may carry great significance through history. Proper care and maintenance is the only way to ensure its preservation for future generations.

Although some objects may eventually become part of a museum collection, it is nevertheless incumbent on the current owner to provide proper care. Many aspects of furniture care are straightforward and can be carried out by an educated owner. Problems that are beyond an owner’s capabilities should always be referred to a trained conservator or antique restoration specialist.

Furniture can be made of a variety of materials including wood, ivory, metal, glass, stone, textiles and acrylic resins. To properly repair damage and provide furniture restoration, it is necessary to know the unique properties of each material.


Just as you would for works of art, protect fine furniture against environmental damage. Light, especially ultraviolet (UV) light, will not only fade finishes, but can break down woods and fabrics over time. For this reason, place important pieces of furniture out of both direct and indirect sunlight, preferably in a room lit only by incandescent bulbs that emit the lowest amount of UV light. Apply UV filtering film to windows. Certain types of furniture, most notably wood, can be especially sensitive to temperature and humidity. Humidity should stay between 40 percent and 60 percent, and temperature should be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.


Inspect for insect damage.

Inspect furniture periodically for damage, especially insect damage. Insect larvae can burrow into wood, creating tunnels along the grain, and as adults, leave exit holes to lay their eggs. Active exit holes contain small grains similar to sawdust.

Any such material found near furniture could be signs of infestation. If you are certain there is an infestation, the furniture should be isolated and encased in a large plastic bag if possible. Follow promptly with fumigation conducted by a licensed exterminator or furniture restoration specialist because chemicals can cause damage to finishes and textiles.


A popular misconception is that woods need to be fed with oils to maintain their luster. In fact, many polishes and oils can attract dirt and cloud the wood grain. The best protection and maintenance for wood furniture is an application of high-quality paste wax. Wax will not discolor over time, and it seals the wood against airborne …read more

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High-capacity vans require extra caution

By Michael Harrold

High-capacity vans require extra caution

In a high-capacity van, load passengers to keep weight in front of the rear wheels.

High-capacity passenger vans can be an efficient way to transport small groups. Businesses use them to deliver workers to job sites, and churches, schools, camps and other organizations transport their clients and volunteers. But high-capacity vans – sometimes referred to as 15-passenger vans – require extra attention to assure driver, passenger and public safety.

Because of the weight distribution of passengers and a high center of gravity, these vehicles are more difficult to control. They require longer stopping distances and are more susceptible to rollover accidents than the average vehicle.

Operators of high-capacity vans can reduce the likelihood of a serious accident by instituting safety procedures and providing additional training for drivers. The National Safety Council provides a list of state-certified defensive driving programs.

Driver Qualifications and Training

Organizations should only permit qualified drivers to operate the van. Place a tag on the van key ring and signage within the vehicle indicating that only qualified van drivers are authorized to drive the vehicle. To be considered qualified, a driver should have a significant amount of driving experience, at least five years.

The organization can also verify driver experience by obtaining motor vehicle records (MVRs) on each driver. Consult with an attorney to ensure compliance with any laws and regulations governing access and use of MVRs. Carefully examine MVRs, and do not permit persons with poor driving records to drive vehicles owned, leased or rented by the organization or to drive personal vehicles while doing business for the organization.

Drivers should receive defensive driver training specific to driving passenger vans, including awareness of the high center of gravity and other handling issues unique to high-capacity passenger vans.

Navigator/Designated Driver Assistant

To reduce driver distractions, the front seat passenger should be designated to assist the driver by reading maps, caring for passenger needs (radio, cell phone) or other tasks.

Driver Fatigue

Put procedures in place to control driver fatigue. For example, limit trips to 250 miles one way. Use commercial chartered buses for longer trips, or provide multiple van-certified drivers.

Vehicle Loading

Do not load luggage or other items on rooftops, exaggerating the already high center of gravity. In-vehicle storage should not be allowed above seat level, and do not tow cargo trailers.

Seat Belt Usage

Strictly enforce use of seatbelts by the driver and all passengers.

Note: If a high-capacity van is in use, …read more

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Don’t be fooled by social engineering

By Daniel Langner

Don't be fooled by social engineering

Technology has improved efficiencies, added convenience and helped many companies grow at an incredible pace. Even with advancements in technology, human interaction and error-prevention still play a critical role in protecting our assets.

Computer fraud called social engineering entails manipulating and deliberately deceiving a person and exploiting human weakness to obtain confidential information or assets such as cash.

This manipulation could include:

  • Phishing – An email appears to come from a bank, an associate, friend or family member, causing the victim to trust the source. This request could contain a hyperlink or an attachment with malware that allows the attacker to access the victim’s computer, email account, contacts or social network accounts so that attacks can expand to other computers. While phishing is an email sent out to hundreds or thousands of target recipients, spear phishing is an email sent to one specific recipient and is a common means of social engineering.
  • Fraud – An email appears to come from a trusted source – usually a superior in the workplace – directing the recipient to issue a check or initiate a wire transfer of money to an overseas account. These scams work because the sender has created and uses an email address similar to that of the actual superior. For example, may be presented with an extra “r” as in, tricking the recipient into believing the request is truly from a superior.

These incidents can be costly, resulting in theft of:

  • account numbers and personal identification numbers (PINs)
  • personally identifying information
  • confidential customer information such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth or addresses
  • usernames and passwords

Consequences include:

  • unauthorized funds transfers and credit card charges
  • identity theft
  • jeopardized company reputation
  • compromised trade secrets and intellectual property

Consider these tips to minimize your risk of being the next victim:

  • Implement strict policies and practices for accounting, bookkeeping and fiscal management. This should include daily activity reports by management to quickly detect unauthorized charge activity. Contact the financial institution promptly; don’t delay.
  • Never proceed with an email request to transfer a large sum of money without dual control practices. One individual performs the requested transaction and a second individual approves and authorizes the change on a different trusted device.
  • Always require at least two key people to authorize a financial transaction over a set amount or to a new vendor or bank account.
  • Keep your anti-virus and firewall software up to date.
  • Use a token if it is provided by the bank. Require strong passwords with a …read more

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Great expectations: The art of customer service

By Amanda Rendell

Great expectations: The art of customer service

The insurance industry is growing and has a high need for talented professionals with a variety of training and skills. Recruiters are asking job seekers “where do you fit in?” In this series, Cincinnati Insurance associates describe their own career journeys. In March 2014, Amanda Rendell described how her journey brought a criminal justice major into the insurance industry. This is an update.

It’s safe to say that working at an insurance agency and working at an insurance company are two very different careers.

After five years of agency experience, I was extremely confident about what I could contribute to the Cincinnati Customer Care Center, our group dedicated to serving our agents’ small business policyholders. When I joined the Customer Care Center in 2013, I had plenty of experience providing high-quality service to the clients at my agency. I knew I would be a great asset as the Care Center supports our agents as we interact with policyholders.

Then I had my first day.

I quickly found out that as a part of the Care Center, a wider skill set is needed. We would have to wear two hats as both agents and underwriters. Previous agency employees like me had to learn the art of underwriting, effectively assessing and managing risk. Previous underwriters had to tackle the art of customer service, negotiation and explaining complicated insurance verbiage directly to policyholders in layman’s terms. The agent “buffer” is gone, and what’s left is a completely new way of doing business for everyone involved.

I needed to learn so much about insurance from the carrier perspective. Luckily, my weaknesses were others’ strong points, so we helped each other to consistently provide expertise for our insureds. It was very uncomfortable not being totally sure of myself each day when I came into work. I tried to be a sponge and take in as much as possible, but there was so much to learn!

The reality is that underwriting is just like everything else: it takes experience, knowledge and lots of practice.

I’m coming up on my third anniversary, and I can confidently say that all of that has changed. I’m now extremely comfortable wearing both my agent and underwriting hats. The people I work with and the knowledge they possess amaze me each and every day. I feel extremely lucky to be a part of the Cincinnati Customer Care Center. We’re a fantastic group of underwriter-agent hybrids who …read more

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