Managing Passwords: There’s An App For That

app for password managementPasswords are part of our online digital world and probably won’t be going away anytime soon. The list of passwords we each use grows almost daily and keeping them secure is critical.  Widespread data breaches have now made managing passwords mandatory.  Last year we offered a few tips for password management, but we wanted to see what is new in the world of password security.

Why you should care

Every platform you use including social media must be managed carefully.  To underscore the importance of this point check out this little tidbit from DigitalTrends:

Most attackers don’t break passwords by going to Gmail or Facebook and making guesses; that’s slow, and most services block access after a few failed attempts. However, if attackers steal account data through a security hole, they can make thousands, millions, or even billions of guesses per second offline using their own computers.

If that sounds outlandish, consider that Stricture Consulting Group last year showed off a small computer cluster made from off-the-shelf components that could test as many as 350 billion passwords per second. Some password-cracking operations harness hundreds (or thousands) of computers via botnets or legitimate cloud-computing platforms, while others just use everyday PCs. They’re fast too.

By the way, that was 350 BILLION per second. Their speed and ability to match passwords is a bit mind boggling to the average person. But it’s reality. As we stated in our previous article, using a universal password for multiple platforms is extremely dangerous. But tracking multiple sets of credentials is a hassle too.  Luckily, there’s an app for that.

Software to the rescue

The great news is that password management software is available in downloadable formats as well as apps for your mobile devices. A few popular programs are 1Password, RoboForm, Clipperz, Keeper, Msecure, Dashlane, Password Box, and LastPass.  Features vary by program but most can remember your passwords, generate long challenging passwords, and automatically log you into sites once you enter a master password or PIN code. They are also capable of syncing activity across multiple devices like your desktop, smartphone and tablet through the cloud or wi-fi connection. Many of these programs offer a limited free version, paid licenses with more features and an enterprise version for business.

The bottom line: data breaches are becoming commonplace. Securing your passwords with a software tool is a simple and efficient way to improve the security of your online world.

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Posted in Business Issues, Fraud Prevention, Mobile | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Where Will EMV Help The Most?

Smart Credit cardEMV chip technology is a hot topic these days with the October deadline just around the corner.  At present, the U.S. is host to nearly half of the world’s credit card fraud.  We posted an update back in June with some statistics on how the U.S is progressing with implementation.  That’s just one part of the discussion around EMV technology. Another part of this discussion is the actual impact that chip cards will have on fraud and business. We took a look at two industries that will be impacted by the EMV technology with different results.

Hospitality will benefit

It seems the amount of personal information you provide at check in has become a popular target for fraud:

According to the Verizon 2015 Data Breach Investigation Report, lodging is one of the most breached industries. A recent Trustwave and SpiderLabs Global Security Report reveals more than a third (38 percent) of attacks aimed at the hotel industry. The sector comes in well ahead of the financial services industry (19 percent), retailing (14.2 percent), and restaurants and bars (13 percent).

Since 65 percent of hospitality data breaches are the result of compromised of point-of-sale (POS) devices, the EMV chip card will greatly improve security for this industry.  Large hotel or small, a major security breach has the potential to damage a hotel’s reputation significantly.  The damage is accelerated through widespread social media use where customers are sharing their opinions about every aspect of their experience.  EMV is one small step towards demonstrating a desire to stay current as well as to protect your customers.

A potential downside for waitstaff

For years, credit cards have been swiped then adjusted to add a tip in the restaurant industry.  A potential bump in the EMV chip card road is that they function in a single swipe transaction:

“Once you insert that card into a terminal and complete the transaction, you cannot go back and adjust the tip, or add one once the card has been removed,” explains Andy Goranson, president of Omaha-based processing and technology company U.S. Merchant Payment Services.  

This detail could present an issue for patrons and servers alike because the tip amount must be indicated prior to swiping the card.  Leaving a less than standard tip for less than acceptable service needs to be disclosed up front.  Of course, tipping separately in cash is always an option.  However, this issue may take some time to work itself through as chip cards become the new international standard.

The bottom line is that EMV chip cards will significantly reduce credit and debit card fraud across all industries.  It seems that the benefits and reduced fraud will far outweigh any issues or temporary inconvenience. Time will tell.

Do you have an experience with EMV chip cards? How have they impacted your business? Please share your opinions in our comments below.

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5 Must-Haves For Choosing A POS System

POS systemThe sophistication of the point-of-sale systems we are installing today is amazing.  But not every business needs all the bells and whistles being offered.  With hundreds of POS systems available offering a variety of features at varying price points, it’s worth spending some time looking at what matters most for your business. We think the most important points to consider are what we’ve described below.  What do you think?

  1. Ease of Use – This point is a big one. Training your team should be quick and simple. The interface they use should be intuitive and easy to learn and figure out. A system that is confusing or complicated to use will cause frustration for both employees and customers. Not to mention the time wasted and negative impact on your customer experience.
  2. Adaptability and Evolution – Two important future trends for POS technology are mobile payments and cloud-based software delivery with data storage. The system you select must be built on a flexible platform that will seamlessly integrate with mobile payment providers and accept contactless payments. Keep in mind that mobile payments are predicted to overtake credit card payments in less than a decade. You want a system that will keep pace with these changes.
  3. Pricing – It’s possible that you’ve never looked at a POS system because it was cost prohibitive for your business. The latest offerings in the cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) subscription model make getting a POS system much more affordable. Most systems can be run from an iPad or any computer. Look for ‘pay-as-you-go’ monthly pricing with no cancellation fees or long term agreements. And be sure to ask about extra costs that can sometimes be hidden in the details of the agreement.
  4. Reporting – Generating the reports you need should be simple and the reports should be easy to understand. Report formats should provide a snapshot of exactly what you are looking to learn about your business without having to get out the user manual. Important capabilities are tracking sales by department, item, and hour so you can adjust staffing and allocate floor space more efficiently. Another valuable feature is a built-in employee time clock that simplifies keeping track of employee hours. Also, look for integration with accounting software such as Quickbooks as an important time-saving option.
  5. Customer service – Take time to check references regarding customer service support.  You don’t want to lose sales because you have limited support or can’t find someone to fix the problem quickly. In addition to resolving issues, you may simply want to learn more about the features of your POS system.  Look for a provider who offers documentation on their website and customer service representatives to help walk you through any situation.

These points give you a place to start when considering a POS system for your business.  The descriptions really just scratch the surface of what to look for in a system and provider.

That’s where we come in.  As a certified ShopKeep partner and custom payments systems provider, we have the team, the technology, and the experience to seamlessly turn your POS system into a powerful business tool.  Give us a call – we’ll keep it simple and affordable.

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Choosing A POS System For Your Business

Point of sale systemsPoint Of Sale systems are becoming more powerful and more complex than ever.  From the humble beginnings of the simple cash register to the sophisticated systems we are installing today, your options for POS systems have exploded.  With hundreds of POS systems available offering a variety of features at varying price points, it’s worth spending some time looking at what matters most: money and time savings for your business.

The case for investing in a POS system

Time: The time savings your business could realize are significant. Take a moment to think about how information is shared across your current systems like POS, time reporting and accounting.  It’s likely that your current POS system and accounting system don’t ‘talk’ to each other. That usually means that someone on your team must spend time manually keying data into the systems that need to record and process the information. Manual entry is not only time-consuming but often fraught with errors.  Costs simply mount up from input, correction, then processing.

Information shortfall:  Running your business without a POS system means there’s a good chance you are guessing at what and how much you’re selling and when you are selling it. You are most likely lacking accurate, up-to-date inventory counts. You probably can’t check sales or the employee work schedule without being on site. If you are capturing any of this data, you are probably doing it manually which requires time and more time.  Having this information readily available would make your business run smoother and give you the numbers you need to make smarter business decisions.

Money: Time and information shortfall are twin demons who combine to suck money out of your business. The time you and your team need to spend collecting and processing data is fueled by the lack of readily available, accurate reports and information transfer. Money is leaking out everywhere if you are continuing to make do with manual processes and isolated systems.

Next step: Create your map and ‘wish lines’

We recommend that you inventory the systems you currently use. Start by drawing a simple map of where they fit into your business process, what information is being shared between them and how it is transferred.  Using a map format to lay out your systems helps you visualize your business workflow and identify gaps . Once your map is created it’s time to add ‘wish lines’ to show what systems you wish could connect and share information.  Now you’ve got a clearer picture of where improvements can be made through systems integration.

Next step: Call us    

As a certified ShopKeep partner and custom payments systems provider, we have the team, the technology, and the experience to seamlessly turn your POS system into a powerful business tool.

In our next post, we’ll share the top ‘must-haves’ when comparing POS systems for your business.

 

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Checking In On The Changing Ways To Check Out

Debit and credit paymentsIt was not all that long ago when credit cards didn’t exist and cash was your only option at the register.  Technology has dramatically changed the way we purchase goods and services. These changes bring improvements, speed and convenience to our transactions. But these changes also bring risks along for the ride too.  Let’s take a closer look at the methods of payment, their benefits and their risk to you as a merchant.

Is cash still king?

Cash or currency is the oldest form of payment dating back thousands of years. In a recent article we noted that by 2017 cash transactions will constitute a mere quarter of all sales transactions.

Cash rewards: as a merchant it costs nothing to accept cash; eliminates data security and identity theft concerns.

Cash risks: as a merchant your exposure to employee theft is high; reduces customer impulse buying; large amounts of cash are dangerous to have on your person and to transport for deposit; nationwide trends indicates cash sales are on the decline.

Is debit the new king?

Debit cards came on the scene in 1966 and have quickly spread in use and acceptance.

Debit rewards: as a merchant debit cards give you instant confirmation that the funds are available making them an excellent alternative to accepting checks; consumers make nearly twice as many purchases with debit cards than credit cards according to the Federal Reserve.

Debit risks: as a merchant you are charged payment processing fees; data security, processing compliance and liability issues must be managed.

How does credit fit in?

Credit cards in their plastic form came into use in the early 1900’s and have become a standard point of sale option.

Credit rewards: as a merchant credit cards offer the most convenience and flexibility to your customers for large purchases and recurring charges; security is evolving rapidly to protect both merchant and consumer.

Credit risks: as a merchant you are charged payment processing fees that vary by issuer or card type; data security, processing compliance and liability issues must be managed.

New options

The latest option for both point-of-sale and online transactions are mobile payment systems from ApplePay and GoogleWallet. These apps allow the customer to pay using an app on their smartphone or tablet instead of an actual credit card.

Mobile payment rewards: as a merchant you will never see the name, account number or security code of the customer; greater speed of transaction; improved security features such as fingerprint recognition and PIN code to authorize transactions.

Mobile payment risks: specialized technology is required to accept this payment type; at this early stage smaller businesses may find it cost prohibitive.

Even though the mobile payment options are slower to be adopted don’t be too quick to dismiss them.  A recent report from the World Economic Forum projects that:

As customers lose visibility of their payment choice by identifying default cards in mobile wallets and integrated apps, spending gets concentrated on a single card.

Mobile wallets will be the next technology to change the way we check out.  Stay tuned.

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