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Six Things to Do When Your Bank Has Been Hacked

Heather MacLean, Privacy

Each day we hear about different companies that have experienced a hack or data breach. Somehow however, when we learn it is was bank that was hacked, it is quite different. Many more of us become very concerned for our privacy and more importantly, we become extremely concerned about our financial security. Rightly so. Our entire lives are now digital and at risk.

While we can’t turn back the clock and we can certainly hope that we won’t get a notification from our bank that we were one of the victims. We want to be one of those who weren’t impacted. If however, we are not so lucky there are some steps that can be taken to lessen the impact. Here are six things you can do immediately when your bank has been hacked:

  1. Update all passwords and security questions.
  2. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
  3. If you use a password manager, maybe consider not using it for your banking. Keep your banking passwords separate and distinct.
  4. Be diligent in checking your online statements – both credit cards and banking and immediately report abnormalities to your provider.
  5. When monitoring your accounts, don’t just look for large purchase that you don’t recognize. Look for any abnormality. You could have a serious of purchases under $20.
  6. Monitor your credit rating. If your bank was breached, ask for credit monitoring and protection.

These are just six things that you can do immediately. If you are still worried about your privacy, contact us for more detail on how you can implement other privacy measures.


Six Tips for Consumers to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Cybercrime

TaylorMade Solutions

I believe that information is power. I know that every person that uses the internet could become a victim of cybercrime. Cybercriminals are becoming much, much better at duping us and getting us to willingly give up our credit card numbers. So, as I started out with, knowledge is power and I want to offer up the following six tips to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.

But before I give the tips, let me give an overview of what some of us are being victimized by. And, I want to stress that if you have been a victim, you are not alone. In fact, according to the 2017 Norton Cyber Security Insights Report, 10 million Canadians were affected by cybercrime last year. And the cost of this cybercrime? $1.8 billion Canadian dollars…this is not small change be any means.

So, how were criminals able to get this amount of money from people? Here are a few ways:

  1. Fake tech support via computer pop-ups:

Consumers accessing insecure sites often get pop-ups that tell you that you have a virus, that your computer has been compromised, or even that you have committed some fraudulent activity.  Of course you have not, but these criminals are playing on your fear, emotion and the hopes that you don’t have the technical savvy to realize this is a scam.

So, how can you tell that the site is not secure? One way is to look at the url or web address.

You need to see the secure lock as you see on our website. This is a SECURE site:

TaylorMade Solutions



This is an insecure site:

  TaylorMade SolutionsTaylorMade Solutions

2. Fake Tech support via phone calls:

If you have been an unfortunate victim of a pop-up scam, and gave your credit card, and/or control of your computer over to the scammers, they could wait a few months and then call pretending to be someone from Microsoft, Google, Norton, ….or any vendor really.  Your information my have been released on the Dark Web too, which makes you an interesting target for criminals. The callers will indicate that there is suspicious behaviour with your computer and they can help you fix it.

The fact is that vendors cannot legally see anything that is happening with your computer. If someone is claiming that they can see what is going in with your computer, either they are lying or they have some sort illegal access…or they are a member of the CIA, FBI, CSIS, MI5 or some other spy agency.

So, if you don’t think a member of a spy agency is watching you…it’s a scam. Hang up. Don’t ever, ever, ever give control of your computer over to a caller. Don’t ever, ever, ever give any credit card information to someone claiming they can fix your computer who has called YOU (or if there is a popup on your computer).

3. Fake Credit Card Breach:

If someone calls claiming to be from your credit card company stating the your card has been used inappropriately, never give any information. The scam is that they will ask for your birthdate, your card number and some other details, maybe even your PIN or the SVC on the back of the card. Never. I repeat. Never give this information. Instead hangup and call the number YOU have for your credit card company and ask to validate a call that just came in. Don’t call the number that the potential scammer gave you. That’s how they get you.

So, what can you do? Here are Six simple tips:

  1. Don’t fall for computer pop-ups. If they appear, either get off the site, or disconnect from internet or shut down your computer or all of these options… Always look and use secure sites. Look for the https: and the lock symbol as shown above.
  2. If you get a call from someone claiming to be tech support, hang-up.
  3. Never give access to someone to remotely control your computer..NEVER.
  4. Never give your credit card information to someone who claims to be helping you.
  5. Remember that vendors, be it Microsoft, Norton, your service provider, etc. cannot see that something “suspicious” is happening with your computer. If someone claims that, they are lying to you.
  6. Keep your antivirus software updated, but don’t think that will protect you from everything. You need to be vigilant and follow 1-5 above.

But what happens if one of this very clever scammers succeeds… and by the way, you would not be alone. Remember that approximately 10 million Canadians were victim to cybercrime in 2017. Here are some things you must do:

  1. Contact your bank or credit card company immediately, if you gave your information, to advise them of what has happened.
  2. Never call the “company” again. Doing so tips them off and thwarts police investigation.
  3. Report the scam to your local police.
  4. If you gave access to your computer, ALWAYS take your computer to a professional who can clean your computer and remove viruses, malware and/or other software installed by the criminal. Not doing so could mean that the criminal installed malicious software that can record your keystrokes to get your sensitive information, or could be a virus or something else that will harm you and your data.

Being on line is no different than protecting yourself in your home. You lock the doors and you don’t let strangers in. Do the same for your online safety.

Want to know more? Contact us for more details.

Are Communication Failures Lessening the Impact of Cybercriminals?

TaylorMade Solutions, cybercrime

Not a day goes by where we don’t hear of some hack or another where cybercriminals are making a killing. Despite this however, there are a couple of things that appear to be happening:

  1. The average person, consumer or even worker is not connecting the dots to either realize that they are at risk, or that their actions are the risk and the entry point for these cybercriminals. 
  1. Organizations, for profit or not-for-profit, are not heeding the simple warnings to carry out simple tasks such as patching, but they aren’t also being held accountable for the compromise of personal data breaches.

The lack of accountability is very significant and we as consumers need to hold their feet to the fire and require that regulations, laws and enforcement occur.

So, why is this? I think that there are a few reasons that the message for action and taking precautions are not getting through. They include:

  1. We continue to use language that people don’t understand. This definitely tops my list. I see it when I speak to business people all of the time. I talk about cybersecurity issues or risks and they just don’t get it. One of the first comments is: we outsource our IT. Or, we operate in the Cloud, so it’s not an issue.

These comments definitely demonstrate that they are only seeing cybersecurity as an IT or networking issue. It’s much more than that and we need to educate our front line defence! Our human resources! And to arm them properly, we need to find a common language that people understand, not just the people in the “biz.”TaylorMade Solutions, cybercrime

Rather than refer to cybersecurity breaches, we need to help people see the criminal aspect of what is happening and that there are some easy steps to take to help protect each of us from them. For example, how many people lock their homes when the leave? Heck, how many of us keep the doors locked all of the time? It’s a matter of personal protection. Protecting our families and protecting our property. We now need to think about online safety in the same way. We need to lock the doors (our computers and internet access from criminals) and ensure that ensure that our windows are also closed and locked. If by chance a lock doesn’t quite work like it used to (continuously update our versus protection and software patches), we replace it immediately.

      2. When we do talk about cybercrime, we paint the picture of the villain in a hoodie in a dark basement. This is an old and outdated picture. Reality is, cybercriminals are often the people you least expect and can quite frankly be anywhere in the world, including next door, or in another country on the other side of the world. The point is, they aren’t likely lurking in a basement, but rather in comfortable quarters living off the ill gotten gains of people who might just be a little too trusting. Maybe you, maybe your neighbour, maybe a family member.

So, what is the solution?

In my opinion we need to go back to basics. Communications 101 actually. Who is our audience? What are we trying to tell them in order to get them to change behaviours? What language should we be using so that they understand? In other words, stop with the tech talk or cybersecurity industry talk. Speak to them in their language. And finally, where are they consuming information so that we can reach them?

These are simple steps that we can do. We just need to do them.

Do you have other ideas? We would love to know.

Do you need help implementing your internal Comms Plan or even developing a Privacy Breach Plan? If so, let us know.

Three Reasons To Stop Using Auto Direct Messages

TaylorMade Solutions

Have you ever followed someone on Twitter and shortly after received a direct message thanking you for following? Of course you have. The real question is however, what was the content in that message? Was it a nice personal and specific message to you? Or, was it an “auto direct message” with some obvious attempt to sell you something and very generic? Something like: “Thanks for following. Check out my book or product. Or, follow me here (as in Facebook or Linked)”. If it was the latter, you are not alone. It’s really easy to set up those auto direct messages. However, is it really what you want to be doing? No! It is not in my humble opinion. In fact, it’s long overdue to to stop using auto direct messages.

More than a decade into social media and people still want the easy way out when building an audience or selling a product or service. I suppose I can’t blame them. After all, it is a busy world and using multiple social media, maintaining websites and using traditional marketing can be very time consuming. Like anything social media should be executed properly. This means first having a digital strategy that is part of an integrated marketing strategy and of course ties into your corporate objectives – whatever they may be. But let’s look at three reasons that you and your business should stop using auto direct messages.

  1. Auto Direct Messages Don’t Make People Look Sophisticated TaylorMade Solutions

Perhaps when Twitter first emerged and people used direct messages also affectionately known as DMs, it was pretty awesome to get an instant response after following someone. That time however, has come and gone. Rather than look sophisticated or super busy, you actually come across as taking short cuts. One of the original intentions of Twitter was to foster engagement. To build relationships with people that you couldn’t otherwise connect with in person. Additionally, if you are a loyal customer and love a certain brand, it was a way to connect and build a relationship.

2. You are Likely Spamming People and Breaking Anti-Spam Laws

Around the world laws for privacy and digital communications are changing.These laws often don’t only apply to a person or entity in the country in they live and/or operate a business in, but they cross geographic borders and digital boundaries. For example, the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, also known as CASL has specific laws government social media communications. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which covers Europe also has very specific rules for #privacy and while it has been in effect for a few years now, come May 25, 2018, full enforcement and penalties come into affect. This law is not just for Europeans, but for ANY business with customers IN Europe.

3. It’s Not All About You

Let’s think about our followers as more than just a number or someone that you can push your wares on. Instead, it’s about relationships. And, while some people still don’t believe that social media is about relationships, there are many more of us that believe that you can’t and shouldn’t use social media like we used old school print media. We need to build trust with our audience. We need to be authentic. When I follow someone and there response is thanks, buy this from me or add to my follower count on this other channel, it screams disingenuous  intentions to me. It is the same thing as someone introducing him or herself to you at a party. They barely get a hello my name is X and you are already selling them “something” they may or may not need or want. The rule of thumb in any business is to form a relationship. An auto DM is not even close to doing that.

There are many other reasons not to do auto DMs and I would like to hear your reasons.

As a small business it’s not always easy to navigate the social media strategy needed. If you need assistance, we can help – keeping in mind #privacy legislation. Reach out! We are here to help.

SEO and Inbound Marketing in Construction Industry


[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by two St. Thomas University Students: Alexandra Swift and Allison Bruder. It was completed as part of a course assignment in the fall of 2017]

In this interview with ThermaRay’s president Kevin Kilbride, we explored the topics of inbound marketing, search engine optimization and global marketing. ThermaRay was founded in 1985, and since then has been providing sustainable heating solutions with a wide range of electric radiant systems, including our radiant ceiling, architectural series, floor warming, underfloor warming and earth thermal storage products. The topic of this interview was inbound marketing, and ThermaRay’s use of this tactic in marketing both in Canada and globally.

Mr. Kilbride explained that ThermaRay is not fully focused on inbound marketing because they haven’t been able to find a vehicle that will drive potential customers to their website the way they would like based on their industry. The problem with their online search catalogue was that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, how are you supposed to search it and go find it? In this question and answer, Mr. Kilbride explained his company’s use of SEO and other inbound marketing strategies specific to ThermaRay.ThermaRay

What forms of social media does your company use?

We have a LinkedIn page, Facebook page a web site of course and I have a Twitter account. The website is the real focus for us. We also occasionally use YouTube to direct people for project installations. There are also a number of search engines, that are used as a resource. As well as online courses that are used to offer courses internationally.

What form of social media do you find the most effective?

Our website by far is the most effective. We use YouTube to direct people to see the odd project installation but that’s it. There are other forms of social media when you are in the business-to-business sector – online searchable catalogues, on-line courses that have been the most effective for us. Our website is the most effective because when people need the services we offer, such as homeowners, they often just google what they need and find us.

What steps do you take prior to sending out messages for marketing?

We tailor the message according to the audience. So an email blast to architects will be based more on the design aspects than say to an engineer who wants to know how it was installed and what problem did it solve for him. A potential problem that comes along with sending out messages is the area of spam email. You can buy databases but with junk folder filters and in Canada at least, spam being illegal it is very difficult to do email blasts. The way we can do it is via our presentations. Attendees on-line or face-to-face have to sign in and that gives us permission to send them emails, newsletters etc… until they unsubscribe. Yet I still hear from organizations willing to sell us a database of targeted individuals. Assuming it’s legal in the use to “spam” most people don’t like it and you’ll end up with a negative view of your company. This makes for a strong case to have an inbound marketing program.

What channels do you find most effective?

Website SEO works well for us. We rank in the first page in Canada in the US by using keywords that the industry is using in search engines.

What is your primary audience?

We have several audiences. In the construction industry, we work with architects but we also have to work with their mechanical engineers who are responsible for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning. So even though we sell the idea to the architect, we have to sell it to the engineer because he can squash the use of our product. In the residential side, we sell primarily to the homeowner but again the builder and electrical contractor are influencers so we have to be sure they are on board as well.

You mentioned that your company is not as focused on inbound marketing, why is that?

Other than SEO, we have yet to find a vehicle that will drive potential customers to our site. The problem we discovered though using an online searchable catalogue is that if you don’t know what you’re looking for, how do you know to go look for it? So if you need doors or windows, that’s an easy find. But how do you know when you should be using a radiant heating system instead of a conventional heating system? There is an education component here. So as well listed one maybe on some of these type of searchable product lists, you have to know what it is you’re looking for. When someone does, they tend to use Google and that’s how we get found out.

ThermaRay is a company based out of New Brunswick, but has expanded worldwide. How did you reach such a large consumer base from this small province?

We’re still a pretty small player, but that gives us an advantage. We are more nimble, more responsive to clients. We’ve had some success with local dealers promoting our products and we get the odd international customer looking for what we have. We have also worked with Opportunities New Brunswick to help grow our market.

What do you believe is the number one-way people hear about your company?

There’s no #1 method. We use SEO, we have an online course that is recognized by the American Institute of Architects so that gives us some credibility, we then do presentations to groups of architects and engineers and some plain old face-to-face selling.

ThermaRay has been involved in a few trade shows, how do you think these have helped your company’s marketing? And what do you think would be more effective?

There are consumer trade shows but there are also business trade shows. There are local ones and national ones. However, not every show has the same caliber so they are not all as effective, they tend to be very specific. In regards to trade shows, there is some give and take, it depends on the show and the product you have. I will generally not do a trade show unless I have interest in the local market. The problem with trade shows is that they are very expensive and you have limited time to talk to someone, so with a simple product it is more effective, but when your product is specific, you do not always get the chance to have a deeper conversation with a potential customer. Instead of a trade show, some larger companies have started hosting small events for their customers with drinks and food, these provide a more relaxing setting and allows for more time to connect and explain things.

Have you ever used Google Analytics to track your company’s search engine traffic? What do you do with this information?

Yes, we use them quite a bit. We overhauled our website earlier this year and we noticed a drop so we’re going to focus more on tweaking the word search on the site. We also use the analytics to find out what words people are using for their searches. Just because we call our product x, it may go by a different name by the general public. So for example, we have a floor warming system but the bulk of people call it floor heating so we want to know that.

[Editor’s Note. We thank Alexandra and Allison for the work they did and contributing to our blob.

Why I Will Never Wish You Happy Birthday Again on Social Media

Not a day goes by that I don’t see friends or family celebrating their birthday. I know it is their birthday because I see both the reminders on social media – Facebook and LinkedIn – and the countless scores of people who are sending their best wishes. In fact, I used to be one of those people!

I will however, never wish you happy birthday again on social media! And here’s why:

I actually care about you. Now of course those doing the well wishing care too. Don’t get me wrong. The fact is however, that social media is the primary method that cybercriminals now use to learn about you. It’s called social engineering. And knowing what I know now, I opt to not help cybercriminals.

Some of you might be saying: “What the heck is social engineering and why do I care?”Social Engineering/CyberCrime

It’s a great question. I am glad you are asking and you should definitely care. There are of course many definitions. Some formal and others not so much. For simplicity sake, social engineering is psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. In the age of social media however, manipulation might not be an issue. After all social media is meant to be sharing platforms where we can express ourselves, share information about our family, our jobs, our vacations and even what we buy or do.

For years we have been encouraged to share…maybe even overshare. Every detail of our lives can be found on our social media profiles. And while this is a great way to keep family and friends up-to-date with what we are doing, there is a dark side.

In fact, social media is now one of the best sources for criminals to obtain countless bits of information about you, your family, your employer and even your friends. They can then use this information to:

  1. Spoof you and create fake social media accounts in your name and/or fill out credit applications. This of course is known as identity theft. The ramifications can range from less than desirable to very serious.
  2. Send phishing email to your colleagues at work attempting to:
  • get more details on your organization,
  • try to secure false payments, or
  • have a virus or ransomware deployed when a link and/or attachment is clicked by your trusting coworkers who think you are emailing them.

These have all been very effectively used by cybercriminals not just globally, but locally.

So, how can you protect yourself and your employer? Here are 10 simple tips:

  1. Ensure your privacy and security settings are as strong as possible.
  2. Review your privacy settings on a regular basis, say three times a year. Set a calendar reminder.
  3. Never show your birthdate on your social media. Never.
  4. Never list your martial status on your social media. Never.
  5. Don’t list your family members.
  6. Never accept connection requests from people you don’t actually know. This applies to LinkedIn as well.
  7. Never put your home address on social media.
  8. While we tend to put a lot of information about ourselves on LinkedIn, don’t put personal information on this profile.
  9. When you receive an email from someone you don’t know, never click on the link or open an attachment that maybe included. This includes email from couriers, Canada post, Revenue Canada, etc. Think twice and never click.
  10. When you do receive email from some you DO know, but aren’t expecting it, think twice before clicking on the link or to open the attachment. Don’t be afraid to call the person you know or send a new email ( don’t do a respond) asking if he or she sent you an email with a link and/or attachment.

These 10 simple tips will help protect you and your employer against the actions of cybercriminals. And, I do think it is our responsibility to help protect our employers. Research has shown that cybercrime is expensive and some businesses can’t recover, so doing our part is helping to protect our jobs.

We all must remain vigilant. It is an unfortunate part of using social. Like anything criminals find new ways to leverage technology to try to gain from.

If you would like to learn more, connect with us. Be Prepared! Be Trained! Have a TaylorMade Solution!

Four Signs You Don’t Understand Social Media: Do You Follow/Unfollow?

Heather Anne MacLean

There is a trend that I have noticed lately on Twitter. It has become a real numbers game for many. By this I mean that many will follow people only to get a return follow. Once they get that follow, they unfollow the person, or many people. Or, they unfollow every person. This to me is a clear indication that you don’t really understand social media and its true purpose.

As a result, over the last couple of months I have been carrying out an experiment. I have been trying out various apps that cleanse or sweep my Twitter follower base to unfollow people who have unfollowed me. It was an interesting experiment, but one I don’t recommend. Why don’t I recommend this? Here are the reasons:

  • Well, I ended up unfollowing people that I actually still wanted to follow. For example, there are thought-leaders or big brands that I don’t expect to have a relationship with and/or to engage, but I want to hear what they have to say.
  • Engagement for some brands doesn’t make sense. For example news outlets. We don’t follow them to engage. We follow them to get news.
  • In other cases some people may have unfollowed me and that’s ok. I have really changed and refocused what I talk and Tweet about over the last couple of years to better align with my interests. So, if my passion is not theirs that is fine. However, I still want to follow them.

So, I will likely discover for awhile that people I thought I was following, I am not. But what really intrigued me is the fact that more than a few people are clearly just looking for numbers. Numbers are numbers, They don’t get you insight, sales or relationships. And this really gets to the crux of this post, the four signs that indicated you don’t really understand social media:

  1. More than 10 years into using social media and people still think its a numbers game or really an ego game. If you think more is better, than you don’t understand social media.
  2. Speaking of more is better, if you never follow people back, you don’t understand social media.
  3. If you only Tweet about yourself or your organization, you don’t understand social media.
  4. And building off of 1-3, if you haven’t connected the dots to understand that social media is meant to be about relationships and therefore you need to follow people and communicate with people to build relationships, then you definitely don’t get social media and the power of social media when it is done right.

It is easy to see people who get this. You can tell when they are good at social media and they have actually built relationships from social media.

What would you add to this list? Let me know and connect with us.

Entry Level Cybersecurity Jobs Paying More than Entry Level Lawyers

While this headline might be salacious to some, it’s reality. By 2021 there will be a global shortage of cybersecurity professionals that is estimated to reach 3.5 million. This is significant in that cybercrime is also increasing and shows no sign of slowing down. As a result, if you graduate with a degree that you can leverage for a cybersecurity job, you will be paid as much or more than an entry level lawyer.

To discuss the global labour shortage, I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Morgan of Cybersecurity Ventures, the world’s leading researcher and publisher covering the global cyber economy — and a trusted source for cybersecurity facts, figures, and statistics. We had a great conversation and this blog is part one of a two-part series.

MacLean: Steve, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. I know how passionate you are about sharing information so let’s get started. As we know, cybercrime is not going away, it’s only increasing.  What concerns you most about the global labour shortage?


Steve Morgan, Cybersecurity Ventures

Morgan: What troubles me most is unlike some specific cyber threats that we see, I don’t really see an answer or solution for the workforce shortage. Situationally we hear vendors speak to certain market sectors such as Artificial Intelligence and technology as the solution. Every vendor speaks to technology being the solution for the workforce shortage, but it is not helping. We are still behind the eight ball and it’s getting worse. People need to think differently for the solution.

MacLean: Your research shows that cybercrime is predicted to reach $6 trillion by 2021. How do we help get the message out that there are tremendous opportunities for people in this sector?

Morgan: Cybercrime is an epidemic that is getting larger and larger every year. Black hat hackers are getting better and they have no rules. The unemployment rate for cyber sits at zero percent right now. I think that some of the issues arise from people not being informed. Quite frankly schools are not informed. Raytheon did a study in the US that stated that two thirds of students have never been spoken to by a parent or a school about cybersecurity. This is concerning.

MacLean: Do you think this has a lot to do with people not understanding the issues and/or the fact that they may not be able to articulate the complexities of cybersecurity?

Morgan: Absolutely! When you go out to dinner with people and start talking about cybersecurity, you just lose them. They have a very, very general knowledge of computer science and what kids might be looking at jobs for graduation. In terms of cybersecurity however, they just don’t get it and they, themselves are at risk on their own media as they don’t realize just how at risk they are. In general the industry, media and others have not done a good job at articulating the issues.


MacLean: So, you raise an excellent point. We – as a collective in the industry – need to develop educational messages for the average consumer. We need to educate parents so they are better informed. Are parents the best point of contact?

Morgan: Parents aren’t the only point of contact, but they are an important one for young kids. They speak to their kids about what they are struggling with or what excites them. And most parents, not having the foundation of knowledge, would likely give their kids a blank stare if asked about careers in cybersecurity.

MacLean: Your website provides a wealth of information. It really is a wonderful resource for educators, marketers, journalists, etc. to use. Is there any issue with people sharing your content?

Morgan: Absolutely not. We want to educate the market. We make it easy to access the information and to share it. When quoting our research, Cybersecurity Ventures should also be cited as the source — and we recommend a hyperlink for the benefit of readers.

MacLean: What other ways can we reach kids?

Morgan: A few months ago I saw something that can really make a big difference and can reach moms – not that dads aren’t important – it’s just that moms spend more time with their kids. Palo Alto Networks signed an agreement with the Girl Scouts of America. It is a well thought out strategy that gets girls focused on cybersecurity.  This of course directly gets the girls thinking and learning about cybersecurity and the key is, it involves the mothers. This won’t work without the mothers being involved. I thought it was brilliant. We need to reach those kids in the US and really around the world. We need kids leaving the 11th and 12th grade thinking about this field.

There’s no doubt that we need to change the dialogue and provide more information so that we can overcome the global shortage of cybersecurity professionals.  This is not something that can be done in isolation. We must work together.

To learn more about how TaylorMade Solutions can help you collaborate, contact us today.

[Editor’s Note: a version of this blog previously appeared on the CyberNB Blog.

Sears Passing Triggers Longing for Family & Traditions


[Editor’s note: I wrote this piece just before Christmas 2017 and since this time my family lost a father, brother and uncle. Image: My Uncles and Me.]

Sears has been around for my entire life. My first experiences with Sears was a catalogue store. In my small town we didn’t have a full blown store. Of course when travelling to larger centres, it was always a treat to go into a real Sears store. And, of course when I moved to New Brunswick’s capital city, we had our own Sears store. Over the years it grew from a respectful mid-sized store to an anchor store.

About a week ago I decided to see what sales I might take advantage of. It wasn’t the first time I was in the store since the news of its demise was made official. This time however, it was different. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The store was now clearly emptying out. I didn’t really notice it in the clothing section, except for the unusual groupings, but the rest of the store was, for the lack of a better word – barren. I actually stopped dead in my tracks and looked at the store with surprise.

I watched as people moved with skill and purpose as they sought out the best deals. It really did hit me. It was like a wave washed over my entire body. I am not trying to be dramatic here, I just couldn’t help but feel very sad – profoundly sad. It wasn’t a reaction I expected for a store closing. I knew for some time that they were struggling. No, there was clearly more to this reaction than I realized.

After leaving the store, the feeling continued and I continued to ask myself, why? Why is this bothering me so much? Finally it hit me. It had nothing to do with Sears, or it’s closing. It was just the trigger. You see at the core of things I am a traditionalist. There are many things that mean the world to me – family being at the core of what matters most. And this is why memories are so important to me. I have a lifetime of great memories that have been built with both time and by mostly accident. Pleasant accidents really! Maybe I wouldn’t have had this same reaction if it weren’t Christmas time. Maybe if this were in the summer, it would have been different. However, it isn’t summer.

The loss of something can hit home really more than we think. But really, it is not about losing a store. It’s about losing tradition. This last year has had more than my share of traditions and the memories associated with those traditions challenged. I have lost people who have played a significant role in my childhood memories. First it was my Aunt Penny. We lost her in early in the year…around Easter to be exact. She played a significant and positive role when my father died some 37 years ago. I can’t forget that. Then there was my former boss and mentor. His death was a shock to me. I knew he had some health issues, but always seemed to be someone who would live well beyond others. He was kind. He was someone that firmly believed in others. He took a chance on people because he believed everyone deserved more and better. His death still rocks me.

I now shift to present day and think about Christmas traditions. I think of my uncle Patrick who hosted the most wonderful family Christmas parties. All of the family and extended family would gather at his house. My great uncles and my mother and her sister and brother, Richard (the pre-war kids) would sing war songs and Christmas classics. It was really amazing to hear them harmonizing and singing so beautifully. I will never forget that. I also can’t forget the cousins gathering in the basement and one of the uncles, I won’t say who, giving the older cousins each a bottle of beer and a sip to us younger cousins. In that house there was a lot of love, laughter, similes and hopes for the future. It was wonderful.

On top of that Christmas memory is the fact that my uncle Patrick would call each of his nieces and nephews and do the most wonderful Santa Claus. It was brilliant and wonderful all in one. And, despite my brother telling me that there was no Santa when I was just four, I still looked forward to my call each year. I still wanted to believe  and clearly my uncle wanted me to believe. Perhaps my favourite memory was the Christmas Eve he was at my house. He used my father’s office phone to call me and because of that I almost did believe that Santa was real. You see I had come to believe it was my uncle Pat who was calling. But, how could he be at my house and call…could it be…could Santa be real…? I really wanted to believe; however, I did realize later that night that we had two phone lines in the house and before caller display of course it could be done. Despite this, I never let on. I wanted to believe in Santa and I wanted Patrick to believe that I believed.

As I grew and matured, my relationship with my uncle Patrick changed and evolved. I babysat his son and my cousin Mark for years. After that I came to appreciate many of the same things that Pat appreciated: art, antiques and family pieces. Over the last few years, Pat shared with me pieces from my family’s burial ground  that he was able to save when they had to make some cost saving changes. He passed along glasses that came from my father’s side of the family that he was able to secure from a tag sale. He also passed along some precious cups and saucers from his side, my mother’s side of the family. And just this past July he passed along two wall hangings from my Great-Grandmother’s house. He made me promise that I would never paint them. It wasn’t a hard promise to make. The pieces were perfect the way they are.

So, what has this all to do with Sears Canada ceasing operations? Well, a lot. You see, it is through Sears closing that I realized why the store closing has had such an impact. It’s not about retail. It’s about tradition. It’s about family. It’s about the fact that people who have always been there…whom I could count on…who have seen me grow and change are either no longer here, or won’t be in the near future. Stores will come and go, but people matter. Family matters. I don’t want to say goodbye to these important people in my life, but unfortunately it is not my choice.

So, for those who have impacted my life in so many positive ways, I say I love you and know that your love mattered to me and to all of our family. And, I am in part who I am today because of your contribution to childhood and my adulthood.

Intel’s Security Flaw Puts Spotlight on Security by Design

Intel, Heather-Anne MacLean

Well, 2018 is starting off with a significant cybersecurity and privacy hit. Intel Corporation just confirmed Wednesday of this week that flaws in the Intel processor could leave computers – around the world – open to vulnerabilities. As the largest chipmaker in the world, computers – and not just PCs – are now exposed, and this quite frankly puts a spotlight on security by design.

Security by design is something that consumers should be concerned about. We should demand it actually. But, what is security by design? Using a simple definition from TechTarget, it is “an approach to software and hardware development that seeks to make systems as free of vulnerabilities and impervious to attack as possible through such measures as continuous testing, authentication safeguards and adherence to best programming practices.” In addition to security by design, privacy by design should also be included and with the previous definition, privacy by design should be pretty easy to figure out.

Security and privacy by design are two minimum standards that consumers should be asking about and confirming that they are being fully implemented by the companies from whom they purchase products. After all, once a consumer is compromised the level of damage can range from embarrassing to fully destroying one’s life. For example, it could be someone getting access to your social media and taking it over and posting pornography. Or, it could be someone getting access to all your credit card information and then using the information to spoof you and to get many more credit cards in your name and thus ruining your credit and leaving you with thousands or tens of thousands of dollars of debt. It can also mean someone getting access to all your personal information, including all your health records and in addition to getting credit cards in your name, posting all your medical history online and on your own social media for the whole world to see.

Security and privacy by design are not new. People have been talking about these principles for years; but the kicker is that there is no legislated requirement to ensure that companies adopt these principles and build them into their standards and operations.

This Intel discovery should really be a warning and wake-up call globally. With Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming more and more entrenched in our daily lives, security by design and privacy by design must become the standard and be baked-in at the start of the design process rather than just emerging after an “oops” discovery.

For those that don’t think that IoT is in their lives, think again. Do you have a mobile phone? How about a computer at home? Did you get a fancy new fridge for Christmas that can tell you when you are running low on milk? Or, how about the latest craze in home assistants such as Alexa or Google Home – perhaps this was a new addition to your life? If you said yes to any of these, then you should definitely care about security by design and privacy by design.

So, once you have updated your computers with the patches sent out from your computer provider, let’s use the Intel incident to collectively start asking, no demanding, that all software and hardware providers implement – immediately – security and privacy by demand principles, protocols and standards! If consumers stand up for their rights and only support companies that adopt security and privacy by design, this will cause all companies to follow suit. Better yet, let’s legislate it and have severe penalties in place for those that don’t comply.

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