Archive for October, 2009

Tornadoes Strike Louisiana and Arkansas

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Suddenly and Without WarningAt least three tornadoes struck northwestern Louisiana and at least two tornadoes struck Arkansas, both arising from thunderstorms. USA Today has a great interactive graphic showing how tornadoes form. Heavy rains in connection with the storms flooded roads in Arkansas. In Shreveport, Louisiana, the tornado blew a landmark steeple off of a church, which hit a car, trapping the driver who had to be removed from his vehicle by rescuers. He suffered broken bones, but another driver died when his car hit a tree knocked down by the storms. These tornadoes come as the peak of what has turned out to be a very mild hurricane season is behind us, a sober reminder of the diverse risks we face.

Fake Security Software Threatens Computers

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
Not Always What It Seems

Not Always What It Seems

According to software company Symantec, tens of millions of computers across the U.S. are infected with scam security software that their owners may have purchased, but which only leave them more vulnerable. The owners are duped into providing their credit card and other personal information when a fake security alert pops up as the computer user accesses a legitimate website. The alert claims to have found a virus and offers to correct it with security software. In fact, the alerts are established by very sophisticated cyber-thieves. Symantec found 250 varieties of scam security software with names that appear legitimate, such as “Antivirus 2010” and “SpywareGuard 2008”. Actually, I found one such infection on my parents’ computer identified as “antivirus.exe”. About 43 million downloads of the scam software were attempted in the past year, but it is unknown how many succeeded. To increase their reach, the cyber-thieves recruit middlemen who earn between one and 55 cents each time a person downloads the software. One such site, which is now closed,, reported that its leading affiliates earned as much as $332,000 monthly for selling scam security software. The refined affiliate sales model is very sophisticated and can confound your small business security efforts. Educate your employees not to click on any such alerts and only purchase security software from a trusted source, not one that is pushed out to you from the web.

Mildest Hurricane Season Since 1982

Monday, October 26th, 2009
2009 Is Lucky So Far

2009 Is Lucky So Far

Since June 1, the official start of the Atlantic storm season, only two hurricanes have formed, making this the mildest hurricane season since 1982, which also saw only two hurricanes. This year, eight tropical storms strengthened to be named storms, the lower number since 1997, but only one storm, Claudette, made landfall in the U.S. Claudette formed in the Gulf of Mexico and struck the Florida panhandle on August 16 and 17. No hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. this season to date. Still, the National Hurricane Center in Miami advises us not to become complacent as the hurricane season does not officially end until November 30. Nevertheless, the peak hurricane season occurs from late August until mid-October, so the worst may be behind us for 2009. The U.S. may have benefited from the “El Niño” climate phenomenon in which warmer waters in the Pacific Ocean produce weather patterns that create wind shear in the Atlantic Ocean. The wind shears, strong winds blowing from different directions at different altitudes, can tear apart tropical waves emerging from the African coast that can develop into hurricanes.

The respite is surely welcome in the Gulf Coast states, which are still recovering from a very active hurricane season in 2005, when the National Hurricane Center ran through the alphabet in naming 28 tropical storms. A spokeswoman for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America stated that insurers will use 2009 to rebuild their claims reserves after paying out more than $90 billion over the past decade in connection with hurricane losses. The break is particularly welcome for small businesses that would have difficulty budgeting for hurricane-related evacuations in this difficult economy. However, we should also remember that while hurricanes provide graphic imagery on television, it was a tornado that killed 21 people in Central Florida on February 2, 2007. As always, we must be ready for the everyday disaster to build resilience for the more serious ones.

Perils of a Small World

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

President Barack Obama declared a national emergency, granting additional powers to US hospitals to address the spread of swine flu, the H1N1 virus. This marks the third declaration by federal authorities this year to address this growing public health crisis, which is now widespread in 46 of the 50 states and has killed more than 1,000 people since this spring. According to Tom Frieden, head of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 16 million doses of the flu vaccine are available for the states to order. Concern is rising as winter months bring colder, damper weather that keeps people indoors and may accelerate transmission of the flu virus.

The World Health Organization reports rising infections in Canada, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Israel and India. Confirmed infections in England alone doubled over the past week to an estimated 53,000. Globally, more than 5,000 people this year have died from the fly and an additional 400,000 are infected with the virus. In addition to the economic reasons for cutting back on business travel, now there is another: reduced rates of transmission. Take appropriate precautions at your workplace and urge employees who think they may have symptoms to remain home, just to be extra cautious.