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(photo credit: Huge Galdones)


Long a southern staple and an Alabama treasure, Frank Stitt and his culinary team have created food that speaks to the both the pallet and the soul. His restaurant Highlands Bar and Grill has put southern cuisine on the map for years.

After 10 nominations, they have received the 2018 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant. They also received a second honor with pastry chef Dolester Miles being awarded Outstanding Pastry Chef.

Cobbs Allen is proud of Highlands Bar and Grill and their continued dedication to introducing people to Birmingham as a food destination.


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Earlier this year, the passing of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act caused a recalculation of the 2018 H.S.A. (health savings account) maximum contribution limit for family coverage under a qualified high deductible health plan, decreasing the limit from $6,900 to $6,850.

Recently, the IRS reversed its decision recognizing that changing the limit would be costly to administer. The IRS has agreed to accept $6,900 as the family H.S.A. maximum contribution for 2018.

What Employers Should Know

Employers may want to reconfirm the 2018 H.S.A. maximum contribution limit for family qualified high deductible health plan coverage with its employees. Employers who updated their plan documents to reflect the reduced limit should consider changing their plan documents and enrollment materials to reflect the correct 2018 family maximum contribution limit.

Click here for additional information


Cyber Security Series: Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things

Posted by Madeline Perkins on May 7, 2018

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“Alexa, set a timer for ten minutes.”

Until four years ago, this phrase would sound like a request to another person in the room. Now, however, it is widely recognizable as a command to an Amazon Echo. Along with the Google Home, Apple’s HomePod, and other smart home speaker systems, the Amazon Echo recently entered the consumer market as another device operating on the Internet of things, or IoT.

The Internet of things is the network of items that are connected to and usable through the internet. IoT consumer products include the previously mentioned smart speakers, along with smart watches, remotes, alarm systems, and more. The IoT also applies to industrial and enterprise technology, like speed limit signs that change depending on traffic or sensors that monitor shifts in environmental factors like air or water quality.

Many of these devices make life easier, allowing us to delegate tasks to computers that we otherwise would do ourselves or not accomplish. At the same time, however, the connection to the internet that makes these devices so useful is the very connection that makes them potentially dangerous. We often assume that the internet only goes one way—our devices receive the information we need. In fact, without the proper security, the internet can work the other way, and hackers use the internet to reach our devices and violate our security.

Steve Hines, president of ThreatAdvice, notes that “The pace of product development for Internet of things devices has far surpassed the concern for the security around these devices. They are the new attack vector for the bad guys, and you cannot ignore the security (or lack thereof) of your alarm system, thermostat, or baby monitor.” Ensuring that devices in our homes and businesses are properly secured ensures that our information is ours alone and is not open to hackers through its connection with the internet.

One way to keep your company secure amidst the threat of security gaps in the Internet of things is to only purchase IoT items through reputable vendors, and ensure that these items are not only functional but also secure. Also, for existing IoT devices, ensure that all security patches are up-to-date. Review current IoT devices and disconnect any items that are no longer used. Also, prohibit employees from connecting their personal IoT devices to the company wifi. These tactics will assist you in keeping your company secure from cyber threats through the Internet of things.

 

For any questions regarding security or risk in your home or business, or if you would like to learn more about cyber liability insurance and how it protects your business, contact a Cobbs Allen Risk Consultant today.

ThreatAdvice prepares employees to prevent a cyber-attack on your organization. They offer cyber security employee training and risk assessment online to promote awareness and prevention. If you are interested in learning more about cybersecurity education and assessment, contact ThreatAdvice and take advantage of their complimentary 90-day trial.


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The road to success for Bruce Denson Jr. was not quick or effortless; he attributes his eventual success to Cobbs Allen’s encouraging response to failure and commitment to invest in innovative ideas.

“We have a lot of space for failure – it sounds counterintuitive, but it’s the truth,” Denson shared with Insurance Business America. “A lot of places have a low tolerance for big ideas that don’t work out. We aren’t that way. My own story is a great example of that.”

Read more about his path to success, Cobbs Allen’s growing practice groups and issues facing the insurance industry as a whole in this article in this month’s edition of Insurance Business America.

 


Consumer Alert: Safety Recall Notice

Posted by Angela Wolfe on April 27, 2018

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Schneider Electric Recalls Square D Safety Switches Due to Electrical Shock Hazard

This recall involves Square D brand General Duty 30 & 60A, 120/240-volt, 2-phase and 3-phase NEMA 3R safety switches. Although this switch type is commonly used in air conditioning unit installations, there are other industrial/commercial/residential applications.

The switches are a dark gray metal box with a black handle on the side that can be moved to an “ON” or “OFF” position. The “OFF” position is designed to shut off the flow of electricity. The switches may be used in or around commercial buildings, outbuildings, apartments and homes. They measure about 10 inches by 7 inches by 4 inches. Brand name “Square D”, the ampere of the safety switch and the 120/240-volt or 240-volt marking is printed on a label on the front of the safety switch.

The recalled switches were manufactured between January 1, 2014 through January 18, 2018 and have date codes 1401 through 1803. The date codes are in the YYWW format (example: 1401 = year 2014, week 1). The date code of the product can only be found on the inside of the cover and is not accessible if the product is installed and in-service.

Only safety switches with specific catalog numbers printed on a separate label on the side are included in the recall. Click here to view the complete recall notice, and to see the specific catalog numbers.

You may also contact Schneider Electric direct: 877-672-1953 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or online at www.schneider-electric.us/gdss-safetyalert or www.schneider-electric.com and click on “Square D” (found under Quick Links) for more information.

Cobbs Allen Safety Consultants will inspect for this equipment when conducting site visits; however, if you are concerned or unsure if you may have the recalled item, please reach out to one of our Safety Consultants at 800-248-0189.


April Client Spotlight: Dymax Inc.

Posted by Angela Wolfe on April 24, 2018

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Company Name: Dymax Inc.

Owners: Scott Balderson and Clark Balderson

Location: Wamego, KS

Years in Business: 35

Industry: Specialty Tool Manufacturing

Website: www.dymaxinc.com

For five generations Dymax has helped their customers by listening to their needs. Their success is rooted in “out-of-the-box thinking” about how steel and related materials can be designed to produce exceptional results and make the world a better place.  The origins of the company date back to John Balderson’s blacksmith shop 140 years ago.

Today, Dymax fabricates attachments and specialty tools. If you need it, they probably make it - from blade and plow attachments, to tree shears, to backhoe loader buckets.

Dymax is a customer-oriented company and appreciates what it takes to deliver that to the client. In a climate where many agencies are consolidating and growing centralizing operations, Dymax chooses to do business with Cobbs Allen because of the attention and level of service provided by Bob Johnson and his team.


Cyber Security Series: Password Do's and Don'ts

Posted by Madeline Perkins on April 24, 2018

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We’ve all played the password game when logging onto an account we haven’t used in a while. You know that it’s either “Hernandez1992” or “Hernandez2665,” but neither work. You try both again,  but make the “H” lowercase; that fails too. With only a few tries until you’re locked out, you try another set of passwords, the ones using the name of your street. You try “Wood1992,” “Wood2665” . . . The game continues until you either guess the right one or lock yourself out.

When making passwords, we all walk the difficult line between too simple, which enables hackers to violate our accounts, and the reality that we may forget or misplace our password. One of the most common motivations for creating a simple, guessable password is the fear that we have to remember our passwords in our head. Luckily for us, there are an increasing number of creative, secure ways to store passwords. This article considers both how to make our passwords more secure and how to more efficiently keep track of them.

We all understand that it’s important to have safe passwords. Yet because so many online interactions require us to create passwords, it’s easy to become careless and use any phrase that comes to mind. Although we only spend a few seconds to create passwords, hackers obsess over them all the time. Taking an extra minute to create a solid password and record it in a secure place could save you the hours it takes to fix problems caused by someone hacking your account.

Keep in mind the following attributes of strong passwords:

  • Make It Unique: Avoid using passwords that are identical to ones used for other accounts. Keep work and personal passwords separate in case one account gets hacked. Also, shy away from using different iterations of the same word, a sequence of numbers or letters (12345678), a keyboard pattern (qwerty), or a common term (password).
  • Make It Random: Resist the natural impulse to use personal information as the basis of your passwords. Important dates (your birthday) or names (your street, your surname, or your pet’s name) are often easily available and can endanger the security of your passwords.
  • Make It Tricky: Numbers, special characters and capital letters increase the security of a password significantly each time you add one. Although commonly used at the beginning or end of the phrase, they can also be placed in the middle of a password as a replacement for certain letters (Gre@tD@y) or instead of a space between words (Ready%For%It).

For the strongest passwords, ensure your choice is all three—unique, random, and utilizes numbers and special characters. For example, rather than “Letmein!”, which passes most systems’ requirements yet is easily guessed, use a more complex, original idea, like “c0pyMachin3”, “#Di$neyW0rld!”, or “dont*stop*Believing!”

Once you have created your password, you’ll need to store it. If you’re storing passwords on an electronic device, make sure it’s in a protected file. Although experts say not to write down your passwords, if you want to anyway, avoid writing them in the front of notebooks or anywhere visible on your desk. One app that’s convenient and confidential is LastPass, a password storage app that works for individual users or entire companies. There are any number of similar technologies available depending on your needs. And if you insist on storing passwords in the “Notes” app on your phone, make sure you use the “Lock This Note” feature, available in the top right corner.

Hackers play with passwords all day long, so take the extra time to secure your accounts from schemes that could snatch your information, messages, or money.

According to Steven Hines, president of Threat Advice, “Passwords are the gateway to our sensitive information.  Always use different passwords for different applications, and change them frequently.  Perhaps most importantly—use dual authentication whenever possible.”  ThreatAdvice prepares employees to prevent a cyber-attack on your organization. They offer cyber security employee training and risk assessment online to promote awareness and prevention.

 

If you are interested in learning more about cybersecurity education and assessment, contact ThreatAdvice and take advantage of their complimentary 90-day trial.

Strong passwords are just one of many ways to avoid a cyber breach. For more information about cyber liability, contact a Cobbs Allen consultant today.

 


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