Ransomware (malware) on Cell Phones

 

ransomeWe thought that our cell phones were safe from ransomware, like CryptoLocker, which has been infecting hundreds of thousands of computers in the U.S.  Not so!  A recent article in CNet Daily News reports that there are as many as 5,000 attacks per day.  A mobile threat report from Mobile Lookout Security, which makes security software for smartphones, found 4 million of Lookout’s 60 million users were held hostage last year.  In 2014 they report a 75% increase in mobile threats in the U.S.  You can read about the most prevalent malware at the end of the post, below.

The article tells the story of  a 12-year-old girl from Tennessee who tapped a link on her smartphone to watch a new music video.  Instead of a video, she had unwittingly installed malicious software that downloaded child pornography, locked her Android phone, and threatened to report the pornography to the FBI if she didn’t fork over $500 in ransom.

What should you do to protect yourself?

1)  Never download applications from outside the official Google Play store or Apple App Store.  Be careful clicking on links when online.  “Free” could wind up being very expensive.  Keep that in mind when on social media sites.

2)  Install an application that will block ransomware.  Avast (free for mobile) and Mobile Lookout Security are two big players.  Note item #1 above before downloading software which will allegedly protect you, from an unknown source.

3)  Never pay the ransom, and always report the crime to police.  There is no track record to show that paying ransom will lead to removal of the malware and release of your mobile device. In most cases, you are only providing incentive for thieves to continue to create new and more sophisticated software.

It’s an even more dangerous computing world out there than it was just a year ago.  Be extra careful out there!!

The most prevalent ransomware threats in 2014, according to Mobile Lookout Security:

  1. NotCompatible| Malware

​NotCompatible is a trojan that surreptitiously acts as a network proxy.  It allows attackers to send and receive traffic through a victim’s mobile device onto connected networks for fraudulent purposes.

  1. Koler| Malware

Koler is a trojan disguised as a media app.  It locks a victim’s device, after falsely reporting the discovery of illegal activity.  Koler attempts to coerce victims into paying them to avoid criminal charges and regain control of their device.  The CNet article advises that police can tell that you are not the “guilty party” so don’t be afraid to report.

  1. ScareMeNot| Malware

ScareMeNot is a trojan that pretends to scan victims’ phones for security issues.  It then locks their device, after falsely reporting that its scan found illicit content. It attempts to coerce victims into paying them to avoid criminal charges and regain control of their device.  Again, report this to police.

  1. ColdBrother| Malware

ColdBrother is a trojan that pretends to scan victims’ phones for security issues, but then locks their device after falsely reporting that its scan found illicit content. It can also take a front-facing camera photo and attempts to coerce victims into paying them to avoid criminal charges and regain control of their device.

  1. ScarePakage| Malware

ScarePakage is a trojan that pretends to scan victims’ phones for security issues and then locks their device after falsely reporting that its scan found illicit content. ScarePakage attempts to coerce victims into paying them to avoid criminal charges and regain control of their device.

Notice that each of these Trojans are very similar.  It’s rumored that there is one very talented programmer who is being well paid by various criminal organizations to keep creating variations of the malware, in order to stay ahead of detection software.  Notice that each are “socially engineered” to make you want to run the software voluntarily.  So even if you don’t click on a malicious link out of ignorance, you can still fall victim.

Job opening – Law Firm Staff Accountant

MacElree Harvey, LTD, a mid-sized law firm based in West Chester, PA has an excellent opportunity available for a Staff Accountant. This position is responsible for supporting the CFO/COO to ensure accurate, appropriate, effective, and efficient operations in Finance and other areas of the Firm including general office administration duties.

Responsibilities include:

    • Assists in creating, implementing and maintaining budgets.
    • Maintains cash flow projections to meet cash requirements.
    • Assists with month-end and year-end closing and related journal entries.
    • Responsible for reconciling bank accounts monthly.
    • Evaluates financial reports and accounting procedures.
    • Assists with payroll responsibilities include maintaining cash requirements for payroll, cafeteria and health reimbursement accounts.
    • Responsible for providing guidance to Billing, Payroll/Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable Administrators.
    • Supports CFO/COO with other general office administration duties including coordination of firm events, preparing correspondence, handling firm insurance, etc.

Position Specifications:

    • Bachelor’s Degree in Finance or equivalent experience is preferred.
    • A minimum of 3 – 5 years experience in finance and accounting with at least 3 years in a law firm preferred.
    • Strong knowledge of general accounting procedures, systems, terms, concepts and policies.
    • Familiarity with general ledger, general journal entries, cost accounting, fixed asset accounting, accounts receivable and accounts payable.
    • Knowledge of accounting for law firm operations, including time and billing systems, alternative billing methods, collections procedures and cost recovery guidelines.
    • Proficient with financial controls, budgeting, financial reporting, cash flow analysis and variance analysis including methods of financial analysis, calculating and interpreting various financial ratios and analyzing comparative financial information.
    • Familiar with features and capabilities of automated financial management systems (TABS).
    • Knowledge of trust accounting procedures and regulations, banking/investment concepts and types of accounts.
    • Computer skills including Excel, Word and TABs software.

Excellent benefits package including 401k and competitive salary offered. Contact Carolyn Van Fleet, Director of Human Resources.

Job Opening: Law Firm Billing Coordinator

A Paoli, PA law firm has a job opening for an experienced law firm billing coordinator.  This person will compile, manage, and execute attorney billing.  This person may also perform a variety of other accounting and bookkeeping duties according to established policies and procedures.  Maintains contact with attorneys, staff, vendors and clients, and observes confidentiality of client and firm matters.

Timeslips experience preferred. Experience transitioning to new software system a plus.  Five years’ experience preferred.

Essential Job Functions: 

  • Compiles and bills attorney hours to clients every month.
  • Reviews and edits pre-bills in response to attorney and secretary requests.
  • Apply retainer funds as directed by attorney.
  • Process write-offs following Firm policy.
  • Ability to execute complex bills in a timely manner (i.e., multiple discounts by matter, split-party billing, preparation of electronic bills).
  • Assist attorneys and staff regarding various aspects of the billing cycle.
  • Ability to effectively interact and communicate with attorneys, staff, and clients.
  • Review and verify accuracy of billing and supporting documentation as required.
  • Research and respond to inquiries regarding billing issues and problems.
  • Create new billing formats as needed.
  • Create billing schedules and various other billing analyses as required.
  • Creates and prints final client billing.
  • Creates and distributes monthly reports.
  • Assist with WIP and receivables; Work with Partners to actively address aged and/or unbilled fees and costs.
  • Utilizes computerized accounting and payables software programs (CMS, Excel, Word) to perform duties and responsibilities.
  • Operates office equipment including personal computer, copiers, fax machines and 10-key calculator.
  • Reads, uses and is familiar with computer systems manuals and procedures, maintains and updates procedural manuals as needed.
  • Ensures strict confidentiality at all times.

Experienced and interested candidates should Email resume and salary requirements to Beth Ruggiero.

Job Opportunity – Attorney

job interview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lycoming County Public Defender’s Office in Williamsport, PA has an opening for an Assistant Public Defender.  A recent JD graduate who has passed the Bar is suitable.  Applicant must also be a member of the Pennsylvania Bar and possess a valid driver’s license. Interested applicants should mail directly to

William J. Miele, Esquire
Chief Public Defender
48 West Third Street
Williamsport, PA 17701

Be sure to include:

  • writing sample
  • cover letter
  • resume

The position will require assisting indigent clients in defense, children and youth, juvenile court, mental health and parole violations.

Do You Dream of Becoming In-house Counsel?

I wish I had a dollar for every attorney who has asked me over the years how to go about getting their dream in-house counsel position.  Most attorneys imagine that in-house counsel work nine to five, have exorbitant salaries, great retirement plans, stock options, and tons of administrative support.  When I talk to in-house counsel, I get an entirely different perspective.

As the saying goes, there are three sides to every story.  A recently published post entitled Law Firm to In-house: Things to Consider Before Climbing Mountains, by David Maurer, a member of the well-known lawyer recruiting & placement firm of Major, Lindsey & Africa, gives a solid glimpse at the third side of the story.

If you’re one of the dreamers, read it for a dose of reality.

Ebola Guidance

It seems that everyone is in an Ebola panic.  We’re all secretly worried a pandemic will mark the beginning of the end of life as we know it.  Personally, I think that most of us has just viewed one too many movies or TV shows about post-epidemic walking dead and other such horrors.  But I don’t mean to diminish the worries which keep many people up at night.

With one travel-related case of Ebola in the U.S., and two resulting confirmed transmissions, the reality of how small our world is — and how vulnerable we are within it — is striking fear in the most stalwart of managers.  Is there something you should be doing for your own safety?  Is there something which you are obligated to do at the office?

Duane Morris has issued  an Alert on the topic entitled “Guidance for Employers Regarding Ebola.” It provides one of the first analyses of possible risks and responsibilities for employers.  Their guidance examines risks and responsibilities under ADA, OSHA, NLRA, FMLA, and Title VII.

Remember, according to the CDC,  the Ebola virus can be spread in several ways to others. Specifically, Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola, objects that have been contaminated with the virus and infected animals. The CDC states that Ebola is not spread through the air or by water or, in general, by food.  So let’s not panic.  Being well informed, and prepared, is always the best option.

Why Family-Owned Businesses Fail

Business litigation attorney Edward T. Kang — Managing Member of  Kang Haggerty & Fetbroyt LLC in Philadelphia — recently appeared as a guest columnist in the September 2014 monthly edition of Philadelphia Business Journal.  His article, “The three big reasons family businesses fail . . . and how to avoid them” is right on target.

Four of my uncles worked in my grandfather’s healthy business, which he built from scratch.  My grandfather had a fur cleaning, alteration and storage business, and also created custom fur coats.  He raised a family of seven through the depression with that business, and managed to save for retirement as well.  Although the Philadelphia neighborhood which housed his 7-story refrigerated warehouse changed for the worse over the years, the building was unique and maintained a healthy market value to the end.

When my grandfather retired and left the business to the next generation, his lack of planning and know-how caused him to make all of the mistakes Kang writes about in his article. Departure of two unhappy sons over a relatively short number of years left the remaining two in an uneasy arrangement. Ultimately, those errors were magnified when the following generation took the reins, and sadly, the business closed.  Lots of hard feelings all around.

Kang points out that a family-owned business failure is inevitable because

  1.  Family feuds are inevitable when owners have equal status
  2. Emotions get out of control. When the owners are family, there is no “just business,” it’s always personal.
  3. Owners are ill-equipped to deal with complex business issues.

True, true and true.  Kang offers three simple steps to take to avoid these issues.  I won’t spoil the ending for you.  His writing is too enjoyable for me to deprive you of an opportunity to read it on your own.

Does this have anything to do with law firms — aside from the care and feeding of its business clients?  You betcha!  A lot of the small firms I work with are family-owned.  They struggle with the same issues.  These issues become more pronounced when the next generation wants to have their “turn” at running the firm.  Transition isn’t always peaceful or well executed.  Many times the younger generation leaves, with bad feelings all around.  If there are multiple family members running the firm, especially if of (fairly) equal status, there will frequently be impediments to growth and change, strong disagreements, and damaged relationships. And the issues become even more complex when a non-family member is added to the mix.

My take-away, based on personal observation, and many years of hands-on work with firms, is that a family-owned firm must take extra steps to avoid the landmines inherent in the working environment.

 

H H Gregg Needs to Learn About Customer Service

I purchased a Danby Wine Cooler from the H H Gregg Montgomeryville, PA store in late 2011.  I did my research at the big box stores, and even visited a few.  They had the right model at the right price. I also bought the extended warranty. Normally I don’t, because they’re not a great deal.  In this case, it was priced right, too.  The salesman was fast and courteous, and self-installation went smoothly.

My cooler recently stopped working.  I visited the store personally to find out what I should do under the extended warranty.  I was a little worried that they’d tell me to bring it into the store.  Instead,  I was quickly and efficiently given an #800 to contact headquarters for warranty repair.  So far, so good.

On September 3, 2014, I placed my service call.  As soon as an automated attendant answered, I knew I was not going to get through the experience quickly.  I had to go through the menu prompts three full times, because “Silicon Sally” would not “recognize” my menu choice.  Finally, on the third attempt it did, and transferred me to . . . who knows.

Then I waited a very long time on hold.  And waited.  And waited.  With frequent and annoying reminders from Silicon Sally that the phone queue was unusually backed up.  Really?  I never would have figured that out.  Or was the annoying playback supposed to make me believe this was atypical?  Uh, not convinced, Sally.  Try some other rube who hasn’t been to the rodeo before.

After a very long time on hold, someone finally came on the line.  He quickly verified my purchase, verified my extended warranty coverage, and then told me I had to call their third-party warranty company, (Warrantech).  I immediately made that call, wondering why I had to have made the first call at all.

After virtually the same experience trying to get through the menu, and then waiting over 45 minutes, (this time I actually timed it), I was connected to someone who would best be described as “snotty.”  I expected that the warranty administrator would resolve the problem.  Nope.  She told me that they had to contact Gregg headquarters first, to find out whether they wanted to repair or replace the item. Excuse me, didn’t I just get off the phone with headquarters, who passed me to you?

I asked if there was any way to expedite the process.  I explained that I have a huge party coming up, and needed the cooler in working order.  No, I was told, there is no way to expedite this process.  It will take 2 – 3 days just for Warrentech to hear back from Gregg headquarters.  I was told that they would call me as soon as they heard back, and instructed to wait for that call.

Thirteen days passed.  During that time I heard nothing further about the repair.  So I called back today, 9/16/14.  And let me be clear, I was not a happy camper when placing the call.  I have a ton of work  on my desk, but instead I have to set it aside to make a call I know will be neither brief nor, I suspect, satisfying.

It came as no surprise that I experienced the same problems with menuing system, and a long wait once I finally got into the queue.  In fact, the wait was more than 25 minutes.  Finally, someone named Will from Warrantech got on the line. Yes, they had the “answer” from Gregg headquarters.  After verifying everything in the computer about me and my purchase — which I tried to respond to patiently and politely — Will informed me that as far as Warrentech is concerned, their file is closed, and the warranty has been satisfied.  Huh?  What’s the resolution?

Unbelievably, Will stated that he could not tell me what the actual resolution was.  He told me I had to write down a repair order number, and call Gregg headquarters once again.  Only Gregg could tell me what the repair order meant in terms of resolution.

At that point, I admit I lost it a little. Where was the apology for the delay, and for failing to call me back?  Why was I being sent in circles? His response was in no way apologetic.  In fact, he responded like he was speaking to someone mentally unbalanced. “Did I want the repair order or not?” was the most I was going to get from him, and I could tell he was about to disconnect if I didn’t write it down.  I did.

With repair order number in hand, and smoke coming out of my ears, I again dialed Gregg headquarters.  Again, there was a problem with menuing system.  Finally I got into the “unusually long delay” queue, and the recording says there’s a back-up of “at least” 10 minutes.

When the hold time hit the 30 minute mark, I sensed I was about to burst into flames from anger.  Seeking any possible release, I called the actual Montgomeryville store on my cell phone, with my other phone still in the hold queue with headquarters.

Guess what?  Everyone at the store is apparently busy, because I was placed in a hold queue at the actual store, too.  No way to speak to someone like customer service or, God forbid, a store manager.  I had already been in the store queue 15 minutes when headquarters finally connected me with a live person.  At that point I hung up on the store.  What if I had been calling to make a purchase?  Apparently they don’t care.

OK so what does my repair order number mean?  Rose at Gregg headquarters explains that I will get an in-store credit for the entire amount of my purchase, so I can buy a replacement.  No refund.  No chance to go elsewhere.  If they now only have something very expensive as an option, I can’t go elsewhere, I have to pay the difference.  If by some miracle what I find as a suitable replacement costs less, I will have the unused money remain as a store credit.  (Since I don’t intend on buying anything there ever again, that means it will be forfeit.)

Also, Rose has no clue why Will from Warrentech did not tell me what the repair order resolution was.  She says it was in front of him on the screen.  There’s no way for me to know, but I agree that it sounds like it should have been.  Wait, it gets better!  Rose says I have to write down a number to give to the store in order to get my in-store credit.  Ok, I ask, what’s the number called?  All I wanted was a label, so I could speak intelligently at the store.  Rose said there was no name for the number she was giving me, and I could call it anything I wanted.  I swear, this is true!!!  I know it sounds like I must be making it up, that’s how ridiculous it is.  “It isn’t called a credit number, but you can call it that if it makes you more comfortable”, Rose explained.

Is there anyone on the face of the planet that believes this is acceptable customer service?  Hey, all of you company executives out there, would you be happy to be associated with a company which treats its customers this way?   Rose suggested I write a letter to headquarters.  That was in response to my question as to whether I could find a place on their web site to post a review.  Thanks, Rose, but I had a more public review in mind.

Sadly, this experience is too common with “big box” stores.  We want their cheap prices, me included, but miss the service of the local business.  Unfortunately, most local businesses have been wiped out by the giant competitors.  Do we have to accept this as the new normal?  NO.  Reference this post on your social media accounts.  Give it a LIKE, ReTweet it, comment on it. Share your own experience with today’s customer service. Open the window and shout “I’m not going to take this anymore!”  Eventually, someone will hear.

In What World is a Trip to the ER Romantic?

More of my readers know me through printed word, rather than in person.  So I can understand how you might be puzzled by the title.  As Desi would say, “Lucy, you’ve got a lot of ‘splaining to do!”  This is certainly a departure from my usual postings, but has to be written.

My fifth wedding anniversary was September 12th.  On the previous day, my husband took me to the ER.  One of many such trips in our relatively short relationship.  As we were led into room #10, I realized that it was the same room where we had the misfortune to conclude our second date.  Trying to make lemonade, as I am prone to do, I said, “look honey, it’s ‘our room’!”

Yes, some couples have a song, a resort, a restaurant, or something which commemorates their special dates or moments.  We will always have the ER.

Hey, it’s not like he didn’t get proper warning long before the proposal.  That second date was just an opening round of many visits to the hospital over the years.  The only difference being that our second date, and the most recent visit, are the only trips to the ER not made in a snowstorm.

Here’s what I’ve found out over the years.  Hubby has a terrible aversion to hospitals, and especially blood and gore.  But he chokes back his fears when the need arises.  I remember watching him look at everything in Room #10 except the surgeon stitching up my hand.  He never let go of my other hand, though.  Even when he thought he might slump over or become ill.  Gotta give him credit.

He has always been attentive, concerned, and done everything within his power to assist me when I have been unable to care for myself.  More frequently, I have stubbornly been incapable of ignoring work obligations when I could not fulfill them on my own.  He’s rescheduled his patients many times in order to drive me to presentations throughout PA on the many occasions when I have reinjured an eye and been unable to drive.

From what I see in most relationships, I know a hubby like this is not the norm.  Thank you, hubby, for taking such good care of me. Repeatedly.  Because in my accident-prone life, a trip to the ER is another romantic memory.  Help me thank him by adding a like or comment to this post.

Attorney Seeking Job Opportunity

An accomplished attorney with substantial experience working in the public sector.  Has significant litigation experience, particularly in the areas of child advocacy, child day care licensing and mental health.  A former judicial law clerk for the Honorable James R. Cavanaugh of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.  Previously worked as legislative counsel for Senator Shirley M. Kitchen in the Senate of Pennsylvania.  Licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania.

Relevant Skills: Legal Research, Litigation, Legislative Research, Appellate Practice, Legal Writing of Pleadings, Motions and Post-Hearing Briefs, Administrative Hearing Appearances, Civil Commitment Hearing Appearances, Witness Preparation.  Interested law firms should contact the candidate directly.

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