A young lady using a smartphone

News & Events

What is website security?

Website security refers to the protection of personal and organizational public-facing websites from cyberattacks.

Why should I care about website security?

Cyberattacks against public-facing websites—regardless of size—are common and may result in:

  • Website defacement,
  • Loss of website availability or denial-of-service (DoS) condition,
  • Compromise of sensitive customer or organizational data,
  • An attacker taking control of the affected website, or
  • Use of website as a staging point for watering hole attacks.

These threats affect all aspects of information security—confidentiality, integrity, and availability—and can gravely damage the reputation of the website and its owner. For example, organization and personal websites that fall victim to defacement, DoS, or data breach may experience financial loss due to eroded user trust or a decrease in website visitors.

The Taxman Never Sleeps

For most people, taxes are a certainty. In the United States and Canada, tax forms are usually submitted by individuals and businesses in the spring (although, due to COVID, extensions were granted for anyone that asked for them). So, our interest was piqued when we came across an e-mail that included a tax form seemingly from the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in early November.

The e-mail FortiGuard Labs discovered was, unsurprisingly, malicious. But what was interesting was that it had been sent by the recently resurgent Emotet group. Emotet (aka, Geodo and Heodo) began life as a banking Trojan but has since morphed into a jack-of-all-trades tool that can exploit several vulnerabilities to compromise its victims. Once it has infected a system, it then typically delivers additional payloads. And because it’s modular, it is easily customizable by its users. This flexibility and resiliency are part of why Emotet has managed to survive at least one coordinated industry/law enforcement takedown in 2021.

The phishing e-mail

Although claiming to be from “IRS.gov,” this phishing e-mail originated from an organization’s compromised e-mail account in Pakistan. The subject and body claim that the recipient’s IRS K-1 forms are attached in a Zip archive encrypted with the password “0440”.

Schedule K-1 is a US federal tax document that reports income, losses, and dividends for a business or financial entity's partners or an S corporation's shareholders to the IRS. Because the content from these forms must be added to an individual’s annual tax form, they must be submitted one month prior (March 15) to the individual income tax submission deadline of April 15. This is why seeing a Schedule K-1 form attached to an email on November 8th was a red flag.

Own IT.

We live in a world in which we are constantly connected, so cybersecurity cannot be limited to the home or office. When you’re traveling, it is always important to practice safe online behavior and take proactive steps to secure your smart devices. With every social media account you sign up for, every picture you post, and status you update, you are sharing information about yourself with the world.

  • Double your login protection. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that the only person who has access to your account is you.
  • Update your privacy settings: Set the privacy and security settings to your comfort level for information sharing. Keep tabs on your apps and disable geotagging (which allows anyone to see where you are).
  • Connect only with people you trust: While some social networks might seem safer, always keep your connections to people you know and trust.

Secure IT.

Have you noticed how often security breaches, stolen data, and even identity theft, are front-page headlines nowadays? Cybercriminals attempt to lure users to click on a link or open an attachment that may infect their computers. These emails might also request personal information such as bank account numbers, passwords, or Social Security numbers. When users respond with the information or click on a link, these attackers now possess access to their personal accounts.

  • Avoid using common words in your password: Substitute letters with numbers and punctuation marks or symbols. For example, @ can replace the letter “A”/
  • Be up to date: Keep your software updated to the latest version available. Turn on automatic updates so you don’t have to think about it!
  • Think before you act: Be wary of communications which implore you to act fast. Many phishing emails create urgency, instilling fear that your account or information is in jeopardy.

Protect IT.

Today’s technology allows us to connect around the world through banking, shopping, streaming, and more. This added convenience undoubtedly comes with an increased risk of identity theft and scams. More and more home devices (such as thermostats, door locks, etc.) are now connected. While this may save us time and money, it poses new security risks.

  • Secure your Wi-Fi network: Your home’s wireless router is the primary entrance for cybercriminals to access all of your connected devices, and you can better secure your Wi-Fi network and devices by changing the factory-set default password and username for each one.
  • Know what to look for:
    • Identity Theft – bills for products or services you did not purchase, suspicious charges on your credit cards, or any changes to your accounts that you did not authorize.
    • Imposter Scams – an imposter may contact you saying they are from a trusted organization informing you that your SSN has been suspended, or your account has been locked, while asking for your sensitive information or payment to fix the issue.
    • Debt Collection Scams – scammers may attempt to collect on a fraudulent debt. Debt collector scammers typically request payment by wire transfers, credit cards, or gift cards.

Visit this site to learn more:
By Emily Reinhardt, MoneyMatters.coop

Chances are we’ve all been stuck in a rut before. We know that our life and finances and health need a lot of TLC but we keep putting things off. Pretty soon we’re faced with the harsh reality of knowing we really need to make some healthy changes to get everything running smoothly again.

When you’ve finally sat down to start taking better care of your finances (and your life), where do you start? It’s overwhelming to do it all at once, but continuing to do nothing isn’t working so well. You’ll need a budget, a stronger credit score, a savings goal, and a debt repayment plan. And probably a lot more. It’s a lot to tackle, and the best way to dive in is to start small.

I’ve compiled a list of actionable steps that you can take today, so that you won’t feel that your finances are snowballing out of your control. Taking these small steps will make the big ones feel less daunting, I promise!

Open a separate bank account. Your checking account can’t be the only thing that carries you through life. Opening a savings account, or even a different savings account than you currently use, will allow you to intentionally put your savings in a safe place for the future. It can be for something specific, like your savings goals, or it can be your secret stash that you promise yourself you won’t touch. The exclusive use of only one checking account will make your finances more confusing, and it gets a little bit messy. Once you’ve opened a separate bank account, start contributing a portion of every paycheck into that account. Make it happen automatically if you really want to make things easy on yourself. Part of your paycheck should still go into your existing checking account for use on your bills and monthly expenses, but having a portion (as big as you can handle) going into a savings account automatically means that you’re putting that money in it’s safe place without ever having the temptation to spend it on something else. I have always noticed that when my bank account has more money in it, I start spending more. If I can hide the money in my savings account from myself, before it ever gets into my checking account, I am much better off.

Take a look at your credit score. Don’t ignore it any longer! Don’t just glance at your score, but take a good hard look at your credit report too. I was surprised to read that nearly 1 in 5 Americans have an error on their credit report. If you have never taken the time to look over yours, do it now! You could have inaccuracies that don’t line up with your actual credit history. A poor credit score can slow you down in all of your financial goals and endeavors, so take a good look at yours.

Consolidate your debt. If you’re stuck with credit card debt and interest rates of 20 percent or more, it might be helpful for you to consolidate your debt. This could potentially lower the payments you have to make each month. Be sure that you do your homework – compare interest rates from several lenders, and find your ideal repayment plan. If you do decide on the consolidation route, don’t close your old accounts just yet. Part of your credit history is scored on the history of your accounts, and closing an active account can actually harm your credit score.

Check in on your retirement savings. If you have a 401(k) but haven’t checked in on it in a while, you could be missing out on some great opportunities. If your employer has any sort of matching program, take full advantage of this. Contribute the maximum you’re allowed to contribute, and if you can’t afford that, contribute the maximum you can afford. While you’re still young, getting this savings habit locked in is so important. Retirement is something you’ll want to be saving for your entire life, not just a few stages in it. Do whatever you can to maximize your retirement contributions, and if you haven’t started yet, just get started. Your older self will thank you.

Cut your wasteful expenses. Are you still paying for Netflix but never use it? Are you too much of a regular at your local coffee shop? Cut the spending that has gotten out of hand and the spending that you’ve realized you don’t really need anymore. If a recurring expense has slipped your mind for even one month, chances are you aren’t using it enough to make it worth it. If you’re trying to save more, see how much spending you can cut and turn that into your savings contributions each month.

Sell your old things. Having too much stuff and not enough money is a problem. Try paring down your belongings to just the necessities. Listing your clothes or belongings that you no longer use on a reselling site like Craigslist or your localized Facebook Marketplace are two great places to start. If you’d like to try and get rid of most of it in one fell swoop, TRY HAVING A YARD SALE, Make an effort to put away all of the money you earn reselling things. Maybe it’s your emergency fund that needs the extra padding, or maybe it’s your retirement account.

These are easy, actionable steps to take right now. They’re not huge and they won’t change your financial life overnight. They will get you on the right track for making you feel better about your finances, I promise.
By Emily Reinhardt, MoneyMatters.coop

Equifax, a consumer credit report agency, announced that they experienced a massive security breach this week, which caused 143 million American's personal data to be stolen by hackers. The sensitive information included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver's license numbers.

The following links provide basic information about the breach and what you can do as a consumer.Mid American is not able to confirm if your personal information was stolen asa result of the Equifax breach.

By Emily Reinhardt, MoneyMatters.coop

Chances are, all of us have dreamed of what our lives might feel like if we had more money. We could finally take that dream vacation. We would have our emergency funds, retirement accounts, and personal savings built up. We might even drive a nicer car.

But in order to achieve financial dreams like these, we have to start looking at the money we have right now. We have to spend it wisely, save it strategically, and most importantly, hold ourselves accountable with our actions.

Making the promise to ourselves to pay off debts, to stabilize our savings, and to keep working towards our financial goals – and actually doing it. This is what accountability looks like. This will require a lot of self control and following through with committed action. Without actively holding yourself accountable, you’ll run into a lot of issues, but here are some ideas for how you can better rely on yourself and keep moving forward with your financial goals.

Take a good hard look at your spending habits. I used to justify unnecessary spending to myself all the time. Even when justifying my spending, the fact remains that I’ve spent money. More often than not, when I didn’t need to. If I’ve used a credit card for this, all it’s done is increased my debt. When you are keeping yourself in debt like this, there is no chance of getting out if you don’t change your actions. Often times people think an increase in income will help fix the problem, but perhaps more money creates the mindset that you can spend more too. Thus, keeping you in the cycle of spending in frivolous ways.
Align your values to the way you spend your money. You’ll have to be very intentional with your practices. Nail down what you believe in, what you are living for, and what your goals are – and I mean really nail it down. This will give you a clear understanding of what your values are and the direction you need to move in. If a solid financial foundation is important to you, you’ll have to align your actions with your goals and focus deeply on seeing them come to life. Set your intentions and follow through with them.

Your investments need a chance to grow. If your lack of financially accountability leads you to using your investments like you use your bank accounts, always dipping in when you need to, you’ll never gain the return on those investments that you need. Allow the promises you make to yourself to actually mean something, otherwise you’ll never do what you said you’d do as your future self. If you find yourself constantly dipping into the funds you’ve tried to set aside for savings or investing, try something new. Create a new account that’s just set up specifically for your impulsive spending, or for your “just for fun” stuff. A lot of people have separate accounts for different things, and knowing you have a cushion for yourself might ease the pain of some of your spending habits and will allow you to feel like you still have some room for freedom when you’re working hard on your growth and financial stability.

An accountability partner is incredibly helpful. When I am having trouble holding myself and my finances accountable, I can see how easy it is to lie to myself about my spending. I will either ignore the problem all together, or will tell myself that it isn’t a big deal. But my goals are a big deal! I found that having friends, or close family as my accountability team makes things a lot easier. I might lie to myself about my finances, but I have a much harder time lying to someone I care about. Just like having a workout buddy, it helps to have someone with the same goals and hopes for their financial future that you have. Find that person and keep them close!

Break down your financial goals into small, attainable chunks. It’s harder to make progress on a goal like “save for retirement” than it is on a goal like, “save $500 for retirement by the end of the year." Make some short term goals that feed into your long term goals, and then you’ll have the chance to accomplish them. A big financial vision is important, but the small attainable goals are going to be the steps you need to take now, and they allow you to cut out the excuse making.