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Don’t let a misplaced phone start a cyber attack

October 6, 2015

Frank_Buonocore PNGAttacks on corporate computer networks and theft of sensitive customer information are growing at a staggering pace. In 2013, 43% of companies reported a data breach, up 10% in just one year.

With eBay’s 145 million and JP Moran Chase’s 76 million compromised accounts leading the way last year, the Ponemon Institute labeled 2014 the year of “mega breaches.”

The cost of these data breaches is equally impressive…$194 per record in the United States in 2012, according to the Ponemon Institute, up from $188 the year before.

Many assume data breaches are the result of bad actors in foreign countries launching cyber attacks from afar, deliberately targeting high profile companies known to possess a valuable trove of information. While that attack profile is certainly common, the reality is that any company, of any size, is at risk…very often from negligence within.

With smartphones becoming ubiquitous (80% of Americans under 50 own one) and a basic necessity for workflow in most industries, employees now carry the risk of a significant data breach around in their pockets…to the bar, to the

Virus attack concept. Control panel with red light and warning. Conceptual image symbol of computer infection.

gym, on the subway, etc.

Lost and stolen devices are increasingly a top source of data breaches. In the highly targeted health care sector, they are now the leading cause.

Cyber security training can help protect your company from a data breach that puts you on the hook for forensics, legal counsel, credit monitoring for affected customers, and much more. Employee training is crucial, and not just at the point of hiring. Annual refresher courses should be standard procedure.

Our partners at Travelers recommend a number of best practices to help you manage cyber risk. Examples include:

Shared responsibility — All employees need to understand that data protection is the responsibility of all departments, not just IT.

Knowing the signs — Is that security notice a legitimate warning or a phishing scam? When it doubt, check with IT. Never assume.

Punching up passwords — Strong passwords are cryptic but memorable. There are free tools online that can help create appropriate ones.

Checking before you install — Employees should not install software without approval. Besides the threat of a full-fledged data breach, some programs will quietly install adware, spyware, and other malicious software that can wreak havoc on a computer.

At Founders Insurance Agency, we can walk you through the steps of securing the best cyber security policy for your business. Talk to us today about how we can help you protect your digital assets.

Frank Buonocore, Jr. CPCU

Vice President, Founders Insurance Agency

4 ways to curb narcotics abuse in Workers’ Compensation claims

September 29, 2015
Adam Winters

Adam Winters

Percocet. OxyContin. Vicodin. We are a country addicted to prescription painkillers. But the drug abuse problem extends beyond average Americans. It’s having severe consequences on Workers’ Compensation costs.

In a 2013 report, The National Council on Compensation Issues found that prescription painkillers are the driving force beyond growing Workers’ Compensation claims, and narcotics account for 25 percent of drug cost.

Here are 4 strategies to keep narcotics abuse from wreaking havoc on your Worker’s Compensation costs.

  1. Get your injured employee treated right away. Injured workers who are treated early on are more apt to recover sooner and are less likely to need painkillers.
  2. Talk to the physician. Consult with the physician about lowering an injured worker’s drug dosage or prescribing alternatives to highly addictive painkillers. Also select a physician who doesn’t easily prescribe narcotics. The NCCI found that physician dispensing, those who supply their patients with drugs from their office, was one of the main reasons for increases in claims.
  3. Monitor Claims. Have your claims manager keep a close watch on what drugs are being prescribed and how many refills are recommended for an injured workers. Look for signs of addiction such as pharmacy or doctor shopping.
  4. Initiate an intervention. Medical experts say if an injured worker is on painkillers for more than 90 days employers should take notice. You want to talk to the employee about alternatives such as physical or behavioral therapy to manage chronic pain.

Organizations that have policies to combat narcotics abuse are more likely to keep their Workers’ Compensation claims under control.

Still have questions about ways to manage your claims? Give Founders Insurance Group a call at 860-482-3506 or email me at

Adam Winters

Commercial Lines Account Manager

Beyond the English Channel

September 24, 2015
Dennis Dressel President

Dennis Dressel

As many of you know I’m a marathon swimmer – I hit the water as soon as the ice melts.  The joke around Founders is that I’m part polar bear.  I honestly can’t dispute it.

Recently I crossed an adventure off my bucket list: Swimming from Spain to Africa via the Strait of Gibraltar.  The water was a bit more forgiving than the English Channel , the fact that it was warmer was a boost!

Since the team “back home” was eagerly awaiting the outcome of my latest feat – I sent this note along as soon as I finished and was back on dry land.

“At the risk of boring everyone, I swam the Straits of Gibraltar on Friday in a time of 4:57 – it’s about 10 miles from Spain to Morocco. Attached is a video of the finish in Africa. It was a very nice day and Sandy was on the escort boat cheering me on! The water temp ranged from 60 to 67 degrees with numerous giant tankers and freighters passing close by. About 500 people have done it and only 3 or 4 older than me – old folks rule! Now we are enjoying the fine wine and great food. See you next week!”

It was a great time!  Now I have to figure out what’s next – any ideas?

Here I am finishing up. Bucket List Item:  Check!

Dennis Dressel, CPCU

President, Founders Insurance Agency

Not an Eagle Scout or a Doomsday Prepper? That’s OK, but you should read this!

September 15, 2015

With Summer winding to a close and kids back to school, most people forget that September is National Preparedness Month. Do you have a plan in place should a disaster occur?

This time of year is potentially the most active for hurricanes and tropical storms. I’m sure you remember hurricanes Sandy and Irene and the devastation that they left in their wakes. BUT disasters can happen anywhere, at any time of year, with little or no notice. From blizzards to hurricanes to tornados – the East Coast sees its fair share of Natural Disasters. When seconds count, you need to have a plan in place to keep yourself and your family safe, including your pets. Here are a few tips to keep you safe should the need arise:

Know where to take shelter or evacuate should a house fire or other localized disaster occur. Have a few back up locations in case Plan A isn’t suitable. Just like a fire drill in school, practice your evacuation drill with your family.

Develop a family communication plan. If you were to get split up, how would you contact your loved ones, and where would you meet? Have a predetermined meeting place in the event of separation. If your family includes pets, it is beneficial to have them microchipped. Many pets get displaced during emergencies or disasters, and a simple scan of the chip can reunite owners with their furry family members.

Create an emergency supply kit for any type of disaster. Bad things happen whether at home or away. Create a

Canned foods, emergency radio and supplies for disaster preparedness on white background

portable supply kit that includes first aid supplies, a radio, flares, flashlights, food and water. If you have pets, make sure to gather food, water, carriers, leashes, and medical records to provide vaccination history.

Have a preparedness strategy for recovery after disaster strikes. The safety of you and your family, as well as overall health and wellbeing are important. Whether it be natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods, or pandemics and home fires, having an immediate preparedness plan and course of action can mean the difference between survival and devastation.

It’s important to make sure that you have a plan in place should any emergency occur. Educate yourself on your surroundings and local contact information, whether at home or traveling. Being prepared for the worst can help save your life whether you have several days’ notice of a disaster or only several minutes.

September is a great month to make sure your insurance policies are up to date and provide the coverage you need, should disaster strike. Have questions? Give us a call today, and we can walk you through our home owner’s insurance policies including our Flood and Earthquake insurance plans – (860) 482-3508.

Laurie Fisher

Personal Lines Account Manager

Shovels, hoes, tractors and laptops? The next generation of farmer is here.

September 9, 2015
Adam Winters

Adam Winters

No business, no matter how analog it may seem on the surface, is untouched by our modern technology revolution. Even in the classic field of agriculture, tools such as laptops, tablets, and custom apps are increasingly just as crucial as shovels, hoes, and tractors for getting work done.

Whether you’re a gentleman farmer with a handful of acres under cultivation or one of Litchfield County’s biggest producers, if you’re farming to feed anybody beyond your friends and family, embracing technology is a key to success.

That’s no surprise to the biggest agricultural conglomerates, who are fully embracing the opportunity presented by Big Data.

“I could easily see us in the next five or 10 years being an information technology company,” said Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley.

Technology brings significant opportunity to the agricultural sector, but also risk. Understanding how to embrace and overcome the challenges that come with it will help set your farm business apart.


Don’t just react, plan — Other than paying heed to often iffy weather forecasts, historically farmers have had little predictive information to rely on. All moves they made were reactive…to weather, to market forces, to inventory threats. But capturing and synthesizing data about a wide range of variables — everything from weather to equipment maintenance to workforce performance — is the first step to creating planning models that help farmers make informed decisions.

Silos are for corn, not information — Once gathered, all that data can’t get Big until it gets mixed together like a tasty organic primavera. That requires the expertise of data chefs who understand the agricultural business and can help build custom solutions that bring out the power of raw information.

Go off schedule — Precision agriculture uses data collected in real time to help inform decisions about what to plant, when to plant, when to fertilize, and when to harvest. Backed up by Big Data, a farmer no longer follows a rigid schedule, planting this crop at that time simply because that’s how it was done the year before and the year before that. Instead, information analytics drives the process. Again, the key is a proactive, not reactive, approach.

The possibilities are significant, but challenges also confront the smaller-scale agribusiness operator that wants to go Big on data. Once your data systems are in place, do you have the skillset on staff to manage and interpret the results? How secure are your systems? Cyber threats are a growing risk  in virtually every industry vertical, and agriculture is no exception.

Savvy consumers are caring much more about where their food is coming from and are quick to share their experiences on social media, a boon for quality local farmers. But this is a double-edged sword that can quickly turn disastrous in times of crisis (foodborne illness outbreak, questionable labeling, etc.) Do you have a communication expert at the ready to help guide you through any troubles?

At Founders, we have a special interest in agriculture and offer a suite of products that help our agribusiness customers manage risk. Interesting in learning more? Contact me today.

Adam Winters Commercial Lines Account Manager

Did you know Manhattan buyers are looking for these high-end kitchen features?

September 3, 2015
Linda Robertson Platinum Accounts Executive

Linda Robertson
Platinum Accounts Executive

Kitchens remain the heart of any home, no matter how modest or grand. The same holds true in the condos, co-ops, and townhouses of restaurant-rich Manhattan, regardless of whether the owner is an Iron Chef or take-out king.

While kitchens may forever occupy that special lofty place, what constitutes their “must-have” elements continues to evolve.

For top-end buyers, when it comes to the very best in Manhattan kitchens, simply having stainless steel appliances, granite counters, and paneled refrigerators just won’t cut it.

Here are four must-have, of-the-moment elements that would make even Julia Child, whose kitchen is enshrined at the Smithsonian, sing with envy.

Drawers that just provide storage? How passé — The latest and greatest gadgets, like this $72,000 corkscrew, need someplace to live of course, but the discerning Manhattan buyer is looking for refrigerated kitchen drawers. Think of them as replacing the second refrigerator in the suburban home’s garage. In addition to drawers that keep things cool, the savviest buyers are also seeking warming drawers that keep things, well, warm.

Making the ordinary, extraordinary — OK, so the $72,000 corkscrew is over the top even for most Manhattanites, butiStock_000044555338_Small the concept of dressing up what would otherwise be pedestrian appliances with high-end finishes is very much in vogue. Consider the under-counter Scotsman ice maker, designed for home use but with the power to keep the gin and tonics mighty cold for you and 100 of your closest friends.

Why have one when two will do? — Two ovens, two dishwashers, four sinks…if you’re not able to host an episode of Chopped at home, buyers may look elsewhere.

OK, seriously, why have one when two will do? — That high-end kitchen is so gorgeous, so perfect, so glistening, it would be a shame to dirty it up with cooking. Enter the butler kitchen concept. Usually located just off the main kitchen, this smaller one-oven, two-sink kitchen is a secondary space that ends up handling a lot of easy run-of-the-mill, one- or two-person meals. With a secondary kitchen in place, the primo main kitchen is reserved for catered parties, big family dinners, guest celebrity chefs, etc.

At Founders, where many of our Platinum Accounts Unit clients are dual CT/NYC residents, we love staying on top of what’s cooking in Manhattan. What trends are you noticing in high-end real estate? I’d love to hear from you!

Linda Robertson Platinum Accounts Executive

New housing disclosure requirements increase transparency but add risk for property owners

August 19, 2015
Linda Robertson Platinum Accounts Executive

Linda Robertson
Platinum Accounts Executive

New rules that went into effect in New York City this spring make it much more difficult for buyers of residential real estate to shield their identities through an LLC or other opaque vehicle.

According to The New York Times, the de Blasio Administration wants to increase transparency and identify real estate owners who may be skirting taxes due to the city by claiming residency elsewhere, in particular a foreign country.

Beyond taxes, regulators say disclosure can help fight crime. Jennifer Shasky Calvery, director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, said that such disclosure will close loopholes.

“Greater transparency of beneficial ownership information would make it morestatue-of-liberty-picture difficult for criminals to hide their purchases of luxury real estate through the use of shell companies.”

But the burden of disclosure will fall not just on criminals, but on all who purchase property in New York City under an LLC or other private company, the vast majority of whom are successful, high profile, and  merely seeking privacy.

We advise our well-known clients, such as celebrities with significant name recognition and C-level executives at large companies, to purchase property using an LLC. Doing so makes it much more difficult for the curious to find out where you live.

Unlike New York City, Connecticut does not have disclosure requirements on LLC’s that purchase real estate. Nutmeg state transactions remain protected. However, with federal pressure and the country’s largest city with the highest real property values having taken this step, disclosure requirements may be inevitable here and elsewhere.

Nonetheless, even with the new disclosure requirements, the other Risk Management benefits of purchasing in Manhattan using an LLC still hold. For example, an LLC protects your other assets from litigation that involves the property in question.

In  some northern Litchfield County towns, 6 of 10 homeowners are dual residents, very commonly with holdings in Manhattan and here. We created our Platinum Accounts Unit to service the needs of this special group. We understand the unique risks they face and have extensive expertise in managing risk for properties here, in the city, and other popular locales like Colorado, Florida, and Washington D.C.

Have questions about the best ways to manage risk in your real estate portfolio? Drop me a line.

Linda Robertson
Platinum Accounts Executive


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