Why E-Mail Can Be A Gateway to Destruction

Leadership Trenton Honors Charter Class

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These articles were prepared for the

December 11, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Part-Time Job: Big-Time Perks

How does this sound: A 16-day cruise from Miami to South

America for $420. Or maybe a four-day cruise to the Bahamas, for $50.

In either case that would work out to maybe 25 to 50 percent of the

cost of staying home and eating fast food.

"This is what just came on my fax," says Marie Gallagher,

owner of IT Travel at Research Park. "I’m looking at it now."

The deals are for travel agents, and there is a wonderful wrinkle.

Part-time travel agents — even those working two hours a week,

or less — can pack and go right along with full-time agents. In

fact, given the fact that they are not tied to a desk, the part-timers

often take advantage of far more of these deep-discount, last minute

trips, says Gallagher.

In the it-just-keeps-getting-better department, Gallagher says

virtually

anyone can become a part-time travel agent. She gives a seminar laying

out how to do just that on Thursday, December 12, at 6:30 p.m. at

her offices at 1 Airport Place in Research Park. There is no charge,

but call 609-921-6300 for reservations.

"I ran these seminars before, years ago," says Gallagher.

"I got 20 outside agents." She explains that an outside agent

is an individual who develops his own customer base and is in complete

charge of his own schedule. Most outside agents run into the agency

to grab brochures and are quickly on their way.

The job of outside agent is not a road to riches in most cases, and,

in fact, is not something to count on when the mortgage comes due.

A part-timer can expect to make between $10,000 and $25,000 a year,

says Gallagher. "And part time," she adds, "can mean

working

two hours a week or 20 hours a week."

Outside agents do not make their money on plane tickets, but rather

by selling cruises, tours, vacation packages, group travel, and

specialty

travel such as golf trips. "Someone who belongs to a country club

and has lots of friends? Perfect," says Gallagher. "Someone

in a retirement community? Perfect."

Retired people, with their business savvy and networks of friends,

many of whom may well have the time and money to travel, can be ideal

outside agents. But, really, Gallagher emphasizes, anyone is a

candidate.

One of her outside agents was employed full-time. While she couldn’t

take advantage of as many trips as could her retired counterparts,

she did have a big pool of potential customers in her co-workers.

Stay-at-home moms like the flexibility of the job, says Gallagher,

and teachers often find it ideal. "They’re off at 4 p.m., and

they have summers off," she says of the latter group. They also

enjoy a cohort of co-workers whose extended vacations make them good

travel candidates.

As far as training goes, Gallagher says research is the main job

skill.

Travel agents need to know how to find the best tours at the best

prices. She provides training disks, and is willing to give in-house

lessons to give serious, highly-motivated candidates a good start.

Beyond that, most training is supplied at brunch, lunch, dinner, and

cruise information seminars given by airlines, cruise lines, tour

operators, hotel chains, and travel destinations.

Outside travel agents are eligible for the deep-discount trips after

one year, but, says Gallagher, this requirement can be shortened

significantly

— often to about three months — with a letter from a manager.

At that point, the outside agent is issued an IATAN card, which

identifies

him as an accredited travel agent and serves as the magic key to

fabulous

vacations at more-than-affordable prices.

Gallagher says the opportunities to take these trips, which often

are offered only at the last minute, are limitless. As a preferred

travel agent, a designation earned through volume and through

affiliation

with a network of travel agents, she receives these offers all the

time.

Cruise anyone?

Top Of Page
Why E-Mail Can Be A Gateway to Destruction

In a clear case of it-only-happens-to-the-other-guy,

small businesses say their biggest computer headache is the damage

wrought by viruses downloaded from E-mails. "Lots of people are

getting viruses," says Alicia Clay, whose job at the National

Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) involves teaching

companies

how to avoid computer problems. "It’s by far our biggest

complaint."

Clay speaks on "Computer Security is Good Business" on

Thursday,

December 12, at 8:30 a.m. at a seminar at Raritan Valley Community

College’s Small Business Development Center. Call 908-526-1200, ext.

8516.

Clay says awareness of computer security is a little better than it

once was. People don’t often tape their passwords to their monitors

anymore, she gives as a for instance. Still, a lot of needless angst

— not to mention high-price-tag damage — enters offices

through

their ubiquitous computers.

A look at NIST’s website (www.nist.org) is a window into the

dimensions of the problem. NIST is a federal technology agency

chartered

in 1901. With a mission to help companies of all sizes to develop

and use new technologies, NIST also maintains laboratories in

Gaithersburg,

Maryland, and in Boulder, Colorado, to research better ways to measure

basic quantities like length, time, and temperature, and to develop

standards and test methods.

Through more than 400 not-for-profit centers nationwide, NIST links

small manufacturers with a network of manufacturing and business

specialists.

The agency, through its Advanced Technology Program (ATP), also

bridges

the gap between research and the marketplace by sharing early-stage

research costs for new technologies. Companies conceive, co-fund,

and execute ATP projects in partnership with academe, other research

groups, and federal labs.

Among NIST’s many programs is the one on computer security. A quick

run down its menu conjures all sorts of computer horrors. The focus

appears to be on thwarting hackers. There is lots of material on

encryption,

a cryptographic standards toolkit, and an automated security

self-evaluation

tool. There are also authorization management and advanced access

control models, information on mobile computing security, and a Smart

Card security section.

Through a link on the security menu, anyone can plug the names of

their software programs into NIST’s ICAT metabase. Under a banner

showing an alert grey cat and a fearless-looking white mouse, there

is a plug-in menu that gives all the known risk factors for software.

Type in the name of a program and find the ways in which it can be

hacked, whether the type of damage than could result.

All of this up-to-the-minute techno-information comes from an agency

that got its start when urgent messages were sent by telegraph, not

by E-mail. Now that communication via the Internet is instantaneous,

global, and available to virtually everyone in every office, small

businesses need to be aware, says Clay, that the computers on their

desks can be the innocent-looking gateway to all manner of havoc.

Here are some of her suggestions for cutting the risk.

Install anti-virus software. It’s inexpensive, and it

can save your files, your hard drives, and your good name. Hackers

are roaming free in a wilderness with absolutely no borders. Once

into your system, they can store their files on your server, corrupt

your data, wreck your hardware, gain control of your address books,

and even send out obscene E-mails that will look like they came from

your business.

Keep that anti-virus software up to date. As busy as most

small businesses are, it is easy to feel virtuous about buying and

installing anti-virus software. It is also easy to then forget all

about it. But, says Clay, it is vital to keep adding the latest

patches.

One businessman with whom she recently spoke updates his anti-virus

software every single day. His business is entirely on the Internet,

she explains, making a high degree of caution a necessity. Another

business, she says, might update only once a week, or even once a

month.

Instruct employees about downloads. Let every employee

know that he is to be extremely careful about opening attachments.

There are levels of care that an employer might decide to mandate,

says Clay. Some bosses issue edicts forbidding downloads from any

unknown person. But this is not foolproof. "Hackers are getting

smarter," says Clay. It is now common for them to create subject

lines strongly suggesting that they do know their targets, something

like "John, here is the information you requested." To guard

against this sort of ruse, some employers tell their workers to

download

only files that they are expecting. It is possible to go another step

down the road to protection, she adds, by installing software that

automatically blocks all E-mail containing executable attachments.

Erect firewalls. With DSL, cable, and other high-speed

Internet connections employees are often wired all of the time.

"But

just because you can be online all the time, you don’t have to

be,"

says Clay. In fact, she suggests unplugging when not actively surfing.

The reason? "Leaving the computer on all the time is like leaving

a window open," she explains. There are hackers roaming the vast

neighborhood that is cyberspace looking for a way into computers.

An open Internet connection is an easy way in.

Guard those passwords. No, passwords are not often found

taped to monitors anymore, but Clay finds they often are written down

and placed near the computer. Choose a complex password — not

your new baby’s name — and do not store it near the computer.

As a further protection, do not sign on to the computer and then leave

for a three-hour meeting, followed by lunch. Use a pass-protected

screen saver, Clay advises, and turn it on when you step away from

your computer.

Be careful what you share. It is common for supervisors

seeking a little help from a subordinate on a project to just fork

over a password rather than transfer the file in which the needed

information is found. Let loose at a higher security level than he

usually enjoys, the underling may well have fun reading performance

reviews or checking what his office mates earn — and then

gossiping

about same at the water cooler.

Consider purchasing advanced entry systems. While it is

all well and good to advise storing passwords away from the computer,

with the number of passwords the average information worker needs

to navigate through the day, it is oh-so-tempting to keep them all

close at hand — and in plain sight. A solution, says Clay, is

a fingerprint identification system. "Prices have dropped,"

she says. "You can now get one for less than $100." The

fingerprint

ID technology can be set up not only to get a computer user logged

on to the main system, but also to "memorize" all of his

passwords.

This means he can cruise through his day, switching from database

to database without ever having to remember and type in all of his

different passwords.

Beware the computer guy. Small offices tend to entrust

all things computer related to one person. What happens if he quits?

asks Clay. Or worse, what if he needs to be fired? It is prudent,

she suggests, to have at least one other person trained to take over,

and to have pre-set procedures for locking either one of them out

of the system.

Many times, the result of a security breach can be mitigated

by prior planning. Back-up files regularly, for example, and a

file-corrupting

break-in will not do much damage. Likewise, using encryption

technology

will lessen the harm done by any theft of sensitive material. Being

hacked or compromised by an employee is no fun, but, says Clay,

"It

doesn’t have to be the end of the world."

Top Of Page
Leadership Trenton Honors Charter Class

Roland Pott of Trenton Works and Conduit and John

Harmon of the Metropolitan Trenton African American Chamber of

Commerce are among the 35 fellows of the Leadership Trenton charter

class to be recognized at the Lafayette Yard Marriott Conference Hotel

on Thursday, December 12.

Leadership Trenton is a collaboration of Thomas Edison State college,

the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy, and the Partnership

for New Jersey. A statewide program, it stages monthly seminars on

public policy issues that are critical to the state.

The Watson Institute was established by Thomas Edison State College

in 1996 as a center for community partnerships to serve communities

in the state. It offers applied research, technical assistance,

program

development, outreach, and other assistance.

"The information and experience acquired by our charter class

exemplifies the importance of investing in leadership

development,"

says William A. Watson, executive director of the John S. Watson

Institute for Public Policy.

This year’s Leadership Trenton class has 41 people. Among them are

June Ballinger, director of Passage Theater; John D. S. Hatch,

of the architectural firm of Clarke Caton Hintz; Jon Nelson,

director of mental health services at Capital Health; and Peter

C. Wise, director of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.

"The graduates of Leadership Trenton will do extraordinary things

with their initiative, talent, and drive to make Trenton a better

place to live and work," says George A. Pruitt, president

of Thomas Edison State College.


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