DO’s and DONT’s of Hard Drive Destruction & Disposal

By: Rachel Lau, Social Media, Arts & Design, Guardian Data Destruction

Hard drive destruction isn’t as easy as it seems! Destroying a hard drive goes beyond deleting files, smashing it on the ground, and then tossing it out. To securely destroy a hard drive and its expired (and possibly quite confidential) data, enterprises need a secure and replicable process that ensures data security and compliance.

Whether or not the old data sitting on your hard drives (or other tech devices with memory chips or SSD) is viable, consider the consequences if someone, a bad someone, got that information. If you have even the smallest concern, pay attention to these important DOs and DON’Ts of hard drive destruction:

DO Consider Hiring a Partner Whose Expertise is in Hard Drive Destruction

Choosing a reliable, NAID-certified hard drive destruction partner ensures that proper, trackable procedures are followed. A reputable company will have standardized procedures in place to ensure that they keep track of each hard drive’s serial number so you that know when and exactly which drives were destroyed. If there’s ever a problem, you’ll have full accountability and reduced risk.

DON’T Destroy the Hard Drive on Your Own
Smashing hard drives with a hammer, drilling holes through them, throwing them out, or very methodically deleting files are not effective methods of data destruction. Not only is it time consuming to bang, drill and delete files on a one-by-one basis but your data still has a huge opportunity for retrieval and harm.

DO Ask for a Certificate of Destruction

You’re seeking tangible, documented proof that your hard drives were destroyed in accordance with NAID and relevant industry regulations. Not every hard drive destruction service has the same range of services and media, but your service provider should always provide you with detailed documentation of destruction such as a Certificate of Destruction (COD), witness and/or recording.

DON’T Assume Your Hard Drives Were Destroyed Without Documentation

The data is your responsibility so don’t take someone’s word about hard drive destruction verification — it’s worthless without the proper, detailed documentation. Chain of Custody practices, defined broadly as “the chronological documentation or paper trail that records the sequence of custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of physical or electronic evidence” prevent issues that may arise from improper asset destruction.

At Guardian Data Destruction, we DO follow NAID-certified best practices and industry guidelines to ensure confidence and security. We DO exceed industry standards and advise clients from all industries and agencies on how to meet compliance and avoid risk as they upgrade equipment, servers, media or migrate to the cloud. We DO ensure that our clients get the appropriate destruction service based on their needs. We DO ensure that chain of custody and provided documentation are accurate recordings of your assets and our process.

We DON’T leave a shred of data behind. You shouldn’t either.

Eight Key Estate-Planning Tips You Can Take to the Bank

By: Joy Matak, JD, LLM, Principal and Trusts and Estates National Practice Co-Leader, CohnReznick

As 2019 has now ended, it’s time to get your finances and your estate in shape. The federal exemption from estate taxes has never been higher, and income taxes are relatively low. Before the holidays arrive to eat up your time and money, here are eight estate-planning tips you can take to the bank, or your financial advisor:  

1. Reduce your taxes and protect your wealth 

The federal estate tax exemption as of Jan. 1, 2019, is $11.4 million, increasing to $11,580,000 as of Jan. 1, 2020. This exemption is scheduled to be reduced by half in 2026. If the so-called “blue wave” of 2018 continues through the 2020 elections, the federal estate tax exemption could be changed much earlier than current law requires. Responsible planning may be structured to reduce your taxable estate, save income taxes, and protect your assets from creditors – in a way that permits you to continue to have access to your assets.

2. Update your plan 

If you have a trust that’s even five years old, you may need a more up-to-date trust drafted to be more powerful, robust, tailored, and flexible. Flexibility is key, because the world keeps changing, as do the stock market and tax laws. Trusts that were set up more than a few years ago are unlikely to provide the robust terms that up-to-date trusts provide, such as a modification provision, having trust protectors who can monitor trustees, and make midcourse changes, and more.  

3. State income tax issues 

Now that federal tax reform has reduced state and local tax deductions, it may be time to consider moving that trust from a high-tax jurisdiction to a state that has reduced or eliminated state income taxes for trusts. States such as Nevada, South Dakota, and Alaska have enhanced the benefits of moving there by increasing asset protection.  

4. Strategic charitable giving 

You may be able to achieve an estate tax benefit and possibly reduce income taxes through charitable trusts. Tax reform improved these opportunities by allowing more of your charitable dollars to be deductible in the year of giving.   

5. SECURE Act 

Republicans and Democrats may come together – to limit your opportunities to leave your IRA to your grandchildren in a tax-deferral strategy that allows them to stretch the required minimum distributions over their lifetimes. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act has been making its way through Congress with bipartisan support and is expected to be signed into law when it finally makes its way to the president’s desk. 

6. Prenuptial agreements/divorce 

Prenuptial agreements should be drafted to conform with any planning that has been done, whether by the future spouses or by third parties for their benefit. It is important to involve an estate-planning professional in the process of negotiating a prenuptial agreement so that separate property is kept from being commingled with marital property. Under recent revisions to the Internal Revenue Code and related regulations, a surviving spouse may be able to use a deceased spouse’s unused lifetime exclusion to make gifts (a “portability election”). This opportunity is only available if a federal estate tax return for the deceased spouse is filed. The surviving spouse is the only person who can make the portability election and the only person with an interest in the value of portability. Therefore, a prenuptial agreement should specify whether the surviving spouse has the right to require that a federal estate tax return be filed for a deceased spouse solely for the purposes of preserving portability. The prenuptial agreement should also clarify who will pay for the preparation of the federal estate tax return. 

7. Insurance 

It is important to review insurance policies regularly to ensure that your family and closely held businesses will have sufficient liquidity and resources available in the event of an untimely death or disability. Several insurance companies have recently created combined life and long-term care policies that can cover the costs associated with a disability. 

8. Convert to a Roth IRA 

Tax reform lowered federal income tax rates for many taxpayers who may be able to take advantage of converting a regular IRA to a Roth IRA. If structured thoughtfully, you may be able to use charitable contribution deductions or harvest losses to offset some of the gain that would result from the conversion.

USCIS Expands Guidance About What Constitutes Good Moral Character for Naturalization For The USCIS Policy Manual

By: David Nachman, Esq., Managing Attorney, Nachman Phulwani Zimovcak (NPZ) Law Group, P.C.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services expanded its policy guidance regarding unlawful acts that may prevent an applicant from meeting the good moral character (GMC) requirement for naturalization. The commission of, or conviction or imprisonment for, an unlawful act, during the statutory period for naturalization, may render an applicant ineligible for naturalization should the act be found to adversely reflect on moral character.

Previously, the USCIS Policy Manual did not include extensive information on unlawful acts. This update to the Policy Manual provides additional examples of unlawful acts and instructions to ensure USCIS adjudicators make uniform and fair determinations, and further identifies the unlawful acts that may affect GMC based on judicial precedent. This update does not change the impact of an unlawful act on USCIS’ analysis of whether an applicant can demonstrate GMC. Adjudicators in the field receive extensive training to apply the law on GMC and unlawful acts regulation. They are aware of which unlawful acts could bar an applicant from naturalization and are not limited by the examples listed in the Policy Manual.

On Dec. 10, USCIS issued separate policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual about how two or more convictions for driving under the influence or post-sentencing changes to criminal sentencing might affect GMC determinations.

“In the Immigration and Nationality Act, Congress determined that good moral character is a requirement for naturalization,” said USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans. “USCIS is committed to faithfully administering our nation’s lawful immigration system, and this update helps to ensure that our agency’s adjudicators make uniform and fair decisions concerning the consideration of unlawful acts on good moral character when determining eligibility for U.S. citizenship.”

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an applicant for naturalization must establish GMC. Although the INA does not directly define GMC, it does describe certain acts that bar establishing GMC of an applicant. Examples of unlawful acts recognized by case law as barring GMC include, but are not limited to, the following:

bail jumping;

bank fraud;

conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance;

failure to claim U.S. citizenship;

falsification of records;

forgery uttering;

insurance fraud;

obstruction of justice;

sexual assault;

Social Security fraud;

unlawful harassment;

unlawful registration to vote;

unlawful voting; and

violation of a U.S. embargo.

In general, applicants must show they have been, and continue to be, people of GMC during the statutory period before filing for naturalization and up until they take the Oath of Allegiance. The statutory period is generally five years for permanent residents of the United States, three years for applicants married to a U.S. citizen, and one year for certain applicants applying on the basis of qualifying U.S. military service.

USCIS officers must continue to perform a case-by-case analysis to determine whether an act is unlawful and adversely reflects on an applicant’s good moral character. They must also determine whether there are extenuating circumstances. An extenuating circumstance must pertain to the unlawful act and must precede or be contemporaneous with the commission of the unlawful act. Training for adjudicators will be updated to reflect this expanded guidance.

Home for the Holidays? Mind Your Elders

By: Wendy Hoey Sheinberg, Partner, Rivkin Radler

Going home for the holidays means different things to different people. If your plans involve older relatives, the holidays can provide insights that can help avoid disaster. It can be hard to know when and how to raise delicate age-related issues with your parents. How do you tell the person who taught you everything that they may need help with something? It is not an easy set of conversations. The following tips will smooth the way.

Empathize

Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. If your children needed to tell you that you need help, how would you want them to approach you? Change is not always welcome. Change can be scary. Almost no one likes giving up control. When opening a dialogue it is important to be calm. It is also important to make it clear that you are not taking over, so don’t draw lines in the sand.

Understand that no matter what you say or how you say it, your loved one will mostly likely hear that they are getting older. We are all getting older, but hearing it, and digesting what that means can be very difficult. While you may think the conversation is “just about driving” consider all of the parts of life that are affected by an inability to drive, including a loss of independence.

No Interventions

Yes, you are worried about your loved one, but this is not the time for an intervention. This is the time for sensitivity and allowing a person to retain their dignity. Surrounding someone with well-meaning relatives and forcing the person to listen to a well-rehearsed list of shortcomings is not the way to open this dialogue.

Timing Is Everything

Do not follow “Please pass the biscuits” with a “spontaneous” story about Mrs. Jones’ fall from the stepladder and “if only she had let her family help her.” Celebrations are for celebrating. Schedule a quiet lunch after the holidays to discuss the things you have noticed, and please do not do it during the holiday dinner.

Keep Calm, but Be Observant

Be mindful of changes to your older relatives’ appearance and behavior. Does mom look too thin; does her walk look labored? Does dad seem a bit confused and disinterested? Changes in weight, mobility, and demeanor can all have benign explanations. Sometimes, however, they can be warning signs of a serious issue.

Be Positively Proactive

Once the celebration is over, make a list of your concerns. What are priority items that should be addressed now? Knowing your family member, what approach do you think will work best? Initiate the conversation in a way that is consistent with your motivation, your love and concern. Take small steps. No one likes being hit with a two-by-four, and change takes time.

Planning for the Not-So-Distant Future

Once health and safety concerns are addressed, it is a good idea to meet with a compassionate elder law and estate planning attorney. A proper plan will help your loved one designate the right people to make health and financial decisions in the event they can no longer do so for themselves.

Crooks Using Hacked Websites to Download Trojan Malware

By: Joseph Imperato, Sr., Partner, XSolutions

Last week, we issued an alert about a fake Windows update delivering ransomware. Now, cyber-crooks upped their game by hacking into legitimate WordPress websites, injecting redirect scripts, and displaying fake Flash Player update alerts.

According to ZDNet, if the user clicks the “Update” or “Later” buttons, the script takes the target to a fake download page to transfer the Trojan malware to the victim’s computer.

The malware is a Remote Access Trojan or RAT and allows the attacker to connect to the victim’s computer to perform file downloads, uploads, etc. So far, during the past three months, over 113,000 users have been served fake alerts.

There are two ways to protect ourselves from this attack:

First – Website owners must make sure the Content Management Systems (CMS) for their sites are fully updated. Attackers are gaining entry through systems that have not been updated.

Second – As users, you should not be updating any software on your computer via a website pop-up.  For third party software, either use the update facilities from the program already installed on your computer or visit the official third party’s site to download and install the update.

Remote Access Trojans (RATs) are a particularly nasty type of malware, giving attackers a backdoor to a target’s computer. Once in, a cyber-criminal can gain administrative control, distribute viruses, steal information, and gain entry to the entire network.

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