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Cyber Security Tips For Cyber Monday

Welcome back after the Thanksgiving weekend! If you’re anything like the crew at Absolute Destruction, then you’re returning to business as usual with a full belly and a full fridge. It can be a challenge getting back into the regular rhythm of the work week after a holiday, so we want to thank you for taking time out of your day to visit our page. If you’re looking for a document shredding company in Toronto, you’ve certainly come to the right place.

Now that we’re back at the grind, we may have had our fill of turkey and cranberry sauce here in the True North, but our neighbors to the south are still looking forward to their Thanksgiving dinners. Timing isn’t the only thing that differentiates our two holidays. American Thanksgiving is quickly followed by two of the biggest shopping days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

They’re as red, white, and blue as NFL football following the Thanksgiving Day feast in November, but after years of being the quintessential American shopping event, things are changing. According to the latest data, roughly 50 percent of Canadians took advantage of these American deals last year.

Though a low loonie means they aren’t hopping the border to shop in-person, many still plan to hit up the Cyber Monday deals online. Before you fill your digital shopping cart, the team at Absolute Destruction wants to remind you of proper online shopping etiquette, so you don’t get burnt this year as you search for amazing deals.

Create a Secure Homebase

Don’t let a pumpkin spice latte and free Wi-Fi fool you, Starbucks is not an ideal place to check out Cyber Monday deals. Neither is the GTA’s library system or their community computers. When you use a public computer and unsecured Wi-Fi, you’re opening yourself to risk. Anyone with a bit of computer knowhow can eavesdrop on your online shopping by tapping into unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Not only will they see your accounts’ log-in information, but they’ll also able to see any financial and contact info you type in to make a purchase.

Take that latte to go, and do your shopping at home on a trusted computer using a secure network. Beef up security by equipping your laptop with a reliable anti-virus software, and you’ll be better protected from malware as you shop.

Be Password Savvy

Most retailers make you create a profile before you can go through with your purchase. Many of us don’t think twice about these log-in credentials, but you should consider them as important as any heavily-guarded account.

If you can choose your username, choose a distinct one for each retailer, and pair them with unique passwords every time. Don’t get lazy. Try using a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters, symbols, and numbers that isn’t immediately recognizable. That means your child’s name and birthdate, followed by an exclamation mark, isn’t good enough. If you aren’t sure how you can develop several individual passwords (without forgetting them!), check out a password manager for help.

Use Trusted Apps Over Web Browsers

Convention says we shop from our desktops and laptops, but things are rapidly changing. In 2016, nearly a third of Cyber Monday shoppers (or 28%) carried out their purchases on mobile devices. If you’re one of the mobile-savvy shoppers, don’t complete your purchase through your web browser. Many retailers have their own mobile apps that give them more control over the security features embedded at every step of the transaction. Go ahead and search for items on the browser, but download the official app before you present your credit card number.

Be a Critical Shopper

Though nothing compared to the extraordinary Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals enjoyed by our neighbors in the south, our sales still offer considerable savings, but don’t get caught up in the season. There’s a limit to what retailers are willing to offer through these deals, and if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Cybercriminals will take advantage of our penny-pinching ways, so be wary of any emails, pop-ups, or texts that promise unrealistic savings. They often have links that lead you to scam sites or viruses, so don’t click anything from a sender you don’t trust. Even then, be critical of the content of any email sent, regardless of the sender. If you’re ever suspicious, start googling the deal or the retailer to see if it’s legit.

Review Your Credit & Bank Statements

Keep an eye on credit card statements to ensure there isn’t any suspicious activity on your accounts. You can easily check in on these accounts online, but many people around the GTA still receive their statements through the mail.

If you have paper copies of these statements, use our document destruction services in Mississauga to make sure they’re disposed of correctly. With your contact and financial details recorded on their pages, these invoices are the bread and butter of identity thieves. Keep this critical personal information out of their hands by contacting our local services in Mississauga or any other municipality in the GTA.

We’re also available for electronic data destruction in case you have old devices you once used to store private financial information. Wiping these gadgets before throwing them out or selling them isn’t enough. Hard drives have a permanent memory system that computer scientists can access despite your best efforts to delete files. Only through complete and utter destruction can you ensure data can’t be retrieved.

Give us a call if you want to learn more about our physical or electronic data destruction services. We’re happy to answer your questions this fall, before or after you shop till you drop. Until we hear from you, we hope you take our cyber security advice as you take advantage of Cyber Monday deals.

Add comment October 17th, 2017

Where Will The Civic Holiday Take You?

The Civic Holiday — a lackluster name given to the August long weekend — exceeds the boring reputation that its name implies. Synonymous with British Columbia Day in BC, Heritage Day in Alberta, and Regatta Day in Newfoundland, the Civic Holiday marks the start of the dog days of summer in Ontario, and people all over the country aim to get the most out of the season over this weekend.

Here in the Toronto and the GTA, tradition holds we leave behind the smoggy air and the pot-holed streets of the city for beautiful blue skies and dirt roads of cottage country. Those in need of our document shredding help in Toronto and the surrounding municipalities often postpone or reschedule our services around the holiday. They have plans to lounge dock-side with a cold beer in hand. And we don’t blame them!

Soon enough city-dwellers will stock their cars with meat primed for the grill, craft brews chilled on ice, and pool noodles awaiting the lake. That’s the easy part. The biggest challenge the Civic Holiday poses is where to go. As one of the biggest weekends for cottage country, it can be difficult to enjoy the holiday as you envision it. If your family doesn’t own a vacation rental, you’ll fight with all of the other cottage-less Canadians over the remaining rentals available.

Hopefully, you already secured your place. If not, let Absolute Destruction help you with your holiday hunt for a cottage. Check out our quick guide to cottage country. All options are within driving distance from Toronto.

Muskoka

Chippewa for “not easily turned back in the day of battle”, Muskoka has evolved far from its violent roots. Now known as one of the most famous cottage country locales, the area between Port Carling and Gravenhurst is synonymous with summers spent relaxing at the cottage. We’ve even renamed the Adirondack chair for its ubiquitous presence on Muskoka docks.

It’s made up of 6 municipalities, including Bracebridge, Huntsville, Lake of Bays, Georgian Bay, Gravenhurst, and Muskoka Lakes. There, you can find over 1,600 lakes, and locals aren’t the only ones to find some peace and quiet on their shores. Hollywood stars like Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and Goldie Hawn spend their summers here, too.

Lake Simcoe

It’s only fitting to drive to Lake Simcoe on the Civic Holiday. After all, it also goes by Simcoe Day in Toronto. In the 17th century it was known in Wyandot as “beautiful water”. As the fourth largest lake found entirely within the province, we think it earned that particular name. A popular summer spot, most cottages can be found around the lake itself.

No stranger to our team, Lake Simcoe is a just short drive from the GTA. We offer document shredding in Barrie, which is one of five municipalities that make up the area, including Innisfil, Keswick, Orillia, and Georgina. Though it’s much less famous than Muskoka, it’s still a great place to spend the long weekend.

Kawartha Lakes

It isn’t just known for its ice cream. The Kawartha Lakes are also a destination for cottage goers throughout the year. Just over 100 kilometres northeast of the big city, it marks one of the closest options for those customers who use our document destruction in Markham.

Make sure you play The Tragically Hip’s Bobcaygeon on full blast on your way up. Not only is it a Canadian cottage anthem, Bobcaygeon is just one of the many towns that make up the Kawarthas, including Bolsover, Fenelon Falls, Woodville, Omemee, and Lindsay. Though barely a stone’s throw from the GTA, it promises a tranquil setting for your long weekend.

Whether you choose Muskoka or someplace different, it’s important to start hunting for that rental soon. Cottages go quickly any time during the summer but the Civic Holiday is an especially busy time of year. Blink and they’ll be gone so hop onto AirBnB and other vacation rental websites to find your cottage in time. And don’t forget to call us in case you need to reschedule our services while you’re away.

Happy cottaging!

Add comment July 17th, 2017

6 Easy Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

At the beginning of the month, Donald Trump withdrew the United States from The Paris Agreement, making America one of only three countries in the entire world to turn its back on the environmental action plan. It’s a decision that even Kim Jong Un, the notorious leader of North Korea, calls, “the height of egotism”.

But here at Absolute Destruction, we think there may be a silver lining to Trump’s hubris. A number of the state’s largest city mayors have published their cities’ commitment to the goals of the agreement, and Hawaii has become the first state to defy Trump’s rejection of the accord. The president’s choice has also motivated businesses and private individuals to step up where the American government has failed, resulting in innovative answers to the issue of climate change.

It’s another story here in Canada, as Parliament is fully committed to the Paris Accord. But that doesn’t mean we’re wholly unaffected by our neighbours to the south. While American politics affects Canadian policy, we should choose to let those environmentally friendly American mayors, businesses, and individuals inspire us.

Be the change that you want to be. Use this guide to cut your carbon footprint in 6 easy ways.

  1. Get Moving!

If you think nothing of hopping in the car whenever you need to get somewhere, even if it’s just around the corner, it’s time to start! Our cars are responsible for a 26% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. When you choose to walk or bike, you can help cut down on the amount of pollution you personally contribute. As an added bonus, this extra activity is a heart healthy choice.

  1. Use Our Recycling Services

Here at Absolute Destruction, we are committed to the welfare of our natural environment. That’s why we offer recycling services alongside our secure document destruction. Our recycling services include professional pickup of paper, cans, cardboard, and glass bottles. To learn more about how our eco-friendly practices has helped the GTA, check out our Environmental Savings page.

  1. Make it a Meatless Monday

Emerging studies have shown agricultural farming, much of which supports cattle farms used to raise meat, is one of the worst contributors of global greenhouse gas emissions. The UN and WHO suggest we try to limit the amount of red meat we eat in order to help reduce its effects, so try introducing vegetarian meals into your weekly diet.

  1. Support Local

You’ve heard this before. In fact, we’re huge proponents of this shopping method, as we’re one of the local shredding services in the GTA! When you buy groceries, household wares, and clothes produced locally, you’re cutting out the greenhouse gas emissions created in hauling these items on our country’s highways. As a result, your shopping trip won’t have such a high environmental price tag. Luckily, we’re approaching farmer’s market season, so this should be easy to do!

  1. Use Your Water Wisely

Summer is approaching, which means those readers who have green thumbs have already started plotting their gardens. Be wary of how much water you use to water your plants and consider investing in an irrigation system so that they only ever get as much water as they need. Though it’s tempting to water your babies, don’t pull out the hose if your city has called a water ban.

  1. Insulate Your Home

Draughts and air leaks can force your air conditioner and furnace to work harder than they have to in order to maintain the temps in your home. Seal these openings using weather stripping, caulking, or insulation to make sure the air stays where it should be, so you don’t have to use as much energy for your home.

If you want to shave down the size of your carbon footprint, this guide is a good way to start. Give us a call if you have any tips to share or if you’re ready tick of #2 from this list. We’ll send

Add comment June 30th, 2017

In The News: Bell Exposes Millions in Large Scale Breach

Last month, we explored the story of a local woman who realized she was a victim of identity theft after receiving an unusual ETR bill. The Absolute Destruction headquarters, located in Aurora, is only a stone’s throw away from Vaughan where the crime took place. It’s the first time we examined an incident that was so close to home.

We think it’s important that we investigate local cases of identity theft, to show that it isn’t just a subject of Hollywood films. Identity theft is a real danger to anyone who doesn’t protect their personal information properly.

That’s why we’re starting our second installment of our semi-regular feature, In the News, in which we look at a Canadian telecomm company that failed to shield its customers from a cyberattack — many of whom live in the GTA. Last month, Bell was the victim of an online hack that exposed the personal emails of roughly 1.9 million people and the contact information of 1,700 individuals.

The anonymous hackers posted a note that promised to leak more information should Bell fail to give into their demands. What those demands were are still protected by the ungoing investigation, but it’s likely the criminals were asking for a ransom. Remember, from our post on Ransomware back in May of 2016, that paying these demands rarely works to the victim’s advantage.

Though millions of people were affected in the attack, Bell maintains there was “minimal risk involved” with the breach, and they are still working with law enforcement and the government to ensure the safety of their customers.

We’ll be hearing about breaches more often in the future because of the way companies must now handle these leaks — not because we suspect the threat of hackers has multiplied in any way. Under the guidance of the Canadian Securities Administrators, the federal government is making changes to the country’s privacy laws.

In the past, some cyberattacks were never reported, as there were no legal regulations requiring companies to share this information. The latest changes require companies to disclose more information about every single data breach that results in exposing Canadians’ personal information. These modifications dictate companies also divulge any risk they think may result in another cyberattack sometime in the future.

As a result, more Canadians than ever before will be notified their personal information has been leaked. While these reports will be alarming to those affected, those responsible for these privacy laws hope their work will ultimately lead to greater transparency regarding security.

It only makes sense in terms of marketing. If a company is forced to share every data breach and internal weakness that could lead to more in the future, they’ll want to demonstrate to their customers the way they use their information and how they hope to protect it.

In addition to firewalls, network antivirus, and server security, hiring our commercial shredding services is an essential way to eliminate the threat of identity theft. While firewalls and server securities will protect current information your business needs to store, our document destruction and electronic data destruction ensures obsolete paper and digital files can no longer expose customer information or company intellectual property.

If you’re one of the many business owners that call the GTA home, get in touch with our team. We’ll arrange a convenient shredding schedule customized to your needs, so you can protect your company from local threats of identity theft.

Add comment June 26th, 2017

Avoiding Identity Theft Can Be Simple

We talk big about the threat of fraud and identity theft and that’s because it consequences are dire. Nearly 15,000 Canadians were victims in 2014. According to the Annual Statistic Report completed by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, these 15,000 cases were responsible for roughly $74 million in defrauded funds. That’s nearly $5,000 per case. While the report outlines fraud’s immediate financial effects, it fails to take into account the emotional fallout of being a victim. It also doesn’t document the time and effort that goes into sorting out compromised finances.

For an issue that can cause such extensive damage, it’s relatively simple to avoid. We’ve collected some of our painless tips to protect your personal information and reduce your chances of ever becoming a victim. The following list is a combination of preventative measures and defensive actions you can take to save your identity.

Document Destruction
Our first and most formidable line of defence will be effective document disposal. Without it, important documents and obsolete electronics containing personal information will go in your regular trash where it’s vulnerable to theft. In order to keep the various contact information, financial account numbers, tax records, and documentation of your SIN and OHIP out of the hands of criminals, make sure you take advantage of our mobile shredding services. Our friendly team of vetted shredding professionals will ensure any paper and digital item is utterly destroyed. With a guarantee of both destruction and recycling, it’s the only way to know for sure your information is processed without a chance of recovery.

Clean out Your Wallet
Don’t pull a George Constanza — the Seinfeld character who kept his wallet so full of receipts and other cards that it eventually burst. The only things of note your wallet should contain are cash, your licence, and any immediate credit cards you plan to use. Unfortunately, time and time again, we hear of an individual who has their wallet stolen, and with their cash and credit cards, they lose their OHIP, SIN, and other important documents. As a general rule, they shouldn’t be kept in your wallet, where they can be stolen or easily misplaced. Keep these important documents behind at home in a safe place. There’s no reason to keep your SIN or your OHIP on your person, unless you need them to register for a job or visit the doctors.

Be Mindful of Your Finances
You should be aware of the activity on your various accounts. By keeping tabs on your chequing, savings, and credit card accounts, you can identify any suspicious purchases or withdrawals. Now that you can access these accounts online, it’s easy to log in and check on your finances at any time you have access to a smartphone or computer. Early detection is better than nothing, giving you an opportunity to cancel any affected accounts immediately and reducing the cost of the theft considerably.

Though simple, these three steps are a sure-fire way to lower you chances of becoming a victim of fraud. As you clear out your wallet and start keeping tabs on your finances, remember to give us a call. Our shredding services are available in one-time purges and regular appointments. Together, we can keep your confidential files out of the hands of thieves.

Add comment September 21st, 2016

Smartphones: Friend or Foe?

At this point in time, you can carry most of the world in your pocket. No, we don’t mean the grains of sand that you haven’t been able to get out since your last trip to the beach. We’re talking about the small, black rectangle you call a smartphone. It’s far from an ordinary phone. You can connect with people all around the world with a swipe of its touchscreen. You can access detailed maps of your upcoming road trip. You can even hook it up with other gadgets in your home, allowing you to lock doors and adjust the temperature of your house remotely.

In many ways, this gadget has made your life easier. From gaming to household management, the apps you’ve downloaded on your phone can simplify your daily routine. But they also create new problems. When you start storing personal information on your smartphone – like your contact details, account numbers, and other preferences – you’re opening up yourself to new security threats. If you’re not careful, you can accidentally release data to individuals and corporations that have no business knowing this information.

The most common way of doing this is by losing your phone or by having it stolen. In Canada, there are no reliable statistics recording the number of lost or stolen gadgets, but the studies released from our neighbours to the south can give you a good idea of how prevalent this issue is. Nearly 3 million Americans had their cellphone stolen in 2013, and this figure will only rise as the number of individuals who own smartphones increases. Even if you aren’t specifically targeted by cellphone thieves, it’s not hard to accidentally misplace these small rectangular gadgets out in the world. That’s why it’s so important to consider our following pieces of advice – just in case you end up losing your phone.

Use passwords
Smartphones come equipped with convenient password protection features to secure your privacy, and we suggest you take advantage of the pattern-based or alpha-numeric password functions. It may be annoying to have to input this information every time you check your phone, but trust us – it pales in comparison to the inconvenience of losing a phone that can be opened by anyone with two thumbs. Once these passwords are engaged, only those with the appropriate passkey or pattern can access the information stored on the phone. With one protecting your phone, you’ll ensure no one will be able to look up the personal information stored on your apps or in your files because they won’t be able to get past your locked screen.

Beware of apps
Most of us think nothing of downloading the latest app. If we have the sudden need for the latest game and we have the space for it, then it finds its way onto our phones as quickly as our Internet can download it. But you may want to rethink what you’re putting onto your phone before you do it, considering what sort of information it requires. Financial apps will obviously need access to your personal information, but they’re not the only apps to use or store your data. Even seemingly harmless games, messaging services, and photo apps will access your personal information, so it’s important you read their terms and conditions before you allow it permission. Only approve apps from trusted sources.

Think twice before selling
With the way smartphones cost nowadays, you may want to sell your old model before you upgrade. While this is a sensible way to augment the financial burden of having the best generation, it can be a cause for alarm. Your phone stores a lot of files. Photographs, Internet history, and app information are kept on its chips. Deleting them and returning the phone to factory settings isn’t enough. No data purge is comprehensive enough for those trained to locate hidden files. Those who search out old phones for sales can easily access old passwords, private files, and financial information.

The only way to guarantee your information is gone for good is through the complete and utter destruction of your phone. It doesn’t matter how good an individual is with gadgets; a shredded motherboard is impossible to read. Our electronic data services ensure that there’s nothing left to find once it passes through our NAID-approved mobile shredders. The blades that make up our shredders will pulverize your smartphone, as well as any other gadget you want destroyed. We take on the GTA’s obsolete computers, CD-ROMs, hard drives, memory sticks, and other electronics with ease, as we can destroy these items as easily as the paper we shred. And just like the paper files that pass through our shredders, we can recycle the leftover parts of your electronics.

A smartphone may open you up to new risks. But – in our opinion – they’re worth it for all that they do to improve the quality of your life. As long as you’re careful with how you use it, you won’t have to worry about the consequences of losing your phone and sharing private information. So create a password for your phone and start reading up on the apps you use before you download them. And don’t forget to call us to set up a shredding appointment for all of your obsolete devices.

Add comment August 29th, 2016

Fast Food Fraud

We all know fast food isn’t good for us, but now we have an entirely new reason to second guess a trip through the drive-thru. Earlier this year the hamburger chain, Wendy’s, reported what they’re calling ‘unusual activity’ on credit cards used at their restaurants located in the US. Now, several months onwards, the security firm hired to investigate the claims have come up with some answers – but not nearly enough.

The slow process is partly due to the fact that many of the restaurants are owned by independent franchisees. Wendy’s is America’s 5th largest fast food restaurant in terms of sales, and it has approximately 5,800 franchise locations across North America. According to their investigation, fewer than 300 of those restaurants were targeted in a malware attack that compromised the point of sale (POS) system. The breach started sometime late last year, and some financial institutions have recorded continued fraud reports on affected accounts as late as April of 2016.

Though no reports of how many customers affected by the breach have been published, Wendy’s confirms the malware has been disabled and removed from the corrupted POS. They are currently working with its security firm, federal law enforcement, and credit card companies in order to locate the source of the malware and complete their investigation.

If it concludes anything like Target’s credit card breach, then Wendy’s could be looking at a hefty fine in reparations totalling somewhere in the millions. Recall American Thanksgiving of 2013, when malware was installed in Target’s POS and stole 40 million payment card numbers and 70 million customer records that included contact details. Since then the company has been sentenced to repay $19 million to banks.

Many of us think nothing of heading out for lunch and tapping our credit cards to pay for our meal. Unfortunately, attacks targeting large-chain businesses are on the rise. While there’s no way of knowing which company’s POS is infected before you visit, there are ways of mitigating – if not preventing – the effects of identity fraud. You should be aware of any of the accounts under your name, especially the ones you use on a daily basis at places like fast food restaurants or department stores. When you keep an eye on the transactions of these accounts, you can quickly identity fraudulent charges and alert your bank of any unusual activity before it gets too serious.

Another way to protect yourself from possible attacks is by limiting the access you allow to your personal information – both digitally and physically. For many of us, the Internet has replaced a lot of services that, in the past, we would have obtained in-person at a brick and mortar store or organization. Though it’s made life easier now that we can do everything from banking or ordering food online, it’s also made it more difficult to safeguard our personal information. Be aware of the websites that you frequent and only share your contact and financial information to trusted services with verified sites and advanced firewalls.

For those services with enduring physical copies of your transactions – things like taxes, utility bills, and any other receipt or piece of mail that contains account numbers and contact details – you should be equally vigilant. Store those records that you need to keep in a safe place within your home and don’t just throw away those documents you want to get rid of. Any piece of paper with your personal information on it should be properly disposed of through our secured mobile shredding service. Our mobile shredding trucks will incinerate these papers so that any information is impossible to recover.

We like to think of our shredding service as a part of any healthy information diet. We can’t help but visit the Wendy’s of the world every once in a while, but if you take the appropriate steps to protecting your identity’s health, these fast food trips won’t cause any undue harm. Stay on top of your transactions and make sure to call us to schedule your document shredding appointment today.

Add comment July 12th, 2016

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