Joseph Eschleman No Comments

Digital Security Basics : Working from Home:

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,  millions of workers have begun to work from  home. Before this massive transition to remote work, Americans spent an average of 6.42  hours on the internet every day.  36% of  internet users in the USA between ages 16-64  were using mobile banking or financial services apps every month, and 20% of internet users in the USA between ages 16-64 use mobile payment services every month.i These metrics have likely increased over the last few months, which is a perfect reminder to consider digital security best practices.  

While many assume they are up to speed on basic internet security topics, the chart at the left from Pew Research suggests that there are still significant gaps in common understanding of best practices while working or browsing online. In particular, the chart reveals how a significant percentage of the public is uncertain or uninformed about crucial cybersecurity topics, such as encryption of websites with https://, or two-factor authentication. 

Encrypted Browsing 

Constant internet connectivity is a very useful resource, but it can also make us more vulnerable to a number of risk factors often taken advantage of by malicious actors. Technology also makes everyone more efficient, including cyber criminals. One study found that 64% of Americans have been impacted by some form of data theft.  Following a few basic procedures in your online life can significantly reduce exposure to cyber-attacks. 

Home Network Security

When you first contacted an internet service provider (ISP) to set-up your WiFi and cable, you likely considered the internet speed you needed, what cable channels you wanted, and how much these services would cost. But, once you were connected, did you ask your ISP how to change your router’s default password (not to be confused with your WiFi Password)?

Contact your ISP if you need help configuring any of the above.

Password Best Practices

While configuring your home WiFi, you should have created at least three separate, unique passwords, before creating any passwords for your different devices and applications. According to industry-leading password management firm LastPass, weak or compromised passwords cause approximately 80% of data breaches. Remember to follow the below password basics and avoid reusing the same password across multiple accounts.

Phishing Attacks and Social Engineering

Phishing is a cybercrime in which malicious actors attempt to gain access to sensitive personal data by posing as legitimate organizations or people.

According to the FBI, as of March 30, 2020, their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received and reviewed more than 1,200 complaints related to COVID-19 phishing scams alone.iv
Phishing emails are often crafted to appear as if they were sent from health organizations, financial institutions, social media sites, or retailers. Often, phishing emails include suspicious links or attachments that try to trick you into you into taking an action or visiting a website that is against your own best interest.

To stay vigilant against phishing:

Look for spelling and grammar errors both in the content of the email and the sender’s address. However, keep in mind that hackers have also learned how to steal and use legitimate email addresses.

Don’t click on links until you can verify that they lead to a legitimate website. Hovering over a hyperlink in an email with your cursor will reveal the web address where the link leads, before you click through. If you receive an email that appears to be from a known contact (such as a client, friend or company) and you are unsure if the email, a link, or an attachment is authentic, contact the sender by phone or a separate email (don’t just
“reply” or “forward”) to verify.

Never share your email address, passwords, or any other sensitive personal information via email unless you are absolutely certain of the sender’s authenticity and of how the information will be used. Be skeptical of language implying urgency or immediate need. When in doubt, pick up the phone and call to share such personal details for any reason.

Managing Devices

Software Updates: A Pew Research study indicated that more than 50% of smartphone owners update operating systems only when it is convenient and 14% never even bother with updates.v Manufacturers like Apple and Samsung release updates to patch security vulnerabilities, so it’s important to update your software, applications, browsers, and firewall protection to the latest versions available. Consider enabling automatic updates for your convenience.

Protecting the Data on Your Device: Survey results indicate that 28% of smart phone owners do not lock their phones with a Would you leave your home unlocked when you leave for work or an errand? Always lock your devices when you are not using them. Even if one of your devices is lost or stolen, password protection can help protect your data against theft or unwanted access.

Wireless Configurations: Public Wi-Fi networks, like the one in your local Starbucks, don’t offer the same security as your private home or work network, yet 20% of internet users report completing financial transactions on public networks.vii It is always safest to assume that public networks do not offer any protection to your browsing. Consider configuring your devices so they do not automatically join detected networks (with your private home or work networks as the only exceptions).

Resources and Further Reading
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Center for Internet Security (CIS)

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Towerpoint Wealth No Comments

Gotta Own FAANG For Your Portfolio to Hang?

The COVID-19 crisis has challenged and changed us all in different ways, including what we think of as essential. The conversation over what qualifies as an “essential” versus “non-essential” business has impacted many companies that produce and sell items and services considered essential for everyday use. What do you think of as essential (?) – we encourage you to reply to this email and let us know.

Traditionally defined, consumer staple stocks are broken down into five main industries: beverages, food, household goods, personal and hygiene products, and tobacco – services and items that individuals are either unwilling or unable to eliminate from their budgets even in times of financial trouble. Recently, a more contemporary definition of a consumer staple has emerged from our pandemic-altered lifestyles, and consequently, the definition of a consumer staple stock has arguably changed. Introducing, the FAANG stocks:

Facebook (social media). Amazon (e-commerce). Apple (smartphones and tech hardware). Netflix (video streaming). Google (online search and services). All five companies are known for their dominance in their respective industries and sizable customer bases. Combined, they have a market capitalization of more than $4 trillion! Additionally, as a group (below, in purple), the stocks have collectively outperformed the overall stock market (as measured by the S&P 500, below, in yellow) by a healthy margin so far in 2020: 

While many other companies have experienced major interruptions to business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, revenue and earnings for the FAANG stocks have been excellent. Facebook doubled its first quarter profit from 2019; Amazon’s first quarter revenue in 2020 increased 26.4% from the same period a year ago; Apple increased its dividend by another 6% on April 30; Netflix now has 182.9 million subscribers, more than doubling its own projections for new paying customers in Q1 of 2020; and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, experienced year-over-year revenue growth of 13% (to $41.2 billion) in the first quarter of 2020. Clearly impressive numbers for these “essential” businesses.

Will companies like the FAANG stocks continue to dominate in the hazy and nebulous “new normal” we are all continuing to get used to, or will things revert and this outperformance be temporary? One thing is for certain – we should get used to life, as well as the financial markets, remaining unsettled and uncertain for the foreseeable future.

Pandemic Notes

  • Did you know that COVID-19 is an acronym for coronavirus disease of 2019? The name was selected by the WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, working in cooperation. Their joint guidelines required that the name and its abbreviation be easy to pronounce, related to the disease, and not refer to a specific geographic location, a specific animal, or a specific group of people.
  • Good news heading into the weekend: While one additional coronavirus diagnosis is too many, the curve is flattening, as new COVID-19 cases in the United States have been stable for over two weeks now, according to Deutsche Bank, the World Health Organization, the CDC, and Worldometer:
  • More than 90 Sacramento restaurants are re-opening for dine-in service this weekend. To see the full list within the Sacramento Bee article, create a free account with the SacBee, or click HERE, and then cut and paste the URL into a web browser opened in “incognito mode” (a nifty little trick):

In addition to our dependence on the aforementioned technology behemoths and our desire to dine out again, a number of trending and notable events occurred over the past few weeks:

We are seeing early signs that these times of separation are beginning to pass, and opportunities to be back together in person with those we have been missing, are beginning to grow. And as always, whether in person or via a Zoom teleconference, we sincerely value our relationships and partnerships with each of you, as well as your trust and confidence in us here at Towerpoint Wealth. We encourage you to reach out to us at any time (916-405-9140, with any questions, concerns, or needs you may have – the world continues to be an extremely complicated place, and we are here for you.

– Nathan, Raquel, Steve, Joseph, Lori, and Jonathan

Towerpoint Wealth No Comments

President Joseph Eschleman Interviewed by Diamond Consultants

The ability to freely and creatively communicate with clients has proven to be critical during the COVID-19 crisis. And it is this freedom that served as one of the primary drivers of the decision to establish Towerpoint Wealth as a fully independent wealth management firm back in 2017. Click below to listen to Louis Diamond, of Diamond Consultants, interview our president, Joe Eschleman, as they discuss how leaving Wells Fargo, with the help of Dynasty Financial Partners and Charles Schwab, and establishing Towerpoint Wealth allowed him to freely and creatively engage with clients and prospects, offer a much broader suite of services and products, and act as a true legal fiduciary to each TPW client.