Alliant National Academy takes company’s educational offerings to the next level
Longmont, Colo. – (February 16, 2021) – Alliant National Title Insurance Company, a unique title insurance underwriter that partners with independent agents to improve their competitive position, announces the launch of Alliant National Academy, an online portal that pairs the company’s in-depth content and expert instructors with industry-leading education technology to provide an all-new learning experience.
Alliant National Academy is a convenient way for Alliant National agents to access the company’s catalog of live-st ream and on-demand webinars, many of which are approved for continuing education (CE) credit. CE courses are currently available to Alliant National agents in Texas, Florida and Alabama, with additional states coming soon.
Access to the system is also free of charge for Alliant National agents.
“Every agent’s education needs are different, and Alliant National has built a reputation for delivering customized solutions to meet those needs,” says Alliant National President and CEO David Sinclair. “Alliant National Academy is a new standard for online learning in our industry, and we’re excited to make this powerful tool available to our agents and their teams.”
Alliant National Academy enhances the educational experience before, during and after the course. Specific features of Alliant National Academy include:
One-click course registration after completing initial registration.
Improved course player that allows for pausing and completion of on-demand courses at the agent’s convenience.
Streamlined, all-in-one course completion system that easily provides the necessary verifications to obtain credit. No need to download, unlock and email required forms.
The ability to track course progress from a customizable personal dashboard.
Downloadable certificates of course completion that can be viewed and printed at any time.
Transcripts detailing all completed courses.
Learn more about the features of Alliant National Academy
Alliant National distinguishes itself from competitors by combining strong underwriting capability with independent agents’ in-depth knowledge of local markets. The result is a nationwide network with deep roots in local communities, and a wealth of expertise that is flexible, nuanced, and continuously growing.
Visit alliantnational.com for additional information.
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ABOUT ALLIANT NATIONAL TITLE INSURANCE COMPANY
The Independent Underwriter for The Independent AgentSM – Alliant National believes in empowering people to thrive.
The company protects the dreams of property owners with secure title insurance and partners with 500+ trusted independent title agents as a licensed underwriter in 27 states and the District of Columbia, with annual revenues exceeding $126 million.
What exactly is malware, and how can you safeguard against it?
You’ve heard the term. You’ve seen the warnings. You may have even been unlucky enough to experience an attack. But what exactly is malware, and what can you do to safeguard against it?
Malware: A Catch-All Term
Malware is an umbrella term for any type of malicious software. This can include anything from computer viruses, worms and Trojan horses (a malicious piece of software disguised as a legitimate program) to ransomware, spyware, adware or scareware.
Typically, anything that secretly works against the interests of a computer user can be classified as malware. Malware can infect almost any type of computer or digital device. Some but not all machines that are vulnerable to malware include: Windows computers, Macs, iPhones, iPads, Android devices and network servers. Viruses and worms are the most common types of malware, and both are spread by becoming embedded in executable software.
Why it Matters
Malware is used by hackers to gain access and pilfer the personal, financial, business or governmental data of unsuspecting individuals or organizations. Once this information is acquired, cybercriminals frequently seek to exhort money from their victims – either directly through ransoms (where the criminal blocks access to files or programs until the victim pays them money) or by engaging in identity theft.
Recent studies indicate that cybercrime is on the rise. A 2019 report revealed a 67 percent increase in security breaches over the past five years.[i] The cost of these attacks is truly staggering. According to the White House, “malicious cyber activity cost the U.S. economy between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016.”[ii] The average cost of a data breach is $3.9 million according to IBM.[iii] While it may be tempting to think that only large multinationals are the targets of these attacks, 43 percent of breach victims were small or medium-sized businesses.[iv]
What Can be Done?
As with other industries, identity theft, fraud and other crimes are increasing throughout the insurance and financial services sectors. Still, there are numerous actions you can take to better safeguard your data.
A great first step is to purchase high-quality anti-virus software and install it across your devices. It is essential to purchase one from a well-known and trusted provider, and to have it consistently run scans on any machine that may be vulnerable.
You should diligently update both your operating systems (Mac/IOS, Windows, Android, etc.) and internet browsers (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Microsoft Edge). Not only do these updates patch security holes, but they also better protect your data and offer enhanced features that can make your work life easier and more enjoyable.
When safeguarding your devices through the previous steps, it is always a good idea to back up your data and store it on an external hard drive where it will be retrievable in the future. By taking this precaution, you will ensure that you do not lose access to your most valuable data even if you are unlucky enough to experience a malware attack and have to consult a professional to repair your device.
Avoiding Phishing Scams and Ensuring Safe Title Transactions
One of the most common threats that occur during real estate transactions is a phishing scam, where criminals seek to gain access to nonpublic personal information (NPI), place malicious code on your device or convince you to change wiring instructions. To protect yourself from these scams, agents should be mindful of the following warning signs within a suspicious email:
- Poor spelling, grammar and generic greetings
- Requests for personal information
- An unusual sense of urgency
- Instructions to change wiring information
- Questionable-looking attachments or links that encourage a click.
Additionally, agents can reduce risk by transmitting data through encryption, using two-factor email authentications, maintaining a contact log for all transaction participants, eliminating the need for urgency and performing a risk assessment to identify security gaps.
Commit to Safety
Considering the fiduciary responsibilities that title agents possess, data security is of the utmost importance. Of course, no system is foolproof, but by knowing the risks and taking necessary precautions, agents can make significant progress toward protecting the integrity of their clients’ transactions.
The Future is Here; Let’s Embrace It
The adoption and implementation of remote online notarization (RON) received a tremendous boost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Buyers, sellers and title agents are looking to close transactions in the safest way possible. According to the American Land Title Association (ALTA), “Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have either passed a RON law or issued an executive order pertaining to remotely notarizing documents. Some have done both.”
In December of 2020, ALTA reported that RON use had increased 547 percent during the year compared to 2019. If you are a “Star Trek” fan, the lightning-fast adoption of RON – as well as alternative remote closing methods such as Remote Ink-Signed Notarization (RIN) – has felt like the title industry has gone from cruising to warp speed in a nanosecond. It can even feel tempting to utter one of the show’s classic lines like “Beam me up, Scotty!” when thinking about such transformative change.
But let us back up a bit. As the automobile was invented and became a commonplace form of transportation, society built an accompanying infrastructure – including roads, highways, bridges and tunnels. The same is needed for RON. However, it takes time to develop secure and accessible technology that everyone can use. It requires effort to garner the acceptance of the county recorders who must be ready, willing and able to record native electronic instruments. Creating uniform laws to ensure interstate legal recognition and consumer confidence is also no easy matter.
Properly building out RON infrastructure necessitates the continuous collaboration of numerous parties, including individuals, industries and organizations. For example, MISMO, the Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization, has been working on standards concerning credential analysis, borrower identification, audio-visual requirements (including the recording of the electronic notarization process) and audit trails. PRIA, the Property Record Industry Association, has been developing national standards and best practices for the land records industry. ALTA and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) have also joined forces to establish model RON legislation. Finally, there are numerous other stakeholders not identified here who have, and are, tirelessly working to enable the requisite RON infrastructure.
Currently, the federal Senate bill (SB) 3533, the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020 (otherwise known as the SECURE Notarization Act), is pending. If passed in 2021, the SECURE Notarization Act will permit RON across the nation and provide for minimum standards and interstate recognition. To track the progress of the SECURE Notarization Act, click on the link provided for SB 3533.
Another good resource for tracking the evolution of RON is the DLA Piper financial services alert, which is constantly updated. You can also subscribe to their mailing list to receive alerts via email.
During this time of rapid transition, it is important to keep abreast of the latest RON developments, to “boldly go” forth and not end up like another classic science fiction show: “Lost in Space.”
The future is here; let’s embrace it!
While getting hacked can be scary, there are steps you can take to reclaim control.
In life, there is no such thing as a sure thing, and technology is no exception. Devices fail. Software can have flaws. Algorithms can be buggy. Additionally, there can be lapses in a security system for a computer or Wi-Fi network. The truth is that, regardless of how diligent you have been with your digital security, a day may come where you realize that a worst-case scenario has come to fruition. You have been hacked, and your files, accounts and other important data are now exposed and vulnerable. In this moment, questions will likely begin to race through your mind. How are you going to respond? What are you going to do first?
The first thing to do is to not panic. It’s critical to remain calm so you can act quickly and decisively. If your hack has occurred on your work computer or device, do not attempt to fix the problem. Notify your IT support specialist and rely on their professional expertise. If the hack has transpired on your personal device or home network, however, you will need to take direct action to protect yourself and limit the damage.
Change Your Passwords
The easiest step you can take is to change all your passwords. From bank and utility accounts to social media profiles and email platforms, the average person can have dozens of different passwords that they use to operate online. Due to this sheer volume, it can be a daunting prospect to comprehensively rework all your digital passwords. To make it easier, work strategically, focusing on the most important accounts first. You can also employ a password manager to make the process easier and ensure that you can remember the new passwords you are generating.
Even after you change your passwords, stay vigilant regarding your financial accounts and continuously monitor for any unauthorized activity. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, contact your bank or financial institution and report suspicious transactions. You can also consider putting a credit freeze on your credit files, which can mitigate lasting harm to your financial reputation. Lastly, when contacting your bank, use a device you know you can trust.
Scour and Start Over
Once you have secured your online accounts and taken action to protect your financial health and reputation, you should move toward repairing your compromised machine. Use your antivirus software and run a comprehensive scan of your device. If you don’t have antivirus software already installed, you can and should download a strong program. There are a glut of affordable programs that you can download directly onto your computer, tablet or mobile phone. Just be sure to conduct appropriate due diligence to ensure you are selecting a robust program. Now is not the time to skimp on security!
For additional peace of mind, you may want to consider reinstalling your device’s operating system in its entirety. Keep in mind to not reinstall from backups, which should only be employed to recover personal files. For some, this step may feel challenging and beyond the scope of their knowledge and capabilities. If that is the case, consult with a professional. Working with a digital security or computer repair expert will give you additional confidence that your reinstallation is being carried out correctly.
You’re Not Powerless
There is no way to guarantee total security when operating online. For evidence of this, you only have to look at the news. Hardly a week goes by without a story reporting on a large company experiencing a major data breach. Therefore, despite an individual’s best efforts, hacks may still happen. The important thing is how you choose to respond. By staying calm, securing your digital accounts, cleaning your machine or reinstalling the operating system completely, you will empower yourself to overcome a security breach and move forward as an even savvier internet user.
Take charge of your devices and accounts to get your digital house in order.
We have all been there at some point: Your desktop has become a cluttered mess. Your computer is overrun with outdated or unnecessary software. Even your update notifications have become unmanageable.
If you can relate to this, it is probably time to better organize your digital presence. By taking advantage of the following steps, you will instill your digital life with a greater sense of control and order, lowering your anxiety and maximizing your productivity as a result.
The Power of Folders
The first thing to do is to tackle your cluttered desktop. Start by setting a hard limit on top-level folders and then stick to that limit for each tier of your digital folder tree. Pick a number large enough to accurately encompass the various ways in which you use your device but small enough to instill your machine with a sense of order. More than likely, this number will need to be larger than five, but you should strive to keep your final number under ten. Like any goal, the numerical limit you select should force discipline but ultimately remain feasible.
For this blog, we will use the number seven, splitting the difference. Begin by establishing your top-level system of seven folders on your desktop. Think about how you can segment the different materials on your computer in the most generalized way possible. Perhaps consider a file for photos, a file for client documents, a file for any personal items and so on. After that, navigate inside each folder and once again create no more than seven sub-folders to further organize all files that you have lumped together into your top-level folders. Repeat this step for as many levels as you need.
Throw Out and Back-Up
Perhaps the most satisfying step in any organizing project is throwing out items you no longer need. First off, empty your recycling bin. Then ask some hard questions about each file you have. Is this something you need on your hard drive? Are you holding onto it for any legitimate purpose – whether it is professional, personal or even sentimental? The trick is to balance scrutiny and regret. Throw out everything you can, but if you have doubts about an item, keep it. Just make sure it is properly filed away in your newly-established folder system.
You can also assess your software programs and internet browsers. Uninstall any programs you no longer use to free up space on your machine. Delete your browser’s cookies and temporary files. You can also deploy a disk cleaning software application, but be sure to select one with good reviews.
After you have arranged your files and deleted as much as you can, backup everything that remains on your machine. There are several approaches you can take here. You can store your data on the Cloud with end-to-end encryption. You could save it to an external hard drive. You could even burn your data to a CD. Fortunately, mobile devices already support automatic data backups, and there are numerous software options out there that are cost-effective and relatively easy to use.
Enable Alerts and Updates
To ensure that you are staying organized in your digital life, you should enable automatic software updates. The endless update notifications we receive these days can be annoying and cumbersome – but the updating process is an incredibly important step to ensuring your online security. By implementing automatic updates, you will kill two birds with one stone. You will reduce the amount of manual updating you have to do and likely cut down on the volume of notifications you receive.
Tracking activity in your important digital accounts is another key piece of digital organization. You should consider activating alerts on your banking accounts in particular. Many banks offer a wide range of alert services that can help you manage your money. From low balance and unusual purchase alerts to notifications about large ATM withdrawals, it makes a lot of sense to take advantage of these free services.
These days, we all spend a considerable portion of our time online conducting large amounts of personal and professional business. Understandably, our devices can get disorganized. But by following these steps, you can reduce clutter, streamline processes and finally reclaim a measure of control over your digital life.