Lending Changes: Stated Income Documentation Comes to Commercial

For a while now I’ve written about the latest “change” in commercial lending: “The Small Balance Commercial Lender.” These guys are re-writing the rules on commercial loans that are less than $3 Million. While this might not impact your business immediately if you are dealing with larger properties, it will eventually affect you because of something else they are doing:Stated Income or EZ Document LoansCommercial lending, with the exception of private money loans, has been strictly a “full document” underwriting proposition. This meant that the borrower had to show up with a mountain of paperwork including personal tax returns, business tax returns, and financial statements in addition to the documents related to the property such as the leases, rent roll, and income and expense history. And in the end, the lender would underwrite the loan based entirely on the property’s cash flow, ignoring the borrower’s income, anyway!These new lenders are willing to take into account the borrower’s free cash flow on a stated basis, and make their underwriting decision using the borrower’s credit score, the property’s cash flow, and the borrower’s reserve liquidity. This is unprecedented in commercial lending and will most likely force conventional lenders to come up with competing programs in the near future or they will lose too much loan volume.Another consideration is that the investors who buy these loans will most likely increase their loan amounts in the future if they have a good experience with the smaller loans. Why wouldn’t they? It costs as much to underwrite and fund a $5 Million loan as it does a $500K one, yet the return is 10 times as much. This will put even more pressure on conventional lenders to create some kind of competing program or sell the same programs from the same investors.So my personal take on the situation is that there will be some significant changes in the loan marketplace if the Small Balance Commercial Lender has a winning formula. They are too new to have any real experience in a down market and I’m sure that the conventional lenders will be watching them closely.

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Tips to Secure Your Small Business Network

Just because your business is small, doesn’t mean that hackers won’t target you. The reality is that automated scanning techniques and botnets don’t care whether your company is big or small, they’re only looking for holes in your network security to exploit.Maintaining a secure small business or home network isn’t easy, and even for an old hand in IT, it still takes time and energy to keep things locked down. Here are 10 of the most critical steps you can take to keep your data from ending up elsewhere, and none of them take much time or effort to accomplish.

Get a Firewall

The first step for any attacker is to find network vulnerabilities by scanning for open ports. Ports are the mechanisms by which your small business network opens up and connects to the wider world of the Internet. A hacker sees an open port to as an irresistible invitation for access and exploitation. A network firewall locks down ports that don’t need to be open.A properly configured firewall acts as the first line of defense on any network. The network firewall sets the rules for which ports should be open and which ones should be closed. The only ports that should be open are ports for services that you need to run.Typically, most small business routers include some kind of firewall functionality, so chances are if you have a router sitting behind your service provider or DSL/cable modem, you likely have a firewall already. To check to see if you already have firewall capabilities at the router level in your network, log into your router and see if there are any settings for Firewall or Security. If you don’t know how to log into your router on a Windows PC, find your Network Connection information. The item identified as Default Gateway is likely the IP address for your router.There are many desktop firewall applications available today as well, but don’t mistake those for a substitute for firewall that sits at the primary entry point to your small business network. You should have a firewall sitting right behind where your network connectivity comes into your business to filter out bad traffic before it can reach any desktop or any other network assets.

Password Protect your Firewall

Great you’ve got a firewall, but it’s never enough to simply drop it into your network and turn it on. One of the most common mistakes in configuring network equipment is keeping the default password.It’s a trivial matter in many cases for an attacker to identify the brand and model number of a device on a network. It’s equally trivial to simply use Google to obtain the user manual to find the default username and password.Take the time to make this easy fix. Log into your router/firewall, and you’ll get the option to set a password; typically, you’ll find it under the Administration menu item.

Update Router Firmware

Outdated router or firewall firmware is another common issue. Small business network equipment, just like applications and operating systems, needs to be updated for security and bug fixes. The firmware that your small business router and/or firewall shipped with is likely out-of-date within a year, so it’s critical to make sure you update it.Some router vendors have a simple dialogue box that lets you check for new firmware versions from within the router’s administration menu. For routers that don’t have automated firmware version checking, find the version number in your router admin screen, and then go to the vendor’s support site to see if you have the latest version.

Block Pings

Most router and firewalls include multiple settings that help to determine how visible your router and/or firewall will be to the outside world. One of the simplest methods that a hacker uses to find a network is by sending a ping request, which is just a network request to see if something will respond. The idea being if a network device responds, there is something there that the hacker can then explore further and potentially exploit. You can make it harder for attackers by simply setting your network router or firewall so that it won’t respond to network pings. Typically, the option to block network pings can be found on the administration menu for a firewall and/or router as a configuration option.

Scan Yourself

One of the best ways to see if you have open ports or visible network vulnerabilities is to do the same thing that an attacker would do – scan your network. By scanning your network with the same tools that security researchers (and attackers) use, you’ll see what they see. Among the most popular network scanning tools is the open source nmap tool). For Windows users, the Nmap download now includes a graphical user interface, so it’s now easier than ever to scan your network with industry standard tools, for free. Scan your network to see what ports are open (that shouldn’t be), and then go back to your firewall to make the necessary changes.

Lock Down IP Addresses

By default, most small business routers use something called DHCP, which automatically allocates IP addresses to computers that connect to the network. DHCP makes it easy for you to let users connect to you network, but if your network is exploited it also makes it easy for attackers to connect to your network. If your small business only has a set number of users, and you don’t routinely have guest users plugging into your network, you might want to consider locking down IP addresses.The benefit of assigning an IP is that when you check your router logs, you’ll know which IP is associated with a specific PC and/or user. With DHCP, the same PC could potentially have different IPs over a period of time as machines are turned on or off. By knowing what’s on your network, you’ll know where problems are coming from when they do arise.


Not everyone in your small business necessarily needs access to the same network assets. While you can determine and set access with passwords and permissions on applications, you can also segment your network with VLAN or virtual LANs. VLANs are almost always part of any business class router and let you segment a network based on needs and risks as well as quality of service requirements. For example, with a VLAN setup you could have the finance department on one VLAN, while sales is on another. In another scenario, you could have a VLAN for your employees and then setup another one for contract or guest workers. Mitigating risk is all about providing access to network resources to the people who are authorized and restricting access to those who aren’t.

Get an IPS

A firewall isn’t always enough to protect a small business network. Today’s reality is that the bulk of all network traffic goes over Port 80 for HTTP or Web traffic. So if you leave that port open, you’re still at risk from attacks that target port 80. In addition to the firewall, Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) technology can play a key network security role. An IPS does more than simply monitor ports; it monitors the traffic flow for anomalies that could indicate malicious activity. IPS technology can sometimes be bundled in on a router as part of a Unified Threat Management (UTM) device. Depending on the size of your small business network, you might want to consider a separate physical box.Another option is to leverage open source technologies running on your own servers (or as virtual instances if you are virtualized). On the IPS side, one of the leading open source technologies is called SNORT (which is backed by commercial vendor Sourcefire.

Get a WAF

A Web Application Firewall (WAF) is specifically tasked with helping to protect against attacks that are specifically targeted against applications. If you’re not hosting applications within your small business network, the risks that a WAF helps to mitigate are not as pronounced. If you are hosting applications, WAF in front of (or as part of) your Web server is a key technology that you need to look at. Multiple vendors including Barracuda have network WAF boxes. Another option is the open source ModSecurity project, which is backed by security vendor Trustwave.


If you’ve gone through all the trouble of protecting your small business network, it makes sense to extend that protection to your mobile and remotely connected employees as well. A VPN or Virtual Private Network lets your remote workers log into your network with an encrypted tunnel. That tunnel can then be used to effectively shield your remote employees with the same firewall, IPS and WAF technologies that local users benefit from. A VPN also protects your network by not letting users who may be coming in from risky mobile environments connect in an insecure fashion.

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Discovery Science Toys – Top 5 Educational Gifts For Girls This Christmas Under $35

Gift the gift of discovery and education with a selection from the awesome range of discovery science toys this Christmas. There are so many toys available for Christmas that it can be difficult to select something that will hold your child’s interest for more than a day or week at the most. Why not get them an educational discovery science toy that they will want to play with over and over again. When choosing gifts for girls I will select toys with educational value over the latest must have Barbie or My Little Pony product! Who knows what they will be interested in next year but science, investigation and exploration with a discovery science toy will always hold their interest. Ok, so will probably still get them a new doll, outfit or accessory!I have chosen my pick for this year’s Top 5 discovery science toys for girls aged 5 years and over from over 1000′s of products available.Scientific Explorer Spa Science – With this kit girls will be able to whip their baths into a frothy fizzing sea of colour and fragrance, make colourful, fragrant bath gels, bath fizzers, spa lotions, bath balm, face masks and shampoo. By mixing colours and fragrances girls can create their own product line with secret and exclusive mixtures. Contents include lavender and peppermint essential oils, dried roses, a glycerin bar, sea salt, citric acid, baking soda, oats, muslin bag, pipettes, test tube, cups, instructions and of course an essential experiment booklet.Science of Special Effects Kit – A ghost submarine, a hole in the palm of your hand, a barrel rolling uphill. All kids love special effects and with the action-packed activities in this kit, they will now be able to understand the science behind some of them. From balance to gravity, air pressure to magnetic attraction, key concepts are explored as kids complete the 30 engaging experiments in this one kit. Each experiment is fully illustrated in an easy to follow step-by-step format. The the science behind the effect is explained completely in kid-friendly language. Kit includes all components necessary except for a few common household items. Hint: gather some of these ready for Christmas Day so they can do at least one experiment immediately!Tree of Knowledge Weather Science Kit – For all weather fanatics! This kit will engage your child’s curiosity and help them to learn all about weather with over 30 fascinating activities centred around weather and climate. They will be able to build their own barometer, weather vane, rain gauge and hydrometer. Learn how to observe the weather traits and see how they will affect tomorrows weather. Make a rainbow, produce clouds, lightning, rain and even a thunderstorm!Discovery Kids Smart Animals Scanopaedia – The Discovery Kids electronic Scanopaedia is an electronic talking animal encyclopaedia that scans any animal to produce sound effects, fun facts and quiz questions. All kids have to do is scan the Discovery Kids logo on each smart animal and the exploration begins. There are 2501 + unique sound effects, facts and quizzes with over 200 animals to learn about.Fairy Triad Dome Terrarium – by Dunecraft this kit enables little girls to grow their own enchanted fairy garden. This charming terrarium contains magical plants for fairies and those who believe in them! The garden contains four colour seed packets: red and blue lobelia, clover, evening star and thyme; plus a bag of fairy planting mixture, bag of fairy dust, fairy, pinwheel, two fairy bells and string, four fairy plant stakes, rainbow fairy gravel, sprouting and growing terrarium, perlite drainage pellets. All complete with growing and care instructions.My hot tips:1. Don’t wait until November or December to buy Christmas gifts – get them during the year and hide them, that way you can take advantage of special offers, sales and save yourself some money this Christmas. If you forget about them (as sometimes happens to me when I hide them too well), bring them out for birthdays, rainy days or just something special!2. Get a great reference book to go with each of these gifts e.g. books about spa chemistry, weather and special effects for the science kits, animals for the scanopaedia and fairies for the terrarium – this adds even more educational value to the gift you are giving.3. Christmas gifts need not be expensive – this Top 5 are all priced under $35!

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