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What to do about cybersquatters

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What’s in a domain name, really?

For small businesses, it’s the best way for customers to find them and for vendors to network with them.

But what if a suspicious-looking email appears in your inbox threatening to take over your company’s domain name because it conflicts with a trademark or the sender has filed a registration ahead of you for the same name?

BBB advises to stop and think before sending a response.

The practice is called domain squatting or cybersquatting, and it’s defined as the act of registering, trafficking in or using a domain name in bad faith. It’s been on the uptick for the last decade as businesses started creating websites and registering their names associated with them.

The trouble started when domain squatters came on the scene to make pricey offers to companies or individuals who own a trademark or name that they wanted for their own. In some situations, the companies owning a registered trademark or brand pursued individuals or other businesses with too-similar names.

That led to price wars to buy a domain name or lengthy waiting games when the registration for a domain name expires. In some cases, both parties end up in court.

Some popular cases include Microsoft and Madonna where likenesses were used in domain names of unrelated causes.

Cybercriminals got into the mix of domain squatting when they started to mimic a domain name, publish it and then use it to lend credibility to a cyberthreat.

For example, clients would receive an invoice from a company they’ve done business with before, complete with a recognizable logo and updated address or banking information to use to send invoice payments.

What the clients didn’t notice is that they were directed to false a portal owned by cyber thieves.

Lately, scammers have been reported for sending out mass emails, stating they received an application requesting the same domain name or trademark as the recipient. Next, they’ll ask if they can confirm the information or that they’ve already filed for the name.

Once approved, they’ll move forward with registering and taking over the domain name. Links are included in the email for a registry.

If you receive an email from a possible cybersquatter:

  • Protect your company’s domain by doing a domain name search for your company’s website and checking the status of the domain registration.
  • Avoid selecting any of the links in the email to protect your computer and any other devices connected to the network.
  • Research your rights and learn more about anti-cybersquatting by visiting ICANN. Another resource available is the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), a less costly way to pursue cyber squatters and an optional way of consulting professional domain name strategists.

Report this phishing email and threat of domain squatting to ic3.gov and BBB Scam Tracker.

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland.

Howard Council approves Ball’s two resolutions

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The Howard County Council has approved two resolutions proposed by County Executive Calvin Ball that will strengthen development regulations and fees to protect the Tiber Branch and Plumtree Branch watersheds and mitigate flooding in Ellicott City.

The first resolution will require development to meet the highest standards ever in Howard County’s history for storm water management, addressing the short duration, high-intensity storms that caused recent, devastating flooding in 2016 and 2018, and establishing a more rigorous process for permitting the use of fees-in-lieu.

The second resolution will more than double storm water management fees-in-lieu and bring them up-to-date to reflect current costs for constructing storm water management facilities. These fees have not been increased since the mid-1990’s. Read the full text of Resolution 122-2019 via www.howardcountymd.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=sxC4uwgXq3E%3d&portalid=0  and Resolution 123-2019 via www.howardcountymd.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=B7zTdBWPiog%3d&portalid=0 .

“I thank Council Chair Christiana Mercer Rigby, Council Vice-Chair Opel Jones and Councilmember David Yungmann for voting in favor of these resolutions that will help protect our environment and mitigate flooding within the Tiber and Plumtree watersheds,” said Ball. “These resolutions are part of our multi-faceted Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan. Over the past year, our plan has created a more resilient, prepared, economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable Ellicott City.

“As we continue to repair from the damage of the 2016 and 2018 floods while preparing for potential upcoming severe weather events, we are committed to protecting Ellicott City through innovative capital projects and from smart and forward-thinking policies such as CR-122 and CR-123,” said Ball. “These resolutions will ensure that developers are building the infrastructure necessary to manage the rainfall from increasingly severe weather.”

Digital Harmonic releases automatic image enhancement technology

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Digital Harmonic, of Ellicott City, announced it released the first version of its automatic image enhancement technology, PurePixel.

With a suite of software products planned, Digital Harmonic’s initial offering provides the ability to enhance the quality of data in images, video and streams. PurePixel performs automatic recognition and programmatic manipulation of pixel values to correct and amplify detail, enhance contrast, and reduce noise. Residing upstream of a machine learning image classifier, PurePixel is little more than a “bump in the wire” in any real-time image, video or stream processing workflow.

With less than one frame delay, PurePixel can either stream or store the heightened information and is operational on Electro-Optic, Infrared, Synthetic Aperture Radar, Multi-and Hyper-Spectral image and Non-Imaging IR systems. In various machine learning image classifiers, PurePixel has continually demonstrated increased object detection and proper classification in the areas of Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, quality control in manufacturing and agriculture, security, navigation, forensics and other domains.

“PurePixel will augment existing systems and interface as a plug-in to provide programmatic enhancement that significantly increases the quality and usability of images, videos and streams,” said Digital Harmonic CEO Scott Haiges. “PurePixel is redefining ‘state of the art’ in image, video and real-time stream enhancement, and is changing the game for computer vision.”

Ball announces HoCoDASH, $225K Innovation Fund

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Howard County Executive Calvin Ball held an innovation summit to announce his new analytics initiative aimed at fostering innovation for the public good, in addition to announcing available grant funding for innovative ideas.

The event culminated in the launch of the Howard County Data Analytics and Statistics Hub (HoCoDASH), along with its new website. Additionally, Ball revealed Howard’s first innovation fund that consists of $225,000 in grant funding for projects that utilize innovation to improve the quality of life for county residents. To view the HoCoDash website, visit https://dash.howardcountymd.gov. To apply for the Innovation Fund, visit www.howardcountymd.gov/Branches/County-Executive/The-Innovation-Fund.

The application process will close on Dec. 6, at 11:59 p.m.

NGC partners with USNA Foundation

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Northrop Grumman Corp. (NGC) has awarded the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) Foundation a $150,000 grant to support additive manufacturing (3-D printing) programs in the Academy’s Division of Engineering & Weapons.

The funding will go towards the further development of the USNA MakerSpace, a student-faculty 3-D printing laboratory, and it’s associated engineering programs. Organized by the USNA’s Center for Material Characterization, the lab provides midshipmen with a modern, open, and adaptable design facility to create materials projects that will better equip the warfighter.

“Advancements in additive manufacturing are enabling the development of next-generation materials and equipment with reduced life-cycle costs to give our warfighters the tactical advantage against emerging threats in complex combat environments,” says Larry Ferranto, vice president, manufacturing, NGC. “Investing in educational programs like this helps to develop critical manufacturing capability in future military leaders and further strengthens our important partnership with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.”

The grant will also assist student Capstone projects aligned with Northrop Grumman Mission System’s additive manufacturing programs, which include: a satellite component for the International Space Station, components for the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers racecar competition, and redesign of the U.S. Marine Corps All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment Pack.

PM Pediatrics acquires Kindermender

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PM Pediatrics, the nation’s largest provider of pediatric urgent care, has acquired KinderMender walk-in pediatric centers of Maryland, bringing its existing locations in Laurel and Timonium under the PM Pediatrics brand and relocating its locations in Columbia and Glen Burnie to new office space. The majority of the existing KinderMender team will remain on staff.

The four new PM Pediatrics locations join four other PM Pediatrics offices in Maryland, located in Annapolis, Germantown, Greenbelt and Rockville/North Bethesda. Future Maryland growth plans include offices in District Heights and Parkville.

Once the offices become PM Pediatrics, the hours will extend until midnight and there will be physician on-site at all times. Unlike traditional urgent care practices, PM Pediatrics treats children and young adults, exclusively.

The new PM Pediatrics locations are:

● 6630 Marie Curie Drive, Gateway Overlook Shopping Center, Columbia/Elkridge

● 6622-B Ritchie Hwy, Arundel Plaza, Glen Burnie

● 805 Washington Blvd, Laurel

● 1803 York Road, Timonium

DPW to host Ellicott City flood meeting

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Howard County’s Department of Public Works (DPW) will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the Columbia/Ellicott City Room at the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, to present plans for the construction of a flood mitigation facility (Pond H-7) that is part of the County’s EC Safe and Sound plan.

DPW’s Bureau of Environmental Services plans to construct a pond within the northeast loop ramp of the interchange of routes 29 (Columbia Pike) and 40 (Baltimore National Pike), in Ellicott City. The objective of the new pond is to help mitigate flooding in Historic Ellicott City by capturing stormwater runoff from the upper parts of the Hudson Branch Watershed, then detaining the stormwater for longer periods to reduce the peak discharge for extreme rainfall events. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2020.

This project will be partially funded through a State of Maryland Comprehensive Flood Management Grant. The informal meeting will include a brief overview of the project and draft construction drawings will be available for viewing. County staff and the project’s design consultant team, Century Engineering, will be on hand to answer any questions.

Those unable to attend the meeting who would like to view the plans and/or have questions should contact Avinash Dewani with the DPW’s Stormwater Management Division at 410-313-6417 or email adewani@howardcountymd.gov.

For questions or more information about Capital Project D-1165, contact Lisa Brightwell, Public Works Customer Service, at 410-313-3440 or email publicworks@howardcountymd.gov.

Casinos generate $142.2M in September

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Maryland Lottery and Gaming announced that September 2019 gaming revenues for the state’s six casinos were $142,223,137. The total represents a $1,557,121 (-1.1%) decrease compared to the September 2018 total of $143,780,258.

Contributions to the State of Maryland from September 2019 casino gaming revenue totaled $59,226,202, including $44,412,792 for the Education Trust Fund. Casino gaming revenues also support local communities and jurisdictions where the six casinos are located, as well as Maryland’s horse racing industry.

Maryland has six privately owned casinos that offer both slot machines and table games, including three in central Maryland: Live! Casino & Hotel in Anne Arundel County; MGM National Harbor in Prince George’s County and Horseshoe Casino Baltimore in Baltimore City.

Live! Casino & Hotel (3,697 slot machines, 193 table games)
$47,705,742 in September 2019, a decrease of $2,573,622 (-5.1%) from September 2018

MGM National Harbor (3,139 slot machines, 204 table games)
$57,716,857 in September 2019, an increase of $3,289,958 (6.0%) from September 2018

Horseshoe Casino Baltimore (2,199 slot machines, 145 table games)
$18,564,509 in September 2019, a decrease of $2,095,006 (-10.1%) from September 2018

Details on each casino’s gaming revenues and contributions to the state of Maryland are available at www.mdgaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Sepbember-2019-Casino-Data.pdf .

Maryland distributes $5M for census

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Following input from the Complete Count Committee (CCC), Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) Secretary Rob McCord said he has distributed $5 million in funding to support the 2020 Census. The 2020 Census Grant Program Panel was established and funded following the passage of Senate Bill 855.

“I appreciate the input and feedback from the CCC members as we worked together to provide this funding to further support our Census outreach effort to provide a full and accurate count of every Marylander,” said Planning Secretary Rob McCord. “By allocating this funding in every corner of Maryland, we are continuing our unprecedented commitment to get everyone counted on Census Day, April 1, 2020.”

With a total of $5 million available for Census grants, the funds are being allocated as part of the overall state effort to ensure an accurate, complete, fair, and inclusive count.

The approximately three dozen recipients include the following.

● Anne Arundel County $45,000

● City of College Park $34,385

● Howard County $150,240

● Howard County Chinese School $80,000

● Maryland Municipal League (distributed to municipalities) $300,000

● Prince George’s County $244,208

● United Way of Central Maryland $110,000

Q&A with Mike Binko- Meet the founder of Startup Maryland

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Photo courtesy of Baltimore Business Journal

It’s been almost five years since The Business Monthly conducted a Q&A with Startup Maryland CEO Mike Binko. Since, there have been numerous developments locally, regionally and nationally for entrepreneurship. Binko calls it “a solid ride” for Startup Maryland, which was founded under the auspices of Startup America. The national organization was forged by Steve Case, former CEO of America Online, who founded the D.C.-based venture capital firm Revolution LLC.

What are the latest developments at Startup Maryland?

Much has happened concerning our Ecosystem Model for supporting entrepreneurs. We’re delighted to say that Startup Maryland has engaged more than 1,700 startups, which ranks second among the 40-plus states that launched under Startup America. More recently, diversity of our startup ecosystem has become an area about which we’ve became intentional. At the end of 2018, we discovered that more than 60 percent of our ventures have minorities represented in their founding teams.

Looking forward, we’re developing programs and additional metrics designed to measure the effectiveness of the Startup Maryland Ecosystem Model. As a result, we also discovered that the Startup Maryland Ecosystem encompasses more than 275,000 business-minded voters. Given Maryland’s relatively small population, it reveals that the community is very active in policy stewardship concerning topics that matter to entrepreneurs and their growing ventures. That said, we remain apolitical. What we do care about is people and policy.

What’s happening nationally?

When Startup America ran its course in late 2015, the ecosystems that had launched continued the mission from 2016 until 2018 as a self-funded group of volunteer leaders.
I’m fortunate enough to have been asked to join, as a co-founder, for the rebranding of the Startup America mission under a new organization named the Startup Champions Network (SCN).

We launched SCN in Denver one year ago.

SCN strives to professionalize the craft of entrepreneurial ecosystem building. As SCN matures, we believe that sharing the Startup Maryland metrics, stories of our entrepreneurs, their ventures and our Ecosystem Model will be a great opportunity. We firmly believe our efforts can serve as best practices in this emerging industry.
What is your perspective on Opportunity Zones (OZs)

We think that the operating business asset class is more compelling than just the real estate asset class. Having observed other state peers via SCN, we believe Maryland crafted its OZ efforts better than most states by aligning our Designated OZs around critical infrastructure and workforce assets.

What’s your take on OZ legislation?

Last year’s session concentrated on real estate and place making. We think this year should focus on entrepreneurship and operating businesses and we’re ready to mobilize strong programs, metrics and data.

What benefits are available to businesses?

Attracting and retaining talent in Maryland and the mid-Atlantic is incredibly challenging. So, we’ve rolled up our sleeves to find solutions and have worked with blue-chip service providers of health, wealth and operational benefits. We’re proud to say that we’ve assembled a comprehensive package of benefits that are tailored to startup needs. These benefits are being offered as the Startup Maryland Ecosystem Benefits Model and are priced very aggressively to help with workforce development.

How can startups find support in Maryland?

Our best recommendation is to be active in cultivating your network. We have more than 300 organizations that are part of the Startup Maryland ecosystem and map to academia, incubators/accelerators, co-working, chambers, industry associations and economic development agencies, among others. On the national stage, Maryland founders and ventures are very fortunate that we are in the Washington, D.C. to New York-Boston metroplex. Federal agencies such as the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Census Bureau, National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute and others are headquartered in our area.

Under CEO Mike Binko (left), Startup Maryland has engaged more than 1,700 startups, which ranks second among the 40-plus states that launched under former America Online CEO Steve Case’s Startup America.

What’s up with the STRT1UP Roadshow tour?

For the past two years, the STRT1UP Roadshow has run in three stages, from April until November, giving us more time to spend on-the-ground in our subEcosystems. We are now in Stage Three of the 2019 STRT1UP Roadshow with industry weeks and county economic development celebrations, The Made in Maryland Festival, Startup Weeks, Baltimore Innovation Week and other events like BetaCity and the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore (EAGB) annual meeting happening during this stage. Watch for the Startup Maryland bus stopping into a location near you.

On that note, the STRT1UP Roadshow will be at the Howard County Innovation Center on Nov. 5.  What should we expect?

This tour stop, to be held in partnership with EAGB and Howard County Economic Development Authority, will feature health/wellness and related innovations. Founders and startups will get a first glimpse of the new co-working and incubation space where the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship and Howard Tech Council now also reside. That’s a true ecosystem hub.

How is angel investing evolving?

As anyone in our ecosystems knows, startup founders request access to capital. This typically means early-stage equity capital, which is most often provided by angel investors. Another metric that we’ve discovered is that Maryland is a fairly high net-worth state but has a very low ratio of active angel investors. Startup Maryland decided to engage this community actively via a new program called the Angel Academy, which has become an added session to many STRT1UP Roadshow tour stops. Our goal is to engage and educate more than 1,000 new potential angels by the end of 2021.

What is Startup Maryland’s greatest victory?

Remaining true to our mission as “By Entrepreneurs … For Entrepreneurs.” We believe we have become the organization that has cultivated credible relationships with entrepreneurs as peers.

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