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Cybersecurity Safety

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

Cybersecurity-breach stories are so common lately, the headlines no longer shock. But don’t let familiarity breed contempt. In 2017, you can’t afford to grow complacent about Internet safety. As the following examples demonstrate, it’s crucial to guard your online data:

GovTech.com

“Hacking actions at nuclear facilities targeted traditional vectors like websites, emails and Microsoft Word documents that were infected as the method for cyberattacks. It needs to be back to basics of ‘security blocking and tackling’ for many, and consideration of even traditional cyber threats.”

Big CountryHomePage.com

“The FBI and Homeland Security issued a new warning to American energy companies about potential cyberattacks on nuclear facilities…Homeland security officials say the hackers penetrated the ‘business’ side of the nuclear facility.”

Fortune.com

“A wave of ransomware attacks spread like wildfire (in June). Many Microsoft Windows-based computers—specifically, ones not protected against a vulnerability in a Microsoft messaging protocol…began seizing up worldwide, locking employees out of their desktops, and displaying ransom notes…It’s still not clear what the initial attack vector was. But once inside, the worm could spread across computer networks.”

Password Matters

A hacker’s job is to crack computer passwords to access sensitive files and data. Once they obtain the password, they can do malicious things to the information stored in an account. Or worse, they may be able to harm the accounts of other people who share computer networks. So, the argument— “I don’t need a secure password because I don’t store important information in my account”— won’t fly. Passwords are usually the weakest security link within an organization’s network. Don’t fall victim to cybercrime. Create a secure password:

Password Don’ts

  • Don’t use dictionary or foreign words, names, doubled names or first/last names and initials.
  • Don’t use simple transformations of words (7eleven, seven11, etc.) or any alphabet or keyboard sequence (backwards or forwards).
  • Don’t use your user ID in any form (as-is, reversed, capitalized, doubled, etc.).
  • Don’t reuse old passwords. Instead, choose a completely new password every time you change it.
  • Don’t consider using short words (less than 8 characters), phone numbers, birth dates, social security numbers or numbers substituted for letters (like a zero instead of the letter O).
  • Don’t use ‘password’ as your password. (Believe it or not, statistics show that up to 70% of all user-passwords are the word ‘password.)
  • Don’t tape the password under the keyboard or anywhere else on the computer, the computer’s desk or in an unlocked file cabinet. Mischievous people will look for your password in these places like a thief looks for a key under the front doormat.

Password Do’s

  • Choose a phrase, and then use the first letters (‘A stitch in time saves nine’ would be ‘asits9’).
  • Use a password that has at least two alphabetic characters (a-z, A-Z) and at least one numeric (0-9) or special (punctuation) character. Always use a mixture of upper- and lowercase characters.
  • Choose a password that is easy to remember, so you don’t have to write it down.
  • Select a password that you can quickly type. This keeps people from discovering your password by watching you type it.
  • Change your password often—at least once every three months.
  • Implement a password-protected screen saver in case you must leave your workstation without first logging off. When possible, log off or lock your workstation by using CTRL + ALT + DEL.

Smartphone Safety

Since smartphone saturation in the United States surpassed 80 percent of the population in 2016, hackers are targeting secure data stored on handheld devices. Keep your data safe:

  • Malicious people could gain physical access to your smartphone or tablet. Malicious people are rude. Someone has to say it! Protect your device with a password and run apps such as Android Lost or Find My iPhone to help recover lost or stolen smartphones.
  • Malicious emails and text messages can infect your smartphone with malware. To prevent this, periodically run anti-virus software on your device.
  • The camera and microphone on your smartphone can be remotely activated. Do not take a smartphone near classified information, and remove the battery before discussing sensitive information.
  • Wireless networks may be insecure and subject to monitoring. Use VPN when accessing wireless networks and do not access sensitive information over shared wireless networks. Turn off Bluetooth when you are not using it, to prevent hackers from exploiting your device.

About Allied Universal

Remember, cybersecurity and crime prevention are everyone’s responsibility. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Cyber Safety in College

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Part 3 of a 3-Part Series 

Attending college is a grand adventure, whether students choose to live on campus or commute. It also can prove risky for anyone who fails to sufficiently prepare for potential emergencies.

Campus Safety Recap

In our ongoing effort to save lives through training, the Allied Universal Fire Life Training System is expanding our online safety education to include residence hall fire life safety. Using building-specific information, students living in campus housing who attend subscribing universities will be able to log in to modules designed to train them to be safe, whether they live in a residence hall, traditional or suite-style residence, on or off campus. To help college students stay safe while attending college, we are doing a three-part blog series about campus safety.

Password protection is crucial to cyber security.

In part one, we offered helpful tips for keeping students safe relative to fire. Part two focused on personal safety while in college. For this final entry, we cover college safety relative to cyber security.

Cyber Safety

Each year, college IT departments deal with hundreds or thousands of new and returning students who show up with laptops, desktops, smartphones and tablets—all of which need to connect to the campus network. This is a scary proposition where online security is concerned, so students should prepare to eliminate risks, both for their own safety as well as that of their college.

Most college students today are infinitely more familiar with computer equipment than most of their parents and grandparents. Unfortunately, this familiarity can breed contempt, as most assume that cybercrime happens to other, less computer-savvy people. In fact, they are often referred to as “the click generation,” because they are so quick to click on website links and social media before considering the consequences. Another habit that puts them and their computers at risk is the sheer number of hours they spend online.

Cyber The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has an aggressive cyber security branch, which focuses on cyberspace and its underlying infrastructure, both of which are vulnerable to a wide range of risk—stemming from both physical and cyber threats and hazards. Sophisticated cyber actors and nation-states exploit vulnerabilities to steal information and money and are developing capabilities to disrupt, destroy, or threaten the delivery of essential services. The DHS current cyber security campaign, Stop. Think. Connect encourages Internet users of all ages to take responsibility for their own cyber safety.

Here are five tips to follow, to help keep college kids cyber safe:

  1. Keep a Clean Machine—Utilize malware software. Run regular security scans. Scan every device before inserting into a computer. Think twice before inserting an unknown flash drive into any computer. Not only should the source who provided the flash drive be trustworthy, but his or her cyber habits should be beyond reproach.
  2. Protect Personal Info—Secure accounts with strong passwords. Change passwords often. Don’t write them on Post-it notes placed next to the machine. Set stringent security protocols on laptops, tablets, phones and desktop computers. Hackers and identity thieves can only access information provided over the Web. Stick to online activity that doesn’t require full name or contact information unless you are using a trusted site for online purchases, such as PayPal, eBay or and Amazon. Be skeptical of an unknown site that asks for email, credit card number or home address.
  3. Connect with Care—Refrain from clicking hyperlinks sent in emails. Avoid doing anything of a personal nature while using a public hotspot. Make sure connections are secure (encrypted) whenever doing online banking or paying bills. And even while using a trusted social media platform, avoid revealing items of a personal nature such as school name, favorite hangout spot, and make/model of your car.
  4. Be Web Wise—If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Students should think twice before ordering online from an unknown vendor. Trust your gut. Use only trusted websites. Keep abreast of known Internet threats. Think before typing or clicking.
  5. Be a Good Online Citizen—Apply the *Golden Rule to everything done online. Help fight cybercrime by reporting anything unusual to the Department of Homeland Security .
  6. Check your school’s systems. Students should also contact campus safety department and IT department for best practices and tips recommended for their specific institution’s systems.

*Do unto others as you would have done to you.

Remember that safety in the 3D world, as well as cyberspace, is a priority for everyone all year long. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Robotics and Cyber Security

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Robot man in thinking pose.Many thanks our guest blogger, Mark McCourt, of Allied Universal 

Mark McCourt of Allied Universal

Mark McCourt of Allied Universal

The emergence of smart technology into the security sector is changing risk management economics and strategy in unique ways. Such technology leverages information management at its core for a more effective security program. Case in point is the burgeoning role of autonomous data machines (ADMs or robots) that are purposely built for security.

Will the advent of robots eliminate physical security officers at a site? Not any time soon, but robots are a real force multiplier by adding effectiveness and efficiency to security programs. The use of ADM technology augments security personnel by providing “smart eyes and ears” that enable security officers to manage information and communicate quickly and effectively.

Threats, crime and mischief do not operate on a timetable, nor do they sleep. Robots provide 24/7 autonomous patrolling and monitoring including autonomous recharging without human intervention, so that a company’s assets can be secure 24/7.

Hence, the new partnership formed this year between Allied Universal and Knightscope has brought this sophisticated technology to California clients and it is expected to be offered nationally in 2017.

Robot and shieldThe reasons to include robots in your security program include:

  • Cost savings—cost reduction without sacrificing security coverage.
  • Constant coverage—24/7 physical security presence with autonomous patrolling and monitoring.
  • Force multiplier—More effective information sourcing and sharing, accessible in real time from the desk or on the run.
  • Monitoring, detection and alert capabilities—Human error is reduced with improved incident and response resolution time with analytics, information sharing and reporting capabilities.
  • Works with new platforms—A mobile app allows security officers to engage with the robots and use them as tools to cover more ground and do their jobs more effectively.Colorful applications on smartphone.

Leveraging robotic technology with manpower is the latest trend in asset protection. Blending the technology with people may prove to pay off for clients in the long run. It’s also a methodology more industries may soon tout as the new normal.

Remember that safety is a daily priority for everyone – in the 3D world as well as cyberspace. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Allied Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Cyber Security During Tax Season

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

Tax time word on tax form with calculator, pen, glassesMarch and April usher in several spring-time events: St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and another annual American ritual — tax time! Unfortunately, tax season is prime time for cyber criminals to strike. The IRS expects more than 150 million individual returns to be filed this year, with four out of five returns (above 80 percent) to be filed electronically. Included within those returns are social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, birthdates, and financial records for millions of Americans, which leaves the Internet teeming with highly confidential information.

According to a study done by a financial strategy company called Javelin, the total number of identity theft victims in 2015 was 13.1 million, totaling $15 billion. In its most recent report, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) revealed that, in 2014, they received more than 2.58 million reports of consumer fraud. Among fraud complaints:Online Tax Fraud, computer keyboard and yellow warning sign

  • The average amount lost by alleged victims was approximately $2,000.
  • The median figure of loss was about $500.
  • In total, approximately $1.7 billion was lost by self-reported victims of fraud.
  • The most common methods of initial contact by fraud perpetrators was telephone (54%) and email (23%).

If you electronically file your taxes, here are some tips to help keep your data safe:IRS Scam

  • Vet the provider who electronically files your return. Authorized e-filers are registered on the IRS website at gov.
  • Monitor your social media presence. Google yourself to uncover any bogus Facebook, or LinkedIn information using your name.
  • Beware of scam Facebook messages. Clicking on a tax-related link in your newsfeed may be convenient. But it could connect you to a phishing site.
  • Optimize your security. Use the latest, most comprehensive firewalls, anti-spam/virus software. Also, update security patches and choose strong passwords to protect your online return. When possible, enable two-step authentication, which adds an additional security step required for login. Here is a link to comprehensive instructions for installing two-step authentication on a variety of computer platforms: org/2stepsahead/resources.
  • File your tax return ONLY on secure HTTPS sites. These encrypted sites will safeguard your information.
  • Beware of Wi-Fi hotspots. If you need to access a bank account while you are out, don’t use public Internet service. Cyber criminals can potentially intercept Internet connections while you are filing highly personal information. Don’t do anything relative to your taxes while using public Wi-Fi. Experian reports that seven percent of people do their taxes while logged into unsecured networks.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. Links in emails could direct your computer to malicious sites. If an email appears weird, even if you recognize the sender, delete it.
  • Carefully screen emails that appear to have come from your bank. If they do not contain your financial institution’s website domain name, immediately report the breach to your bank.
  • Shred documents that contain personal data. Doing so is worth the hassle, because many criminals dig through trash cans in search of sensitive information.
  • Don’t respond to emails claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS does not contact people by email.
  • Never download documents from or click on links in tax-related emails. One click could unleash information-gathering malware on your computer.
  • Refrain from doing tax-related research using your web browser. You could be lured to a malicious site.

April 18 written on a calendar to remind you an important appoinThis year, taxes must be filed by April 18, because Emancipation Day falls on the regular deadline of April 15. So take the extra few days to make sure you are cyber safe. Remember that Internet safety is a daily priority, not just during tax season. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Happy American Heart Month

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Allied Universal Heart ImageEach February, the American Heart Association marks the month dedicated to love as the time to call attention to heart health. Although the iconic romantic symbol of a heart bears no resemblance to the physical organ that pumps blood to human tissue, the association is obvious: we should do whatever it takes to help loved ones stay healthy. And to that end, heart disease prevention is paramount.

The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. In the United States, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which restricts blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can lead to a heart attack. Here are some of the most common types of heart conditions:

  • Aortic Aneurysm – a bulge in a section of theaorta, the body’s main artery. The aorta carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Because the section with the aneurysm is overstretched and weak, it can burst. If the aorta bursts, it can cause serious bleeding that can quickly lead to death.
  • Atrial Fibrillation – often called AFib or AF, is the most common type of heart arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is when the heart beats too slowly, too fast, or in an irregular way. When a person has AFib, the normal beating in the upper chambers of the heart (the two atria) is irregular, and blood doesn’t flow as well as it should from the atria to the lower chambers of the heart (the two ventricles). AFib may occur in brief episodes, or it may be a permanent condition.
  • Cardiomyopathy – The normal muscle in the heart can thicken, stiffen, thin out, or fill with substances the body produces that do not belong in the heart muscle. As a result, the heart muscle’s ability to pump blood is reduced, which can lead to irregular heartbeats, the backup of blood into the lungs or rest of the body, and heart failure.
  • Congestive Heart Failure – Does not mean theheart has stopped working. Rather, it means that the heart’s pumping power is weaker than normal. With heart failure, blood moves through the heart and body at a slower rate, and pressure in the heart increases. As a result, the heart cannot pump enough oxygen and nutrients to meet the body’s needs.
  • Coronary Artery Disease – This happens when the arteries that supply blood to heart muscle become hardened and narrowed. This is due to the buildup of cholesterol and other material, called plaque, on their inner walls. This buildup is called atherosclerosis. As it grows, less blood can flow through the arteries. As a result, the heart muscle can’t get the blood or oxygen it needs. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack.
  • Heart Attack – This happens when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked and the heart can’t get oxygen. If blood flow isn’t restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die.
  • High Blood Pressure – A common disease in which blood flows through blood vessels (arteries) at higher than normal pressures. Sometimes called “the silent killer,” uncontrolled high blood pressure (HBP) can injure or kill because HBP has no symptoms. So victims may not be aware that their arteries, heart and other organs are being damaged.Allied Universal BP
  • Pulmonary Hypertension – High blood pressure that occurs in the arteries in the lungs. It is a different measurement altogether from systemic blood pressure, reflecting the pressure the heart must exert to pump blood from the heart through the arteries of the lungs.
  • Stroke – A stroke is a “brain attack,” which can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain such as memory and muscle control are lost.

The best way to prepare yourself and loved ones to handle heart-related health problems is to take care of yourself:Allied Universal Weight Mngmt

Heart Attack Symptoms

  • Chest discomfort (It usually lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and returns. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body

Allied Universal FAST StrokeFAST (Stroke Symptoms)

  • Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
  • Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the victim unable to speak, or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  • Time to call 9-1-1– If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get him or her to the hospital immediately.

Cardiac Arrest Symptoms

  • Loss of responsiveness
  • Loss of normal breathing

Remember that safety is a daily priority, not just during Heart Health Month. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Would you be prepared for a Cyber Attack?  

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Cyber Security on the Mechanism of Metal Gears.

While we usually cover safety issues relative to incidents such as falls, earthquakes, or fire, the damages of failing to observe cyber-security safety protocols—which although not life threatening— can be equally devastating. Cybersecurity Awareness Month is observed in October, and is designed to raise awareness about the risks of electronic data and information breaches that can happen to individuals, companies and organizations.

Last week, the focus of National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2015 was on the “smart world,” meaning all of the internet-connected devices that exist — from phones to thermostats. This week looks at building the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, with an emphasis on promoting education and awareness to spark interest in the field. Education is essential for companies that want to protect their critical data from hackings and/or breaches.

Tips for Business Owners

Up to 95% of breaches are caused by human error. So, it is vitally important to train employees, first by giving them context, so they understand the consequences of data breaches and hacking incidents. Then, employers can guide them about best practices such as protecting passwords, carefully guarding data relative to outside agents, avoiding phishing scams, and adhering to data storage policies. Empower employees to alert management when something seems suspicious or odd such as when someone from graphic design requests company financial data for something other than an infographic. Also, make sure staff members are careful not to post sticky notes with passwords on their monitors.

Additional best practices include:

  • Set automatic updates. Instruct IT to program automatic operating system and software updates, so the latest virus definitions and security protocols are always in place. Asking staff to perform these tasks manually opens you up to risks.
  • Establish login tracking. Login monitoring should be in place to spot external access attempts and identify employees who are accessing sensitive information or data outside their purview.
  • Set a security “fence” around sensitive data. A company’s most important data (for example, personal customer information) should be protected behind a company firewall at all times. Restrict access to this data to a select few staff members. Also, make sure it is protected from potential download to personal devices or hard drives.

Tips for individuals to protect data and avoid cybersecurity issues:

  • Follow password procedures. Using “12345” or “password” for computer passwords is not recommended. Staff members should be trained about methods for selecting strong passwords and protecting sensitive documents.
  • Avoid storing data locally. News stories often recount employees losing laptops or thumb drives, with the device contents being used for illegal purposes. Discourage individuals from storing sensitive data directly on their devices. For greater security, instruct them, instead, to access data online.
  • Protect mobile devices. Employers increasingly allow employees to use their own devices to check email and access work data. Before approving this practice, instruct employees about methods for wiping their devices if they are lost or stolen. For maximum protection, establish and follow written “bring-your-own-device” procedures.
  • Don’t download unapproved software. Malware and other nasty computer bugs often reside in seemingly innocuous software. Beware of employees downloading free PDF-maker tools from the web. This software could be a launching pad for an attack. Staff should only download IT-approved software or apps to either their computer or mobile devices.
  • Don’t click on unknown links. Many businesses are targeted with official looking emails that provide an “important link.” Clicking on the link could infect the user’s computer, which can then travel throughout the employer’s network. Encourage employees to run suspicious emails by the IT department for a thorough review and safe deletions.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think about disaster planning all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.

How to BE SAFE this Holiday Season

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Holiday Safety Tips

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or an occasion you made up yourself, we want to make sure you stay safe this holiday season. So, from all of us at the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, please read and follow our Holiday Safety Tips and accept our warmest wishes for a safe and wonderful celebration:

Decorations

  • Don’t use lighted candles near trees, boughs, curtains/drapes, or with anything that is potentially flammable.
  • Wear gloves while decorating with “angel hair.” It can irritate your eyes and skin.
  • When spraying artificial snow, be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Sprays like these can irritate your lungs.
  • Small children may think that holiday plants look good enough to eat. Unfortunately, many holiday plant varieties (such as mistletoe, holly berries, Jerusalem cherry and amaryllis) are poisonous and/or can cause severe stomach problems if ingested. So keep them well out of the reach of kids.
  • Cut off about two inches off the trunk of your tree and place the base in a sturdy, water-filled stand. Monitor water level so the tree does not dry out and become combustible.
  • Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
  • Stand your tree away from fireplaces, radiators and heat sources. Also, for safety, don’t place the tree where it blocks foot traffic or doorways.
  • Avoid placing breakable tree ornaments on low-hanging branches where small children or pets can reach them.
  • If you opt for an artificial tree, choose one that has been tested and labeled as fire resistant. Artificial trees with built-in electrical systems should be approved by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • Use indoor lights inside and outdoor lights outside. Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and loose connections. Replace or repair damaged light sets.
  • Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. Extension cords should be placed against the wall to prevent tripping hazards. Never run cords under rugs, around furniture legs or across doorways.
  • Turn off lights on trees and decorations when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Unplug extension cords when they are not in use.
  • If using a natural tree, keep it well watered so dry branches won’t ignite when they touch warm bulbs.
  • If you decide to display outdoor lights, fasten them firmly to a secure support with insulated staples or hooks.
  • Don’t nail or tack wiring when hanging lights.
  • Keep plugs off the ground, far from puddles and snow.

Food

  • When preparing a holiday meal for friends and family wash your hands, utensils, the sink and countertop, and anything else that comes in contact with raw poultry.
  • Don’t defrost food at room temperature. Thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave.
  • Keep knives sharp. Believe it or not, most knife injuries occur due to dull blades instead of sharp ones.
  • Use a clean food thermometer to make sure internal temperature of food is safe.
  • Avoid cleaning kitchen surfaces with wet dishcloths or sponges. These harbor bacteria and promote bacteria growth. For safety, use clean paper towels instead.
  • When reheating leftovers, bring the temperature up to at least 165°F to eliminate the risk of bacterial growth.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in covered shallow containers within two hours after cooking.

Toys

  • Make sure toys suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child.
  • Read instructions carefully before allowing your child to play with something he or she has received as a gift.
  • To prevent burns and electrical shock, don’t give young children toys that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. On average, battery-operated toys are safer.
  • Since young kids can choke on small parts, follow government recommendations that say toys for children under the age of three cannot contain parts that are less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
  • Keep children from swallowing button batteries and magnets. These are found in musical greeting cards, remote controls, hearing aids and other small electronics as well as toys. If your child swallows a battery of any kind, immediately call your health care provider.
  • Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children.
  • Children can choke or suffocate on broken balloons. So do not allow children under age eight to play with them.
  • Pull-toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length are choking hazards for babies. Keep kids away from strings and cords.
  • Store toys in designated locations, such as on a shelf or in a toy chest.

For more about holiday safety, check out the free information provided by the National Safety Council, the National Fire Protection Association and our previous posts. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

BE SAFE Shopping This Holiday Season

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

By the dozens, to maximize holiday profits, retailers are opening on Thanksgiving Day–a full day earlier than usual–to lure shoppers who are searching for bargains. Whether you agree with this tactic or not, at some point this season, you will likely venture out to pick up a few things. So we would like to give you some tips to keep you safe.

Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while hunting for bargains:

Walking to and From Your Car or Public Transportation

  • Park in a well-lit area.
  • Keep your vehicle doors locked and your windows shut.
  • Before exiting your car, stash cell phones, tablets and other valuables out of sight.
  • Remember where you parked your car. Some shopping areas are spread out over large areas. If you are unable to locate your car, you can face undue confusion and stress which will make you an easy target for opportunistic criminals.
  • Once you purchase items, lock them securely in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.
  • Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
  • Keep your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle.
  • Before getting into the car, check the back seat and around the car.

Shopping Online

  • Update security software. Your desktop, laptop and/or tablet computer should have virus protection, anti-spyware, and anti-spam software, as well as a dependable firewall.
  • Guard personal information. Never respond to requests to verify your password or credit card information unless you initiated the contact.
  • If a bargain seems too good to be true, it probably is!
  • Use only secure websites for purchases. Before entering credit card information, check the URL (address bar) of the website where you are shopping. Unless you see a padlock at or “https” (instead of http) in the URL, shop somewhere else that is secure.
  • Shop only with companies you know and trust.
  • Print and save confirmation information from all of your online purchases.
  • Make sure Smartphone apps are downloaded from a trusted source, such as the Android Market, Apple App Store or the Amazon App Store.
  • Do online shopping from the comfort of your own home. A secure network connection is ideal. Public Wi-Fi can be hacked by someone with the right tools, exposing your passwords, billing information and other sensitive data. 

Shopping in Stores

  • Shop during daylight hours whenever possible.
  • If possible, don’t carry a purse or wallet. Keep cash in your front pocket.
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash.
  • If your credit card is lost or stolen, notify the credit card issuer immediately.
  • At all times, stay alert to your surroundings.
  • Don’t buy more packages than you can carry. Taking loads of sacks and wrapped gifts back to your car is an invitation for thieves to strike. Instead, plan ahead. Take a friend with you or ask someone to help you carry your packages to the car.
  • Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook.  Enterprising thieves could stand over your shoulder to steal your account information.
  •  If you see an unattended package or bag, immediately inform a security guard or store employee.
  • Dress casually and comfortably. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
  • Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, con-artists may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.

Shopping with Kids

  • If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you become separated.
  • Select a central meeting place.
  • Teach them to know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help.
  • Don’t dress your kids in clothes with labels that have their name. Such clothing invites predators to convince kids they aren’t strangers.
  • If you see anything suspicious or if something just doesn’t feel right, leave immediately and contact security or the police.

For more useful shopping tips and personal safety information, check out resources from the National Crime Prevention Council, LAPDOnline, Stay Safe Online, Webroot, FEMA, DHS and our previous posts. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

In countless ways, technology improves our lives. Consider the expediency of mobile check deposits, security system monitoring and online shopping. Unfortunately, many of the features we’ve come to appreciate, and even depend on, undermine our safety. Since October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, we would like to remind our subscribers and friends to create a safe, secure and resilient cyber environment.

When the White House proclaimed October 2004 the first National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the Internet looked very different than it does today. Smartphones and social networks are just two of the electronic innovations of the last decade. Americans are communicating more frequently, with more people, and sharing more personal information than ever. As a result, cyber security threats and attacks are gaining momentum. With more than $525 million in losses due to online criminal activity reported in 2012, proper security measures are a critical component in keeping your identity and finances secure.

“Computers, Smartphones and other electronics have become a prevalent part of our daily lives,” said FEMA Region V Administrator Andrew Velasquez III. “Everyone needs to understand how frequently cybercrimes occur and arm themselves with the latest information and tools necessary to protect their families against potential fraud.”

Cybercriminals don’t discriminate. So don’t be a target! Protect your privacy and guard against fraud by practicing safe online habits. The good news is that 96% of Americans feel a personal responsibility to be safer and more secure online. Here are a few tips to safeguard yourself and your computer:

  • Set strong passwords. Effective passwords have nothing to do with the users or family members’ names, birthdays, wedding anniversaries or addresses. This information is readily available. Try to come up with something that includes upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters in random order.
  • Change passwords regularly. To BE SAFE, come up with a new password for all of your logins once every 72 days. And don’t use the same password for every account!
  • Don’t share your passwords with anyone.
  • Keep a clean machine. This includes making sure your operating system, browser, and security software are up to date. Don’t ignore the message to install updates. Oftentimes, these include critical virus protection.
  • Protect your personal information. Use privacy settings. This applies to your computer as well as your mobile phone. Although it is admittedly inconvenient to have to enter a password every time you want to access your cellphone, don’t sacrifice your security on the altar of convenience.
  • Connect with care.
  1. Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, delete or mark as junk email.
  2. Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots. Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your machine.
  3. Protect your financial information. When banking and shopping, check to be sure the sites is security enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://” or “shttp://” (which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “http://” is not secure.
  • Be cautious about online offers. This is particularly important as the holiday season approaches. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Report cybercrime to the Internet Crime Complaint Center and to your local law enforcement or the state attorney general, as appropriate.
  • Maintain an open dialogue with friends, family, colleagues and community about Internet safety.

With the slogan, “Heads up. Stop. Think. Click,” FEMA encourages Internet users to think before they click. Their campaign also includes helpful hints for preventing malware, instructing kids about Internet safety, installing safe Smartphone apps, safely shopping online, preventing identity theft, protecting laptops, sharing public wi-fi networks. Detailed information and short videos can be found at OnGuardOnline.gov.

On October 24, 2013 at 3 p.m. ET, join a Twitter chat about protecting your colleagues and family from cybercrime. This will be a great opportunity to ask questions and hear from experts at the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Homeland Security, Stop.Think.Connect.org, and others. Follow @FTC and use the hashtag #ChatSTC to join the conversation. Connect with the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services @rjthefiredog.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

More Smartphone Security Tips

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Part 2 of a 2-Part Series

This week, we continue our coverage about Smartphone security by focusing on the final five steps you should take to safeguard your cellphone. For the first five tips, check out our previous post. Most people guard their computers more carefully than their mobile phones. So a good rule of thumb is to treat your Smartphone as a very powerful mini-computer that makes phone calls.

Most Smartphone owners store lots of sensitive data. And chaos ensues if a thief gets his or her hands on the data. If you take steps to protect your phone, losing it will be a minor annoyance instead of a major catastrophe.

Here are the final 5 steps you should take to safeguard your Smartphone (the first five tips appear in last week’s post):

6. Close Bluetooth connections.

When a hacker exploits an open Bluetooth connection, it’s called Bluejacking, Bluesnarfing or Bluebugging. This type of hack requires intruders to be in close proximity to the phone they are hacking (within 30 feet of the device). But be aware that your Smartphone could be hacked via the active Bluetooth connection whenever you’re in a busy airport, hotel lobby, restaurant, or hotel…to name a few hacker hotspots.

7. Make sure the free apps you download are actually free.

Some Apps that are labeled “free,” but are actually thinly-disguised data theft devices. Downloading one of these applications gives the app complete access to your phone. Thieves can use the app to steal data such as credit card and bank account info. What’s more, these apps can turn your phone into a launch pad which scammers use to attack other peoples’ data relative to SMS text messages and Smishing scams. Be smart and discreet about what you download. Read reviews first. And make sure the apps you download come from reliable sources.

8. Don’t store sensitive data.

Do you store passwords, pins, Social Security numbers, credit card or bank account information on your Smartphone? If so, delete it all today. Whether you have created a document expressly for this purpose, or sent yourself an email from your home computer, you should never store important information on your phone. Criminals are adept at detecting hidden information such as credit card numbers hidden inside Contact notes or entered as phone numbers.  Believe it or not, even if you try to disguise sensitive data, adept thieves will be able to crack the code. So make sure you delete all documents and emails containing sensitive information.

9. Clear browser histories.

Not clearing the browser history on your phone can be just as dangerous as staying logged into the website of your bank or your favorite online store. Phone thieves could use your browsing history to hijack accounts, steal your money and wreak havoc on your financial future. Here are links that walk you through deleting your history on an iPhone or an Android.

10. When in doubt, purge it out.

You might be surprised by how many people fail to remove sensitive personal data from their Smartphones before exchanging, donating or selling it. The only way to entirely eliminate the data on your phone would be to physically shred the device. If this sounds a little severe to you, you may prefer securely deleting the data, which is relatively easy to do.

Your identity is your most important asset. So take precautionary steps to vigorously defend and protect it. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services helps commercial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning training system motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES!