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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.

Public Wi-Fi Use Best Practices

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Take steps to guard the security of information located on your computer.

You’re on the road to the next sales meeting and absolutely need a coffee. You pop in for 20 minutes and use your laptop to browse the Internet. Everything is copacetic until you later hear about a breach to your company’s back-office financial data. Are you to blame?

A source called an “ethical hacker” by CBS News says, “Information you’d send to and from your bank, information coming off of your credit card—any of those types of information you’d rather people not have, goes over WiFi.” Also according to CBS, security experts estimate hackers can easily take $1,000 worth of data from just one hacked computer.

Unfortunately, little exposes your work to greater security risks than latching onto a public Wi-Fi service. The problem is that most people don’t realize the risks. And even fewer have the ability to perform the necessary tasks that would fix it. So what’s a modern business person to do?

Here are some tips on browsing safely:

  • Just say no. While this might be unreasonable for road warriors who need to access the Internet at airports and hotel lounges, infrequent users are better off avoiding the temptation to hop on unsecured networks.
  • Use a firewall to ensure protection from incoming threats.
  • Conceal your files using encryption, so important documents are not accessible by others who are snooping or phishing on the open network.
  • Turn off your wireless connection when not in use. Perhaps you are at a coffee shop working on a document but you don’t need to check your email. By turning off the wireless connection, unscrupulous individuals will be cut off from gaining prolonged access to your computer files.
  • Don’t enter your Social Security Number or credit card information while using a public network. If you encounter an emergency and need to purchase something, use only the sites that show the padlock symbol and third-part security verification.
  • Find the “S”! On sites such as Facebook, you can change your security settings to only login on “https” enabled pages. While these might run a shade slower than regular connections, they prevent all but the most sophisticated hacking attempts. So check website settings to restriction enabling to this higher security setting.
  • Ask IT to show you how to disable your computer so it won’t actively search for hotspots. Windows is too user friendly at times, and will look for wireless networks wherever you take your laptop…whether you are trying to log online or not.
  • The Allied Universal Online Training System encrypts all password information, for the safety of all of our clients.

Beyond public Wi-Fi risks, there are myriad other ways your personal or business information can be comprised through carelessness or bad practices. Additional tips for keeping data safe:

  • Be careful using USB “thumb” drives, which can be easily misplaced. They also are the perfect carrier for viruses and malware. USB drives were the culprit for the spread of the damaging Stuxnet virus which infiltrated industrial computers, including some at nuclear facilities.
  • Use passwords. Protecting access to both the laptop and individual files and folders can slow down or discourage hacking attempts. Every week you hear stories about possible data breaches from stolen or lost or laptops that were unprotected.
  • Mobile devices can be protected with security apps that can remotely lock and “wipe” your device.
  • Train employees how to spot phishing and scam emails that might distribute viruses. Some scammers will even spoof their emails to look like they are coming from a company’s HR department.

Using public Wi-Fi properly requires some technical know-how and common sense. When feasible, only look at public non-identifying sites on the public network, and purchase items or do banking when you are at work or at home. While 24/7 access is nice, you can ask yourself “Do I have to do this now?”  If you follow the tips on using public networks and best practices for portable drives and laptops, you will greatly increase your protection from malicious hackers.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

11 Safety Tips for 2011

Monday, December 27th, 2010
Safe Combination at 2011

BE SAFE in 2011

  1. Be prepared…for everything and anything! At home and at work, the most important step you can take to ensure your own safety as well as the safety of coworkers, employees, family and friends, is to prepare. For ideas, look to FEMA’s recently announced “Resolve to be Ready in 2011” campaign, which features several suggestions for disaster preparedness. What’s more, our own blog posts provide food for fodder.
  2. Drill. A timely example of how preparation is critical for saving lives occurred at a San Antonio CPS office building which caught fire on December 20.  According to news’ reports, all 400 of the building’s occupants were forced to evacuate the building before 9 a.m., at which point the company’s emergency evacuation plans were put into effect. No doubt benefiting from the safety plan and associated regular fire drills, preparation paid off as every employee escaped without injury.
  3. Protect yourself from cyber-terrorism. As we rely more and more on all things electronic, we must be diligent to guard ourselves against identity theft. Four out of five victims of Identity Theft encounter serious issues as a result of the crime, such as lowered credit scores, bankruptcy, foreclosure, or even prison time. So protect your Internet passwords by creating them randomly and changing them frequently.
  4. Guard against health risks. Although the flood of sensational news’ stories about Cholera, the Swine Flu and SARS have ebbed, you still run the risk of contracting viruses and bacteria if you fail to take precautions to remain healthy. One of the easiest ways to do this is to regularly and thoroughly wash your hands. Also, take advantage of vaccinations designed to protect you against illnesses such as Influenza or Respiratory Syncytial Virus.
  5. Consider your location. Since different types of disasters occur depending on your location, pay attention to geography and history when you prepare for natural or man-made disasters. If you live on the coast, for example, plan for tsunamis. If you get snow, make winterizing a priority. If you live near a fault line, make sure you are ready for earthquakes.
  6. Heed storm warnings. While some natural disasters, such as earthquakes, come without warning, many others are relatively easy to predict. So, if you live in an area where hurricanes or tornadoes are common, follow forecasts. And when an event is anticipated, take necessary steps to ensure your own safety as well as that of emergency workers, who might be put in harm’s way if they have to brave the elements in order to rescue you. 
  7. Do the right thing. Don’t cut corners. Take a cue from the recent Shanghai Fire, which some believe resulted from contractors who cut corners. Applicable to all areas of life, doing what’s right will help keep everyone safe in 2011 and beyond.
  8. Go green. You don’t have to be a hippie to understand the importance of protecting our planet. Today, millions of electronics are shipped to developing countries where they are dissembled, often in a crude manner, which exposes workers and the environment to contaminants such as mercury, sulfur, and lead. This practice puts us all at risk. So do your part this year to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
  9. Travel safely. Try to be patient if you fly. While it might be inconvenient to take off your belt, shoes and jewelry at the security gate, and possibly undergoing a TSA pat-down, these safety measures are in place to keep us safe.
  10. Fight fire with fire prevention. The surest way to fight fire is to prevent it. The National Fire Protection Association has sponsored Fire Prevention Week each year since the Great Chicago Fire roared through Chicago in 1871. This year’s push is to install smoke alarms. So if you haven’t installed them in your commercial property building or at home, do so today!
  11. Keep learning. Our corporate mission is to save lives through training with the motto “Be Safe!” The Allied Universal Training System 2.0 is a fully integrated system which allows property management companies to manage one site or an entire portfolio, with all users in the same system.

If you own or manage commercial property, by enrolling in the system, please consider our system, which trains occupants, floor wardens, and fire safety directors. What’s more; all user training and testing is recorded. Get quick access to building-specific Emergency Responder information and other resources. We hope you’ll include us in your plans to keep tenants, residents and family and friends safe in 2011 and beyond.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

When “You” Isn’t Really You: How to Prevent Identity Theft

Monday, November 15th, 2010
"Identity Theft" typed on documents coming out of a shredder.

Be careful to guard your identity.

Today’s blog post isn’t about the threat of a natural disaster. We will be discussing a manmade crisis that can potentially affect anyone and can take months or even years to repair. Today’s topic is Identity Theft. Claiming nearly 10 million victims a year, Identity Theft is the number one complaint lodged with the FTC.

According to research from Nationwide Insurance, four out of five victims of Identity Theft encountered serious issues as a result of the crime, such as lowered credit scores, bankruptcy, foreclosure, or even prison time.

A significant threat now that so many of us handle financial matters online, Identity Theft is a crime that is cloaked in mystery, with most of us imagining identity thieves working in dark, secret computer-filled lairs. The truth is that the crime is far less glamorous than they make it out to be in the movies, with far more serious implications for its victims. The good news is that while Internet anonymity is practically impossible these days, you can take steps to make yourself a less inviting target.

  • When it comes to selecting a password for your online bank account or email accounts, don’t choose “password” or “1234.” Also avoid easily detectable data such as your child’s first name, your birthday, your anniversary, your dog’s name or your street address. This type of data is easily accessible for even casual hackers.
  • No matter how much you hate the hassle of changing and forgetting your passwords, you need to change them periodically. Experts recommend changing passwords on every online account at least every three to six months. People who work with extremely sensitive data change passwords hourly.
  • Check “privacy settings” on social media websites. Recent problems regarding privacy settings on Facebook highlighted the need to carefully consider how public you should be with details about your life. Review your settings and carefully read the “terms of service” on every site you use. Also, look at the amount of data on your social network profiles and determine if certain identifying information should be deleted or altered.
  • Do you like to use WiFi and other public area internet access networks? Take steps to ensure security of your laptop or mobile device when sending information over shared networks. Don’t let the leather chair and tasty beverage lull you into thinking you are at home when you are using your computer at Starbucks.
  • Create truly random passwords. Some popular “systems” for randomizing passwords involve thinking of a phrase such as: “My favorite movie is Gone with the Wind” and using the first letter from each word: MFMIGWTW. Better yet, change the case in some of the letters and swap out the second and fourth letters with characters, so the password would be m@M*GWtw. Randomization and picking phrases only you would know are the keys to real password security.
  • Even if your passwords are difficult to decipher, you might be surprised by how easily experienced hackers can access even complicated encryptions. Fortunately, several applications and software offer secure password management tools. If you do not have access to these tools, consider using a completely random number. And don’t store it near your computer or in your purse.

Also, don’t forget about offline methods that thieves can use to steal your identity. Not every identity thief is a hacker holed up in a basement with five computers and three monitors. Some still take a more old-fashioned but no less harmful approach to assuming someone else’s identity.

  • Don’t leave mail hanging out of your mailbox or dispose of it in the trash can at the post office! The amount of information contained on some of your bills is staggering. Thieves who commit the felony of stealing your mail would have access to your full name, address, phone number, account numbers, bank routing numbers and more. For security, deposit important mail into a USPS drop box.
  • Don’t forget about the trash. Shred any and all documents that contain personal information before you toss away any paperwork…including junk mail.
  • Take a good look at your wallet or purse. Is it a good idea to carry your social security card, checks, paystubs, insurance information and a letter with your mother’s maiden name on it, conveniently located all in one place for the taking?
A lock on top of a credit card

Do what it takes to protect your identity.

What steps should business owners and manager take to guard customer and/or employee personal information?

  • Computer data is hard to erase! If your sell or donate old computer equipment, clicking “delete” on files and folders won’t be sufficient. Purchase an application that can completely wipe the hard drive. Or, better yet, take computers to a trusted source so the hard drive can be erased. All data on CD, DVD or backup tapes should be removed and then destroyed so files are completely unreadable.
  • Mind your laptop. Guard it at all times, as if you are protecting private information. You are! Store sensitive data on secure servers or in the computing “cloud,” behind firewalls, instead of stored on a portable machine.
  • Have old-fashioned paper files? Outsource your document retention services to an established company that will shred or store, as needed. Also, don’t throw boxes of data with sensitive client information into your building’s unsecure storage basement! Invest in a heavy-duty shredder and use it often.
  • Don’t adopt “It Won’t Happen to Me Syndrome.” According to the FTC, in the past five years alone, 27.3 million people were victims of identity theft.

We often discuss the benefits of proactive prevention. And dealing with Identity Theft is no exception. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.