In a recent blog post, we discussed the millions of Americans who are currently struggling to recover after earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, fires, floods, mudslides and myriad other natural disasters that devastated residential and commercial properties across the country. Another category of disaster affecting millions, which also requires careful pre-planning and purposeful recovery, pertains to Information Technology (IT). As a prolific blogger, I wonder what we would do without IT? Continue reading “Information Technology Disaster Recovery”
Part 3 of a 3-Part Series
Attending college is a grand adventure, whether students choose to live on campus or commute. I’ve never been to college but I would love to play Frisbee with some of the students. It also can prove risky for anyone who fails to sufficiently prepare for potential emergencies.
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.
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. Despite my lack of opposable thumbs, I find this topic extremely timely.
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.
College Safety Online
Most college students today are infinitely more familiar with computer equipment than most of their parents and grandparents. JR has used Snapchat since he was a pup. 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.
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 safe while they are online:
- 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. This seems like common sense.
- 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.
- 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.
- Be Web Wise—If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Sounds like the free steak’ website I read about was a hoax. 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.
- Be a Good Online Citizen—Apply the *Golden Rule to everything done online and in person, too. Help fight cybercrime by reporting anything unusual to the Department of Homeland Security.
- Students should also contact campus safety department and IT department for the 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.
March and April usher in several spring-time events: St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and another annual American ritual — tax time! I’m so glad I don’t have to file taxes. It’s one of the benefits of being a dog. 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. I wonder how many cats are involved in fraud. They seem pretty suspicious, to me! Among fraud complaints:
- 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:
- 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 mess Clicking on a tax-related link in your newsfeed may be convenient. But it could connect you to a phishing site. I think that people who scam with spam are scum.
- 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. So make sure a picture of a little lock appears in the website address field.
- 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. And don’t forget to delete!
- 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 mail.
- 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 researching using your web browser. You could be lured to a malicious site.
This year, taxes must be filed by April 18, because Emancipation Day falls on the regular deadline of April 15. Nice that we get a few days of tax relief because of the holiday! 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 RJWestmore 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.