Posted in Cyber Security, Disaster Preparedness, Fire Life Safety Training, Health & Welfare

Are you Cyber-Secure?

Cyber Crime , Keyboard conceptIn countless ways, technology improves our lives. Consider the expediency of mobile check deposits, security system monitoring, online shopping and bacon-related Smartphone apps! 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 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.”

cyber_security firedog 2

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. And don’t write it down on a Post-it note next to your computer!
  • 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! I used to use TheBaconator as my password. But I guess that would be easy to crack.
  • Don’t share your passwords with anyone. This one is difficult for me. I love to share!
  • 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. It’s difficult to keep my keyboard clean since I type and walk with the same paws.
  • 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. I prefer to use my own Smartphone as a personal hotspot instead of tapping into public networks.
  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. Uh-oh. Does this mean the 100 lbs of bacon I ordered was a scam?
  • 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

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,, and others. Follow @FTC and use the hashtag #ChatSTC to join the conversation. I’ll be tweeting away. Connect with me @rjthefiredog.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore 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.

Posted in BE SAFE, Cyber Security

Take Steps to be Smartphone Safe

Phone with key

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

If you’re among the 46 percent of people in the world who own a Smartphone, you’ve likely experienced the panic that sets in when you think you’ve lost it. I only experience this kind of a panic when I lose bacon. Whether the phone ultimately proved to be temporarily misplaced or if it permanently vanished, you had legitimate cause for alarm. After all, the amount of sensitive data most users store on their phones is astounding—direct access to savings and checking accounts storage of personal passwords for social media and email accounts, contact information for friends and colleagues. What’s more, even if you guard your phone with your life or your guard dog, the information contained on it could potentially be hacked or compromised by a virus when you are using a public wi-fi connection.

According to data released by Find My Smartphone by Lookout, which allows Smartphone users to track missing phones, the top 10 cities most at risk for lost or stolen phones include:

  1. Philadelphia, PA
  2. Seattle, WA
  3. Oakland, CA
  4. Long Beach, CA
  5. Newark, NJ
  6. Detroit, MI
  7. Cleveland, OH
  8. Baltimore, MD
  9. New York, NY
  10. Boston, MA

Regardless of where you live, your phone could be in danger, as 113 Smartphones are stolen or lost every minute in the U.S. I’m sure the statistic for bacon thefts is even more shocking. So, if you fail to protect your phone with a password, back up your data and install a program that can wipe the phone’s memory remotely, losing your phone could start you on the path to an identity-theft nightmare.

To help keep you safe while surfing the web using your Smartphone, we would like to share the top 10 steps you can take to make sure your Smartphone is safe. This week, we’ll cover 5:

  1. Create a Password. Admittedly, it’s a hassle to unlock your phone every time you want to use it. But consider this: if you could put a lock on your wallet, wouldn’t you do it, despite the inconvenience? A phone password is by no means foolproof. However, it might just provide a deterrent for potential thieves who will move on to an easier target. I’d go with “RJtheFiredog” if I were you. It’s a great password.
  2. Log out of Security-enabled Apps. Would you keep a major credit card or a bone on your desk at work? Setting up your Smartphone to automatically log into sensitive accounts is like carrying credit card passwords in your wallet right alongside the cards. Of course no one thinks they will be victims of theft. As we so often caution at RJWestmore, the best thing to do to be safe during an emergency is to be prepared. So treat your Smartphone as though you plan on losing it. Don’t value convenience over security.
  3. Adjust settings so your Smartphone won’t automatically connect to available WiFi networks. To BE SAFE, disable the feature on your phone which allows it to immediately connect to available networks. You can usually find this feature under your phone’s settings. When you opt to use a public wi-fi, consider the fact you could be sharing your screen with a hacker. Then, proceed with caution.
  4. If you shop online, download shopping apps instead of browsers. You usually have a choice when using your Smartphone to order items on sites like Petco, Amazon, eBay, Overstock or major retailers like Target and Best Buy. Dedicated shopping apps are preferable to browsers which return full-site results, because applications are specifically designed to ward off phishing and other scams. But be careful before downloading that the app is legitimate. Oftentimes, while you are browsing using your Smartphone, sites will ask if you want to download the application. Opt in, as this is for your safety. I’d like a pork-chop delivery app. I guess they haven’t created one yet.
  5. Download remote wiping software. Dozens of apps and services enable you to locate your phone and wipe data clean. Even though certain tech-savvy hackers may be able to disengage these applications, adding the feature will provide you with extra protection in your phone protection plan. Here’s a sampling of where to go to procure the appropriate app if you have an iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Windows-based phone.

Check our blog post next week, when we’ll share the final five steps to take to protect your Smartphone or your dog bone. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore 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!

Posted in BE SAFE, Cyber Security, High-Rise Buildings, Identity Theft, Travel, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

Is there a Safe Way to use Public Wi-Fi?

Wi Fi Image
Using public wi-fi can be hazardous to your data's health.

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.” I’m not sure what an ethical hacker is. Seems like an oxymoron to me. 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 and pooches 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. The wife and I have a strict “doghouse only” use rule for our own laptops.
  • Use a firewall to guard against incoming threats.
  • Conceal your files using encryption, so important documents are not accessible by others who are snooping or phishing on the open network. The RJWestmore Online Training System encrypts all password information, for the safety of all of our clients.
  • 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. This is especially important to keep people from poaching your electronic PetSmart coupons.
  • 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 (the same could be said of several overactive canines I know), and will look for wireless networks wherever you take your laptop…whether you are trying to log online or not.

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. Or, if you prefer, give me a call and I will be happy to “lick and wipe” your mobile device for free.
  • 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 back at work or at home. While 24/7 access is nice, you can ask yourself “Do I have to do this now?”  Unless pork chops are involved, I am willing to wait for almost anything. 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 RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Identity Theft, Uncategorized

How to Prevent Identity Theft

Locked chain around an open laptop
Identity theft is on the rise. Are you prepared to defend 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. Are we talking about a global shortage of pig ears? Nope. 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,” “1234” or “Fido.” 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. When we paper-trained JR, we had to switch out the papers every 15 minutes.
  • 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. I used to have a profile page, but I started to get too many friend requests from litter-mates. No, I don’t want to play FarmVille. Leave me alone! 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 “I love rolling around in dirt piles” and taking the first letter from each word: ILRAIDP. Another idea is to swap out the second and fourth letters with characters, so the password is I*R#IDP. 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 or doghouse.

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. I’m not referring to the kitchen trash. I plan on knocking it over and eating whatever I can find. I mean that you should 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? Photos of your pets, however, are probably safe to keep on hand!

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. Here’s another idea. I am willing to chew on your old CDs for free. Let me at ‘em.
  • Don’t lose your laptop! (As if you would plan otherwise.) What I mean to say is to take extremely good care of your computer. And 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. In fact, it actually happened to me! A Border Collie tried to pass himself off as RJ the Firedog. You aren’t fooling anyone, Rex!

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 RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit for more information and remember to BE SAFE.