Thursday, October 30, 2014

Protecting Your Identity During the Holidays

As Halloween arrives tomorrow, the holidays are going to arrive fast and furious this year. Are you prepared to protect your identity during the shopping season? Most are not. People get involved with shopping lists, family politics, work parties, and school events and concerts for the kids. Identity protection seems to be the last item of concern on a long holiday 'to do' list. So, as we head into November this weekend, please remember to turn your clocks back an hour on Saturday and take the following identity protection tips into consideration.

1. If someone bumps into you, don't assume it was an accident. Clutch your purse close to your side or in front of you, and keep your wallet hidden at the bottom, or for men, in an inside coat pocket.

2. Don't let your credit card out of your sight. Unscrupulous clerks or waiters can skim the information from your card into a second machine and later make a new credit card for themselves. Worse yet, they can sell your information to an organized crime ring.

3. Lighten your wallet. Remove anything from your wallet that you don't absolutely need to have with you. That way, if someone is successful in stealing it, they won't get as much. And 'no', you don't need your social security card in your wallet!

4. Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. Such services alert you via email anytime there is an inquiry or other activity to your credit report.

5. Be safe when shopping online. Criminals can make dummy websites look like the real thing. Make sure that the website you are shopping on is the company's real website. If you have any doubt, conduct a new browser search and contact the company to verify. Also make sure that any website you make purchases on is secure. Secure websites will have "https" instead of "http" in the website URL.

I'm going to skip a blog tomorrow and celebrate Halloween with my dedicated office staff!

I'll be back with everyone on Monday. Until then, have a safe and happy Halloween holiday.

Twyla N. Garrett

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Airports & Ebola - Are You Prepared

Do you know what to expect at the airport the next time you travel internationally? Well, I decided to present the top 3 things you need to know about airports and Ebola. Right now, the Department of Homeland Security is sending mixed messages because each State is handling the Ebola "crisis" differently. The DHS has a responsibility to help out with national health concerns on a threatening level, but each State also has to make decisions based on their specific needs and population concerns.

Either way, below are the top 3 across-the-board things to know about Ebola at airports.

1. Starting 11/01/13, all International airports will start screening for Ebola. There are no nonstop flights to the U.S. from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea, the three countries hardest-hit by Ebola. Nearly 95% of the roughly 150 people traveling daily from or through those West African countries to the U.S. land first at one of the five airports selected for extra screening.

2. Homeland Security employees at airports will use no-touch thermometers to take the temperatures of passengers who have come from or through West Africa.

3. If you present a fever at an International airport, know the DHS isn't playing games. Case-by-case, health workers and the DHS will direct the passenger either to the local medical system or public health system for possible treatment or routine follow-ups, including daily temperature readings for the 21-day Ebola incubation period. There are quarantine areas at each of the five International airports that can be used, if necessary.

Please pass this information on to anyone you know who will be traveling after Saturday. :)

Until next time,

Twyla N. Garrett

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Homeland Security Orders Increased Security for Government Buildings!

"The precise actions we are taking and the precise locations at which we will enhance security is law-enforcement sensitive, will vary and shift from location to location, and will be continually re-evaluated," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said today.

Yes, the Government has issued a security watch increase upon itself today. Why? Well, there are several reasons. First, you should know that the The Federal Protective Service is responsible for the protection of more than 9,500 federal facilities owned or leased by the General Services Administration, through which 1.4 million visitors and occupants pass daily. Now, the reasons cited by Mr. Johnson are due to the recent lone wolf attacks that are slightly related to ISIS, but can be contributed to mental health issues to. The exact affiliations seem to be more claims than official links at this point.

So, are you more at risk if you work in a Government building? Yes and no. Government employees are always more at risk for something tragic happening in the workplace because of where they work and who they work for. However, if a threat is detected, the employees are more protected because of the Department of Homeland Security taking notice of lone wolfs and actual terrorist-related threats.

My advice is to stay calm and ask questions. Know what the emergency evacuation plans are for your specific building and ask your HR Manager if you need to do anything, or be on the look out for anything, in relation to any obvious step-ups in security efforts at your workplace.

The move today is purely precautionary, but we should take notice.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wi-Fi Hot Spot Linked to Terrorism

A passenger aboard a plane at Los Angeles International Airport picked up a Wi-Fi hot spot named after a terrorist group. Authorities held travelers for hours as they investigated and then said no crime was committed. So, no harm-no foul, right? Wrong!

According to The Los Angeles Times, "The passenger on the American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to London alerted crew members about the network Sunday night, and the plane returned to the gate.
KABC-TV reported Monday that the hot spot was called “Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork” and that passengers were kept onboard for several hours amid the investigation. Los Angeles airport police said Monday that “no crime was committed and no further action will be taken.” Federal authorities who took over the investigation had nothing add Monday morning. An American Airlines spokesman says the flight was rescheduled for 1 p.m. Monday."

Why is this news? Well, there are a couple of important reasons. First, mixing a flight with a Wi-FI Hot spot named after a terrorist group is cause for a concern. But he fact that the entire passenger list was held during an investigation without a crime being committed begs the question of is the DHS being too strict and violating the very same freedoms they are supposed to be protecting? Additionally, why the entire passenger list? Couldn't the passenger who logged onto the HotSpot been left as the one being investigated? What if he didn't know the phrase was a link to a terrorist group? Was it even linked to a real terrorist group or someone being "funny" in a distasteful manner?

My point for all of this is that the DHS has to mix policy and procedure with common sense. We should protect people while respecting their rights. What are your thoughts on this latest Homeland Security news? Let's talk on Twitter. I hope you can join me for an open and honest conversation.

Twyla N. Garrett

Friday, October 24, 2014

9 Million People to Receive 'Green' Cards.

Here's some Homeland Security news for you, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is bracing for a couple of busy weeks- to say the least. The DHS is going to be reviewing work applications from an estimated 9 million immigrant workers thanks to an Executive Order that President Barak Obama is expected to implement later this year. So, what? Well, that is the million dollar question.

This information is relevant because US Citizenship and Immigration Services has published a draft contract proposal to buy the card stock needed to make work permits and Permanent Resident Cards, more commonly known as green cards. The proposal also calls for providing material for at least 5 million cards a year, with as many as 9 million “during the initial period … to support possible future immigration reform initiative requirements.” The contract calls for as many as 34 million cards over five years.

Basically, non-violent illegal immigrants will be protected and granted legal work status if they have children here in the USA. While many people may not like this concept- or may think it put the country at a disadvantage- there are more benefits to this action than not. These now legal workers have to pay into the tax system, which is a big plus. They will contribute to our medical system and they are trackable. Plus, they can't be taken advantage of in so many ways. It seems to be a win-win for both parties.

The DHS is going to spearhead this effort because it the president can authorize protection from deportation for immigrants on a case-by-case basis, such as with the DACA program, and issue work permits. If someone doesn't look like they working intent, but something more sinister in mind when it comes to being within the USA, we can get a heads up on the scenario (and handle it) through the DHS. This issue is something to think about for sure this weekend before forming an opinion if this effort is good for the country or not.

Until Monday,

Twyla N. Garrett

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Worst Actions to Take During a Crisis

What's the worst thing you can do during a crisis? I was recently asked this by a follower on Twitter. Well, I think the answer is subjective depending on the crisis. However, if we are talking in general terms, then I have to say that waiting to see what happens and not taking action takes the cake.

We are all built with the flight or fight mechanisms. This said, some people remain stuck or unwilling to accept what is going on and they don't follow the directions of first responders or the emergency plans. This is when people get into trouble. You have to realize during a crisis that you are in a crisis. Even if you take flight, you're taking some action. Staying in a burning building because the fire fighters will show up soon isn't the best idea. But some people do this and don't come out the other side alive or as their normal selves.

I'm addressing this question because I think it is important. Not having enough water, having too much water- these types of scenarios- well, they are all trivial. Yes, water will eventually show up via the government. Too much water, that's not a problem. Not doing anything- like seeking out water when you don't have it- that is what gets people into trouble.

So, remember - every emergency is different. Handling things calmly and with some type of action plan is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Online Security and You!

I received a question about my cyber security services and personal online security. While these are two very different things, they have a common bond in that a breach can devastate someone's personal credit or business brand! For the purposes to the question I received, tonight's blog tips will deal with personal security online and how to maintain your privacy.

First, let's start with where we are today with "complex" passwords... the concept is a lie! When you hear of hackers, it usually is on a massive level. Your password, no matter how complex, can be guessed using technology that monitors your keystrokes. Yep, you can be in Los Angeles and have your keystrokes determined (to hack your password) from Japan. Below is a great example of this;

The world of cyber-security underwent a game-change last summer, when not one but two top tech writers were spectacularly hacked. Mat Honan, a writer for Wired, was cyber-attacked by a 19-year-old who wanted his highly coveted three-letter Twitter handle @Mat. To get it, the kid (who goes by “Phobia”) and a friend wiped out Honan’s entire digital life — in about an hour. It started with a call to the Apple Help Desk, and Phobia was able to give just enough data to convince the agent that he was Honan. That one password gave him the keys to the castle.

As Honan described in Wired, “First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.” Honan also thought he had lost every picture he had of his one-year-old daughter, since he hadn’t been backing up his hard drive. Ultimately he was able to recover some of his passwords (from his cloud backup,Dropbox, on his wife’s laptop) and then his data. But it was an expensive lesson: He wound up spending $1,690 for the entire recovery.

So, what's my point? Even technology brainiacs get hacked. While there are steps you can take to prevent it from happening, good coders and hackers don't need much to get into your account(s) and then change your passwords to their passwords, often assuming your identity. I tell everyone to forget the password focus and look at what you have online. If the answers to your security questions can be easily guessed by the information you put on LinkedIN- or any other type of social media- then yous shouldn't even bother with having a password. Limit your personal life's details from Google and social media searchers. For now, for the average person and tech geek, this is the best way to avoid getting hacked.

Until tomorrow,

Twyla N. Garrett

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