Not only is April tax season, but it’s also prime time for cyber criminals to try to trick unsuspecting people into sharing personal or financial information. So in addition to filing your taxes, be sure to properly safeguard your data.
If you are among the majority of Americans who file their taxes electronically, the following tips can help you and your information stay safe:
- Don’t give out your personal information, unless it is to a trusted entity. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media to request personal or financial information. If you receive an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, do not click on any links or reply. Instead, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org and delete it from your inbox.
- Look out for phony messages or websites claiming to be from the IRS. Exercise caution when opening suspicious email attachments and do not click on web links in unsolicited email messages. Scammers who try to access your personal or financial information may use the IRS name or logo in email messages and on fake websites to lure potential victims. Ensure that you have typed www.IRS.gov into your web browser to be certain you are visiting the authentic IRS website.
- Beware of promises of “free money” from inflated refunds. Scammers frequently pose as tax preparers during tax season. If you are contacted by someone who promises a large tax refund or a refund you are not expecting or entitled to, do not give out any personal or financial information. If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Back up your data and store your electronic tax files securely. Last year, most Americans opted to file their taxes online. When preparing your tax return for electronic filing, make sure to use a strong password to protect the file. If you are working with an accountant, ask them what security measures they have in place to protect your personal information.
- Only share personal information over a secured network. When at home, if you are using Wi-Fi, make sure you only join a password protected network – don’t connect if the network is publically available. Using free public Wi-Fi makes it easy for cyber criminals to intercept and steal your information. Never prepare your tax return or conduct other online activities such as banking and shopping when connected to an unsecured wireless network.
These tips can help all Americans stay safe online during tax season and all year round. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and when we take steps to ensure our own cyber safety, we are also helping to create a safer Internet for others.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson yesterday hosted the Official Portrait Unveiling Ceremony in honor of former Secretary Michael Chertoff. Michael Chertoff served as the nation’s second Secretary of Homeland Security from February 15, 2005 – January 21, 2009.
Deputy Secretary Mayorkas, Secretary Johnson, Former Secretary Chertoff, and Mrs. Chertoff during the Official Portrait Unveiling Ceremony. Official DHS photo.
During the ceremony, Secretary Johnson praised Secretary Chertoff’s leadership of the Department at a critical time in its history and thanked him for his service both to the Department and to the Nation.
Former Secretary Chertoff receives a standing ovation following his remarks. Official DHS photo.
Former Secretary Chertoff addressed the audience - which included family, friends, former colleagues, and current DHS leadership and employees - and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve and his appreciation for those who are continuing to serve the DHS mission.
Secretary Chertoff and his wife, Mrs. Meryl Chertoff, unveil his official portrait. Official DHS photo.
The official portrait, painted by Robert A. Anderson, is a tribute to Secretary Chertoff’s service to the Department and the Nation. The portrait will be placed in the hallway of the Office of the Secretary at DHS Headquarters in Washington.
Secretary Johnson and Former Secretary Chertoff talk after the portrait unveiling. Official DHS photo.
Editors Note: This blog was originally posted by the White House Council on Women and Girls.
During Women’s History Month and every day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) upholds the commitment to the rights, security and dignity of women and girls in everything we do. Through our work to combat human trafficking, protect the rights of immigrants who are victims of domestic violence and other crimes, and ensure parents have the tools they need to keep their children safe online, DHS continues to foster various initiatives that focus specifically on reaching out to and empowering women and girls every day.
We also uphold that commitment within our own workforce, by doing all we can to recruit qualified and talented staff, and by helping to create an environment where everyone has the opportunity to advance and thrive.
Leaders like Julia Pierson, who last year became the first female Director of the U.S. Secret Service, and Connie Patrick, the first female Director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), have paved the way for women in law enforcement. These women are role models whose success encourages today’s young girls to pursue their dreams. They are also outstanding leaders, pure and simple.
DHS is proud to have so many remarkable women serving across the Department, including Kirstin Grote, Marcy Donnelly and Harleen Singh, three individuals featured as part of our Faces of Homeland Security. We recognize those who serve on the frontlines to ensure our Nation’s borders are secure, our traveling public is safe, and our cyber infrastructure is protected.
And through the work of the Blue Campaign, DHS’ unified voice to combat human trafficking; the DHS Council on Combating Violence Against Women; the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’s (FLETC) international Women in Law Enforcement Leadership Training Program; and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) immigration relief for victims of crimes, as well as many others, DHS provides resources for the safety and empowerment of women and girls throughout the United States.
I am proud to serve alongside so many remarkable women from across DHS, and to continue our work for the protection and security of women and girls every day.
Last week, I joined the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC) to announce an important milestone in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) engagement with the academic community – the renewal of the Council’s charter by Secretary Jeh Johnson. Comprised of 23 university presidents and academic leaders from across the nation, the Council has delivered over 80 recommendations on issues related to homeland security and the academic community since March 2012.
DHS is acting on many of the Council’s recommendations, such as enhancing the Department’s engagement with the international student community, taking steps to improve college and university emergency preparedness, and increasing outreach to students, faculty and schools.
DHS has also embarked on several initiatives to develop the next generation of homeland security leaders. In December, we announced the expansion of the Secretary’s Honors Program Cyber Student Volunteer Initiative, a program that provides 2-year and 4-year college students with assignments that support DHS’s cyber mission. This year, the initiative received almost 1700 applicants for over 110 volunteer assignments at local DHS field offices at more than 60 locations across the country.
To develop the initiative, Secretary Johnson, along with National Protection and Programs Directorate Deputy Under Secretary for Cybersecurity Dr. Phyllis Schneck have already begun visiting college campuses to continue developing the next generation of cybersecurity workforce leaders. Secretary Johnson and Deputy Under Secretary Schneck have visited Georgia Tech and Morehouse College to meet with students. These meetings are the latest step in DHS’s ongoing efforts to attract the best and brightest cyber talent to support the Department’s important cybersecurity mission.
In the coming year, we look forward to building upon these numerous accomplishments and expanding our work with the Council under the leadership of its new Chair, Dr. R. Bowen Loftin, Chancellor of the University of Missouri. We are also honored to welcome David Esquith, David Adams, and Ed Ramotowski to the Council, who will serve as ex-officio members representing the Departments of Education, Justice and State, respectively. Their combined expertise will help DHS look at new and innovative ways of working with our partners in the government and throughout the private sector on these important issues.
DHS is proud to work with these leaders and is committed to building a strong and lasting relationship with the academic community. Learn more about the HSAAC here.
Secretary Johnson addresses the International Association of Fire Fighters. Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Augustino, IAFF.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson spoke at the International Association of Fire Fighters's (IAFF) Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this week. During his remarks, the Secretary highlighted the critical partnership between DHS and first responders – fire fighters and emergency medical personnel – across the nation in accomplishing a wide range of homeland security missions.
Secretary Johnson discussed DHS’s ongoing commitment to working with the IAFF to provide critical support for fire departments and fire houses across the nation through the Department’s grant programs. This support comes through the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants that help fire departments maintain or increase front-line staffing and the Assistance to Firefighters Grants which help fire fighters and first responders obtain the equipment, protective gear, vehicles, training, and other resources needed to protect communities against fire and fire-related hazards. DHS will award more than $600 million in fire fighter grants this year.
Secretary Johnson speaks to International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger. Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Augustino, IAFF.
Fire fighters are often the first ones on the scene of an incident. Whether it is a terrorist attack like the Boston Marathon bombing or a major storm like Hurricane Sandy, fire fighters understand the importance of prevention and mitigation, and planning and collaboration, ahead of disasters and emergencies.
DHS is proud to support these important partners - IAFF, fire departments, and fire fighters across the nation- as they work to keep our communities safe and secure.
Yesterday, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas addressed the National League of Cities 2014 Congressional City Conference. During his remarks, Deputy Secretary Mayorkas underscored the Department’s important collaboration with communities across the nation.
DHS continues to work with our local partners – mayors, councilors, and aldermen -- on a wide range of homeland security priorities, including counterterrorism, commonsense immigration reform, cybersecurity and human trafficking.
At the conference, Deputy Secretary Mayorkas announced a new partnership agreement between DHS and the National League of Cities to work together to combat human trafficking. Through this partnership with the DHS Blue Campaign, DHS will work with the NLC to provide web-based training to its members and public awareness materials with both the Blue Campaign and National League of Cities logos. We hope to spread the Blue Campaign’s message to as many cities as we can, to help the victims of this heinous crime.
Collaboration with our local, state, tribal, and territorial partners is key to executing our homeland security mission. As Deputy Secretary Mayorkas indicated yesterday, as our Department and its mission evolves, we will continue to work closely together with leaders from the National League of Cities, and from cities and communities across this Nation.
It gives us great pleasure to announce a new leadership team within the National Protection and Programs Directorate’s (NPPD) Office of Cybersecurity and Communications (CS&C) that will build upon our accomplishments and help move us further forward in our efforts to strengthen the resilience of critical networks and protect the systems we all rely on.
Dr. Andy Ozment will be joining us as the new Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications, to lead our strong team at CS&C. He brings to this position a wide breadth of experience in cybersecurity as a programmer, operator, researcher and policymaker. In addition to his recent role as Senior Director for Cybersecurity at the White House, Dr. Ozment has previously served in operational and policy roles at both DHS and the Department of Defense. At the White House, Dr. Ozment worked for the Cybersecurity Coordinator, Michael Daniel, and most recently led the development and implementation of Executive Order 13636 on Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity; this work resulted in improved information sharing, the development of the Cybersecurity Framework, and the establishment of the Critical Infrastructure Cyber Community C³ Voluntary Program.
Also joining our team at CS&C is retired Air Force Brigadier General Gregory J. Touhill who will serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Operations and Programs. General Touhill has extensive experience in management, including with large, complex acquisitions, and will focus on the development and implementation of operational programs designed to protect our government networks and the critical systems that run our power plants and utilities, such as the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program and our 24X7 National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. General Touhill retired from the U.S. Air Force in July 2013 after a distinguished 30-year career that culminated as the Chief Information Officer and Director of Command, Control, Communications, and Cyber Systems at the United States Transportation Command.
Anchoring this team is Bobbie Stempfley, who has done a superb job serving as Acting Assistant Secretary, in addition to fulfilling her duties as Deputy Assistant Secretary. Stempfley will assume a new role as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Strategy and Emergency Communications, overseeing emergency communications, developing and implementing strategy and policy efforts, as well as focusing on building on our partnerships with the public and private sectors, and the general public. Stempfley has been an integral part of our team over the past several months and we are excited that she is taking on this new responsibility.
Together, they will work as a team at the direction of the Deputy Under Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications. As we continue to grow and build on our existing cybersecurity team, we look forward to furthering our efforts in cybersecurity and communications as key elements of our overarching mission to strengthen the security and resilience of our nation’s critical infrastructure.
Today, Secretary Jeh Johnson announced the designation of Chile into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) during an event held at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. Secretary Johnson was joined by Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom, Chilean Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno and Chilean Ambassador Felipe Bulnes for the announcement.
Chile’s participation in the VWP will streamline travel for thousands of eligible Chilean passport holders, while maintaining strong security standards. Starting May 1, 2014, eligible Chilean passport holders with both an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and an e-passport will be able to visit the United States without nonimmigrant visitor visas.
Today’s announcement marks the 38th participant in the VWP—which permits visa-free travel to the United States for eligible travelers visiting the United States for 90 days or fewer for business or tourism.
Read more about today’s announcement here.
This morning, Secretary Jeh Johnson and Colombian Minister of Foreign Relations Maria Angela Holguin signed a Joint Statement between the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Combating Trafficking in Persons.
The Joint Statement outlines shared principals with respect to regional security, economic integrity, and liberty for all persons, as well as both countries’ intention to continue collaboration against trafficking by increasing joint law enforcement efforts against criminals engaged in these activities.
Additionally, the Joint Statement underscores the importance of regional partnership, sharing existing resources and best practices, and working collaboratively to strengthen support infrastructures.
Today’s signing further demonstrates our commitment to combating human trafficking and eliminate this terrible scourge. Learn more about the Department’s engagement with our international partners here.
Starting this week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working on a cooperative effort with the Center for Internet Security (CIS) Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC) to provide state-of-the-art managed security services to states and territories in conjunction with their adoption of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework.
The effort is part of DHS’s Critical Infrastructure Cyber Community (C3) Voluntary Program, which serves as the coordination point within the federal government to leverage and enhance existing capabilities and resources to promote the adoption the Cybersecurity Framework. As part of this agreement, the MS-ISAC will provide Managed Security Services (MSS), including intrusion detection, intrusion prevention, netflow analysis and firewall monitoring to states and territories—free of charge.
Adopting the Cybersecurity Framework is key to keeping networks and information systems secure. DHS is working with our state and territorial partners to make sure they are aware of the services and tools available to them. We remain committed to strengthening the resilience of critical networks, and to enabling our state and local governments to protect the public from evolving cyber threats.
The adoption of the framework will encourage longer-term risk-based planning and better security overall – this is a win-win and we are excited to be able to provide such tactical assistance to our state and territorial stakeholders.
This is just one of many steps we are taking to further our collaboration with partners across the country on this important issue. Moving forward, DHS and the MS-ISAC will seek feedback and requirements from the states and territories and tailor technical assistance and best practice documents to meet their needs.