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December 22, 2014
7:06 am

-Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Strategy and Emergency Communications Bobbie Stempfley

With the holiday season in full swing, many Americans are doing last minute shopping or heading to see family and friends. As the same time, the holiday travel season is a peak period for hackers and thieves to prey on unsuspecting travelers.  Vigilance is the key to protecting yourself from identity theft when shopping and traveling.

Identity theft continues to top the Federal Trade Commission’s national ranking of consumer complaints, with American consumers reporting a loss of over $1.6 billion to fraud in 2013. It’s a problem that has been made worse in recent years by the use of unsecured wireless networks at hotels, airports, and other public places, and the infiltration of smartphones through Bluetooth technology.

The Stop.Think.Connect. campaign has some simple tips for you to help protect yourself and your personal information while traveling:

  • Password-protect your devices. Everyone tends to be very busy during the holidays and moving a mile a minute. If you put your phone down even for a moment, you give thieves potential access to all of your phone’s sensitive information such as photos, passwords, files, and more. By password-protecting your device, if it falls into the wrong hands, it will be harder for a thief to access your information.
  • Downplay your laptop or smartphone. There’s no need to advertise to thieves that you received a new laptop or smartphone as a present. In public, keep your device close to your body and consider non-traditional bags for carrying your laptop.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. If you do use your mobile device in a public area, pay attention to the people around you. Take precautions to shield yourself from "shoulder surfers" (i.e., make sure that no one can see you type your passwords or see any sensitive information on your screen).
  • Turn Bluetooth off. Cyber criminals have the capability to pair their Bluetooth device with yours to steal personal information. Check your settings to ensure your Bluetooth is turned off when you do not need to use it.
  • Be wary of public Wi-Fi networks. Only connect to secure networks, and only use those that ask for a network security key. Checking email or financial accounts or online shopping over an unsecure network provides an easy gateway for hackers to access your information. Also, read the privacy statement to see what that network provider may be collecting from your computer.
  • Back up your files. If your portable device is stolen, it’s bad enough that someone else may be able to access your information. In addition, no one wants to lose their holiday vacation pictures or family videos. To avoid losing all of the information on your device, be sure to make a backup of important information and store the backup in a secure location.

Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and each of us has a role to play. For more tips on how to stay safe this holiday season, visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.

December 19, 2014
11:14 am

-Acting Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs Dr. Kathryn Brinsfield

An important part of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) mission is strengthening national preparedness and resilience, including against potential chemical incidents whether they are accidental or by malicious intent. The effects of chemical incidents, such as the explosion in West, Texas or the chemical spill in West Virginia can be devastating.

That is why the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Health Affairs (OHA) Chemical Defense Program, partnered with Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and a working group comprised of various partners to research and write “Patient Decontamination in a Mass Chemical Exposure Incident: National Planning Guidance for Communities.” Compiled from evidence-based information, the document focuses on providing options for responses to events like chemical release and mass casualties.

This guidance is intended to support state and local civilian first responders and health care receivers, along with emergency managers, public health practitioners, law enforcement officials, and risk communications experts who are the nation’s first line of defense, and must be prepared to respond to potential chemical incidents.

Developed specifically for local communities, the document provides guidance as a tool to be added to the local planner’s toolkit. Providing evidence-based guidance and lessons learned before an incident occurs minimizes catastrophic effects and allows for information sharing between departments in order to enhance preparedness and improve response plans for these types of events.

During the development of this guidance, the Mass Human Chemical Decontamination Working Group (a federal interagency, working group of experts) identified three categories to address:

  1. risk assessment and decision making
  2. decontamination process and procedure                
  3. evaluation of results and patient follow-up

The working group developed this national planning guidance with the advice of a larger group of federal and non-federal subject matter experts in emergency response, emergency medicine, toxicology, risk communication, behavioral health and other relevant fields.

The working group was established at the request of the White House National Security Council and co-chaired by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Health Affairs (OHA).

The approach in this guidance is flexible and scalable according to the resource and capability limitations of the community.  The recommendations should be adapted as each unique community sees fit according to their own hazard and risk assessment.  Examples of how this guidance might be used include:

  • Planners:  incorporate current evidence-based recommendations during development or revision of an organization’s response plans.
  • Community leaders, public health officials:  enhance system-wide coordination and develop plans for communicating with patients and the whole community.
  • Trainers:  develop, improve, or augment training of response personnel for patient decontamination operations, using current evidence-based recommendations.
  • Emergency managers:  generate policy and plans to address issues related to system-wide coordination, the whole community response, and crisis and risk communications, as well as other overarching issues.
  • Hospital emergency managers:  incorporate evidence-based recommendations into the hospital response plan and training program addressing the hospital’s unique challenges, and enhance coordination of the hospital response with those of the rest of the community through effective interagency planning and communication.
  • Researchers:  identify knowledge gaps and conduct research to investigate them.

For more information, visit: http://www.dhs.gov/office-health-affairs.

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December 10, 2014
4:20 pm

Yesterday, I joined my colleagues from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) to host our third Industry Day to engage the private sector on the challenges and opportunities associated with radiological and nuclear detection capabilities. This event is part of our continuous efforts to pursue improvements in the deployed, multi-layered capabilities to detect and report attempts to smuggle nuclear and other radioactive materials into the United States. The forum also provided an opportunity for industry to engage in dialogue and network with colleagues and counterparts in the business with whom they can explore mutually beneficial cooperative efforts.

Attendees from the private sector, academia, national laboratories, and government partner organizations were briefed on DNDO’s role in implementing domestic nuclear detection capabilities, and how the private sector can improve operational and technical performance of capabilities. The event featured plenary sessions facilitated by experts on topics such as long-term research and development goals, radiation sensor standards, test efforts, and market characteristics.

Participants also had the unique opportunity to hear from a panel of law enforcement operators who use nuclear detection technology. The panelists, consisting of members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, provided their insight on their diverse operational needs and use of radiation sensors. 

Above all, the day served as an opportunity to enhance collaboration through dialogue and the exchange of ideas and information. Through a series of breakout sessions, we had the opportunity to discuss in-depth with participants about technical challenges and emerging developments in detection. We also heard from stakeholders on DNDO’s industry engagement process, which was established as a result of feedback from a previous Industry Day. DNDO has conducted over fifty industry engagement sessions since implementing this process in June 2013.

This week’s event demonstrates DHS’s commitment to connect with the private sector to advance national nuclear security capabilities. I encourage industry to learn more about business opportunities and DNDO’s industry engagement process at http://www.dhs.gov/doing-business-dndo.   

December 1, 2014
5:18 pm

On Monday, November 24 TSA Administrator John Pistole and I visited our TSA officers at Reagan National Airport to thank them in advance for the busy Thanksgiving weekend they were about to face.  Anyone who traveled by air this past weekend knows the last few days are the busiest and most demanding of the year for TSA personnel, many of whom must work on Thanksgiving Day itself.  We owe these men and women a debt of thanks for continuing to safeguard aviation security during the Holiday season.

Secretary Johnson speaks with TSA officers at Reagan National Airport.

 

 

November 26, 2014
7:08 am

According to the National Retail Federation, 141 million people spent $57.4 billion dollars during Thanksgiving weekend last year, and consumers spent nearly $600 billion during the 2013 holiday season. The biggest shopping season of the year comes with great deals and benefits to shoppers, but it also comes with certain risks. While 80 percent of annual online sales occur between Black Friday and the weekend before Christmas, those four weeks are also the biggest weeks for online spammers and scammers. With the holiday season quickly approaching, the best gift you can give yourself and your family is the gift of online security.

The following tips can help you protect your personal information when shopping online:

  • Use and maintain anti-virus software and a firewall. Protect yourself against viruses and Trojan horses that may steal or modify the data on your computer and leave you vulnerable.
  • Evaluate your software's settings. The default settings for most software enable all available functionality, possibly leaving room for an attacker to access your computer remotely. Check the settings for all software, and especially those programs that connect to the Internet (browsers, email clients, mobile applications, etc.). Apply the highest level of security available that still gives you the functionality you need.
  • Shop on reliable websites. Take a look at the website’s trademark or logo to make sure it’s valid. Also, pay attention to the website’s URL. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate website, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).
  • Protect your personal information. Take the time to check a website's privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there is no policy cited, this could be a red flag that your personal information may be sold without your permission.
  • Beware of deals that sound too good to be true. Use caution when opening email attachments and don’t follow web links included in unsolicited email messages. Watch out for extremely low prices on hard-to-get holiday items. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Look for the lock. When shopping online, check the lower-right corner of your screen for the padlock symbol and make sure the website address begins with “https://” before entering your shipping, billing, or payment information. This symbol means that you’re using a website that is secure and which encrypts the data you send or receive.
  • Keep a record of your order. Retain all documentation of your online orders in the event that your purchase does not ship or there are unauthorized charges on your credit or debit card. Also, be sure to review your credit card statement each month for irregularities.
  • Get savvy about WiFi hotspots. Limit the type of business you conduct when using public Wi-Fi networks. Avoid shopping online when using public Wi-Fi as your information can easily be accessed by hackers on a public network.

If you think you have become a victim of identity theft, file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can also report online fraud to the Federal Trade Commission and file a report with the Department of Justice.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect.™ campaign encourages everyone to be vigilant about daily Internet use. The campaign’s objective is to increase the public’s understanding of cyber threats and empower them to be safer and more secure online. For more information, please visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.

November 20, 2014
6:09 pm

The Department of Homeland Security is committed to preserving strong nation-to-nation relationships with the 566 federally recognized tribes in the United States. During the month of November, the Nation recognizes the contributions of Native Alaskans and American Indians. Therefore, there is no better time to share some of the efforts of the Department’s tribal affairs personnel. The work of the Department’s tribal liaisons continues to strengthen these relationships, and are a vital supplement to DHS’s efforts in consulting and collaborating with Indian tribes as sovereign nations.

DHS had a significant presence at the National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) 71st Annual Conference that took place October 26th – 31st. During the conference, senior leadership from numerous DHS components met with tribal leaders and staff, where they shared priorities and programs with the tribes and participated in a homeland security discussion with tribal leaders from across the country. The discussion covered border crossing, subsistence food security, transportation security, tribal homeland security grant funding, Operation Stonegarden, and tribal identification.

Some highlights:

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supported NCAI’s emergency management discussion group and shared an overview of the Stafford Act emergency and major disaster declaration request process. FEMA discussed its newly implemented tribal consultation policy and distributed a new tribal resource titled FEMA and Tribal Nations: A Pocket Guide, which provides tribes with a reference guide to several federal disaster assistance programs and key points-of-contact.
     
  • The Transportation Security Administration addressed tribal leaders of the Human, Religious and Cultural Concerns Subcommittee on security screening of cultural objects, cultural training, and tribal language access.
     
  • Together, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection discussed border security, tribal law enforcement interests, tribal-department agreements, economic security, and treaty rights.
     
  • Tribal leaders engaged in a robust dialogue and shared stories of collaborative anti-human trafficking efforts between Indian Country and the DHS Blue Campaign.

These efforts are a great supplement to DHS’s nation-to-nation collaboration with our tribal government partners and we look forward to continuing these relationships in the future.

To learn more about DHS’s engagement with our tribal partners, I encourage you to visit http://www.dhs.gov/about-office-intergovernmental-affairs-iga

November 18, 2014
2:56 pm

Last Friday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Blue Campaign hosted its semi-annual stakeholder engagement event, bringing together federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and private industry partners to discuss labor trafficking and identify opportunities to further collaboration in our joint anti-human trafficking efforts.

Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas delivered keynote remarks, during which he highlighted the commitment of the Department’s leadership to combat human trafficking in all forms. The event also featured a panel discussion with labor trafficking experts from across the Federal government, including DHS, the Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This diverse set of experts fostered a unique audience engagement that specifically addressed efforts to combat labor trafficking and allowed stakeholders to listen and learn from one another.

The stakeholder event focused specifically on the issue of labor trafficking. Labor trafficking, also known as involuntary servitude or forced labor, is an often overlooked form of human trafficking because it is difficult to discover and prosecute. Labor trafficking may result when unscrupulous employers exploit workers made more vulnerable by poverty, immigration status, crime, discrimination or corruption. It can happen in any industry, but occurs especially in low-skilled labor, like agricultural work, or occupations hidden from public view such as domestic service.

As the unified voice for the Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking, the Blue Campaign works together with our federal partners to recognize and combat human trafficking within the United States and around the world. Last week’s event highlighted the importance of continued partnerships between DHS and our stakeholders to enhance our individual and collective abilities to identify and support victims, investigate cases, and bring those who commit and enable the heinous crime of labor trafficking to justice. Our work is far from over, and we remain committed to ending this heinous crime.

I encourage you to visit www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign to learn more, get involved, and join us in the fight against human trafficking.

Maria Odom is the Chairperson of the DHS Blue Campaign.

November 12, 2014
2:05 pm

(The author, Roberta Stempfley, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Strategy and Emergency Communications, National Protection and Programs Directorate.)

Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the first updated National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) since the original in 2008. The NECP is the Nation’s over-arching strategic plan for enhancing emergency communications capabilities and interoperability nationwide. The updated NECP addresses the increasingly complex communications landscape that the public safety community uses to keep America safe and secure. The plan provides a roadmap for improving emergency communications for traditional emergency responder disciplines such as law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services, while recognizing the importance of engaging non-traditional disciplines including public health, public works and transportation agencies.

The 2014 NECP focuses on three priorities over the next several years: (1) Maintain and improve emergency responders’ current Land Mobile Radio systems; (2) Ensure emergency responders and government officials plan and prepare for the adoption, migration, and use of broadband technologies, including the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network; and (3) Enhance coordination among stakeholders, specifically within processes and planning activities across the emergency response community.

As we have seen from the response to various emergencies and incidents maintaining interoperable emergency communications is critical to saving lives. In the case of the Boston Marathon bombings, emergency response efforts, which spanned federal, state, local, public works and private industries, relied upon communications via traditional public safety radios, as well as social media, emergency alert systems, and commercial wireline and wireless networks.  The 2014 NECP recognizes that many of today’s technologies did not exist in 2008. This plan incorporates traditional and non-traditional communications methods including methods that allow first responders and public safety officials to better share information and enhance situational awareness.    

The updated NECP was developed in coordination with over 350 federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial partners, as well as private sector stakeholders. While the technologies have changed and will continue to evolve, one thing remains the same – the public safety community requires the ability to communicate in any situation. The Department remains committed to working with our stakeholders as we implement the new plan and forge a path ahead for the next generation of emergency communications.

November 11, 2014
5:35 pm

On Tuesday, November 11, 2014 we celebrate Veterans Day.  
 

From the establishment of Armistice Day on November 11, 1918 by President Wilson to the proclamation of Veterans Day by President Eisenhower in 1954, it has been a tradition to pay tribute to our Veterans’ valor, strength of character, and willingness to put their lives on the line to defend us all.  It is also a time to remember those who gave their lives for the Nation.

We thank all who have worn the uniform and those now serving at home and abroad for all that they have risked and done.

We honor the more than 41,000 active duty members and 8,000 reservists of the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as civilian veteran employees who may be no farther away than a neighboring office or cubicle. The more than 54,000 veteran employees of DHS greatly enrich our workforce as they continue to defend our Nation through our department’s homeland security mission.

This afternoon, I was privileged to participate in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Veterans Day Wreath Laying at Arlington National Ceremony with the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard to recognize the contributions of my colleagues who have stood watch in sentry, over our Nation’s maritime borders and has come to the aid of people in distress. The Coast Guard has defended our freedoms abroad during wartime, as a lifeline in some of the most significant disasters our country has ever experienced.
 
Last month at the Secretary’s Awards Ceremony, Deputy Secretary Mayorkas and I were pleased to present the DHS Veterans Employment Coordinators Team with the Secretary’s Award for Excellence, for significantly enhancing Veterans’ hiring across the Department of Homeland Security, and for being recognized as leaders in this effort across the entire Federal government.

Every veteran of this great country is a reminder that the freedom we enjoy has been secured and preserved by the courage and sacrifice of American heroes and American patriots.
 
We will never take for granted our veterans and their families, for what they’ve done and continue to do for this country.

Some people believe the age of heroes has passed. Not so. Whether you are viewing a parade, thanking a Veteran for his or her service, or participating in commemorative activities through your component, I encourage you to observe this Veterans Day by keeping faith with heroes who have kept this Nation safe and free. 

November 10, 2014
4:07 pm

Last week, the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman's Office hosted its fourth annual conference at the National Archives in Washington D.C., bringing together nearly 300 participants from across the country to discuss the delivery of immigration benefits and services by USCIS.

In keynote remarks, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson shared about the importance of American values – including immigration and diversity. Secretary Johnson said, “We all must work together towards the shared goal of a stronger, more effective, and more just immigration system.”

Over the past year, the Ombudsman’s Office has worked with USCIS and the immigration stakeholder community towards this goal through our individual case assistance as well as policy recommendations informed by casework and robust engagement with the stakeholder community. This past year, we worked to resolve over 6,100 cases –30% more than we received in the prior year.  People continue to learn about our office and come to us to resolve case problems, which is at the core of our mission.

USCIS has been busy this year as well – during the morning session, Director Rodriguez discussed USCIS efforts supporting family unity by issuing guidance providing parole in place for spouses, children and parents of active members of the U.S. Armed Forces and providing guidance on the Provisional Waiver program.  USCIS reinvigorated the Immigrant Investor Program, which is seeing unprecedented interest, and creating more U.S. jobs than ever. USCIS also rolled out the first renewal process for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), allowing individuals previously enrolled in DACA, to renew their deferral for a period of two years.

There are other opportunities  for USCIS to address policy questions, improve customer service, and advance its Transformation effort to move the agency from a paper-based application and adjudication process to an electronic one.  Many of these challenges were discussed during the day’s breakout sessions.

If you weren’t able to join us in person, you can watch the conference’s morning session to hear from Secretary Johnson, Director Rodriguez, and IRS Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen. For more information about the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, visit here.

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