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).
- 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 Wi‐Fi 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.
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.
- 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
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.
(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.
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.
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.
Posted by U.S. Secret Service Assistant Director Paul Morrissey
While most people associate the U.S. Secret Service as the elite protective agency in the world, a lesser known fact is that we are at the forefront of combating cyber crime. Just recently, in October 2014, agents took Arthur Budovsky, the founder and current leader of Liberty Reserve, into custody from INTERPOL-Madrid. In July 2014, Secret Service agents apprehended Roman Seleznev, one of the most prolific traffickers of credit card data, after being expelled from the Maldives. In September 2013, Adrian-Tiberiu Oprea and Iulian Dolan, both from Romania, were sentenced in federal court for participating in a multi-million dollar conspiracy to hack U.S.-based merchants’ computer systems.
Cases like these highlight the importance of cross-jurisdictional partnerships in combating transnational cyber crime. This year marks the 30th anniversary of when the United States first specifically criminalized both unauthorized access to computers and access device fraud and explicitly assigned the Secret Service authority to investigate these crimes. The Secret Service has continuously innovated how it investigates cyber crimes to keep pace with technology and criminal’s efforts to exploit this technology. Fundamental to the approach is the collaboration with all stakeholders in investigating, detecting and preventing cyber crimes to minimize fraud losses and associated damages.
The Secret Service established an international network of Electronic Crimes Task Forces, to investigate sophisticated transnational cyber groups through the collaborative efforts of its private sector, academia and law enforcement partners. Through this model, partners benefit from the resources and expertise provided by the network while focusing on cyber crime issues with substantial economic impact.
Secret Service cyber crime investigations have resulted in the arrest and successful prosecution of cyber criminals involved in the largest known data breaches and ECTF investigations have resulted in the arrest and dismantling of large international criminal organizations as is exemplified in the Liberty Reserve investigation. This multi-year investigation identified Liberty Reserve as an international online payment processor, used by global cybercriminals to launder and distribute proceeds of financial crimes, hacking/carding networks, drug trafficking, securities fraud and child pornography. This successful investigation resulted in multiple arrests and the seizure of over $40 million in assets. Two weeks ago, DHS recognized these efforts and awarded Special Agent for the New York Electronic Crimes Task Force Tate Jarrow with the Secretary’s Exceptional Service Award.
As our financial payment system has evolved, so has our investigative mission. Today, our modern financial system depends heavily on information technology for convenience and efficiency. Accordingly, cyber criminals have adapted their methods to exploit our Nation’s financial payment systems to engage in illicit activities and the Secret Service continues to work to innovatively to effectively combat cyber crime that affects the American public.
Editor's Note: This was originally posted on Compass, the official blog of the U.S. Coast Guard, on November 5.
Posted by: LTJG Katie Braynard; Written by: PA2 Ann Marie Gorden
Mike Di Trani, command security officer at U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York, debriefs members of the Coast Guard Police Department, Maritime Safety and Security Team New York, Coast Guard Investigative Service, Sector New York and Coast Guard Auxiliary after the last group of runners cross the start line of the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon on Fort Wadsworth, Nov. 2, 2014. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ann Marie Gorden.
There are a few select events each year that allow foot traffic across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. More than 50,000 people from 130 countries got their chance to cross the bridge as they ran passed the start line of the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon.
Coast Guard Sector New York shares a unique history with the New York City Marathon in that the race pre-stages its runners at Fort Wadsworth, which is co-located with the Sector in Staten Island. For 18 years, the Coast Guard has been behind the scenes, working to produce a functioning event and ensuring that every aspect of the start of the race runs smoothly for the athletes, spectators, and volunteers.
The marathon brings approximately $340 million in economic impact to the city, making it the highest-grossing, single-day sporting event in New York. It draws more than 124,000 applicants, two million spectators and 2,000 volunteers. 185 charities were represented by more than 6,500 runners and the marathon alone raised more than $26.2 million for charitable causes.
With heightened risk, Fort Wadsworth was closed to visitors and the Coast Guard, U.S. Park Police, New York Police Department, Fire Department of New York City and the FBI amped up their security forces to maintain vigilance.
For the Coast Guard, the marathon isn’t just a one day event. Mike Di Trani, command security officer at Coast Guard Sector New York spent the last six months mapping out security detail.
Runners await at the start line of the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon Nov. 2, 2014. An estimated 55,000 runners from around the world began the race at the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island, the first stop on the marathon route through New York City’s five boroughs. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ann Marie Gorden.
“The Coast Guard has a huge part in this,” said Di Trani. “It’s the biggest land-based security operation in the Coast Guard.”
The day before the event, Di Trani was part of a small team that conducted a final security walk-through around each corral and assured every space was closed up to protect government property.
The language barrier challenges fluid communication amid the crowd of anxious runners on marathon day. Situational awareness is key.
Members from the Coast Guard Police Department, Maritime Safety and Security Team New York, Coast Guard Investigative Service, Sector New York and Coast Guard Auxiliarists were on hand to ensure the safety and security of the runners and those working the event.
The course crossed five bridges throughout New York City. The Coast Guard and NYPD provided water security for the bridges as well as escorts for the Staten Island Ferry.
Around 11 a.m., the last group of runners took off over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The Coast Guard spent the remainder of the day making sure Fort Wadsworth was safe to open back up to the public.
At a debrief, Coast Guard crews discussed what worked and how thing could be improved for 2015. The day’s success was a testament to the six months spent putting the safety and security plans in place.
Many people think of the word “infrastructure” and automatically think of a bridge or a road and then push it out of their minds and go about their daily life. But the reality is that our daily lives and the services we rely on are built upon a foundation of critical infrastructure that ranges from the power and water in our homes, to the banks and financial services we use and the transportation networks we travel. Critical infrastructure is what keeps our stores open, emergency services at the ready, and commerce flowing.
While we often take critical infrastructure for granted, it faces a number of constant and evolving threats, including severe weather, terrorism, and cyber attacks. Enhancing the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure requires a concerted national effort, which is why President Obama has again designated November as Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month. This is a nationwide effort, led by DHS, to raise awareness and reaffirm our commitment to keeping the Nation’s critical infrastructure secure and resilient.
It’s no coincidence that Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month comes on the heels of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, as much of the nation’s physical infrastructure is intertwined with cyber networks and systems. Safeguarding both the physical and cyber aspects of critical infrastructure is a national priority that requires cooperation at all levels of government and private industry. Managing risks to critical infrastructure involves preparing for all hazards, reinforcing the resilience of our assets and networks, and remaining vigilant and informed. This is a mission to which DHS is committed.
Whether it’s an individual or family thinking about how they prepare for a disruption of critical infrastructure, or a business or industry that needs to take steps to ensure the services they provide are resilient to disruptions, November is a time to remember how much we rely on our nation’s critical infrastructure and ensure that we are as robust as possible.
We all need to play a role in keeping infrastructure strong, secure, and resilient. We can do our part at home, at work, and in our communities by familiarizing ourselves with emergency plans, preparing for disruptions, incorporating basic cyber safety practices, and making sure that if we see something, we say something and report suspicious activities to the appropriate law enforcement.
I encourage you to join us in recognizing the importance of the critical infrastructure that underpins our society and to do your part to help keep it secure and resilient.
To learn more, visit www.dhs.gov/critical-infrastructure-security-and-resilience-month.
Dr. Huban Gowadia delivers remarks at the University of Tennessee.
Last week, I had the honor of speaking to faculty and students at the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Nuclear Security, a key university partner of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO). At DNDO, we are focused on preventing nuclear terrorism, and academia is critical in helping to build enhanced nuclear detection and forensics capabilities and developing the next generation of nuclear scientists that will help us make nuclear terrorism a prohibitively difficult undertaking.
At the lecture, I was joined by faculty and students from interdisciplinary backgrounds. I challenged students to begin thinking about the technical problems we face and to seek solutions with real world applications such as how we can improve enhanced wide area search capabilities; how we can ensure that detection equipment is both effective and affordable; and how we can best advance our already substantial capabilities in nuclear forensics to support rapid attribution of nuclear events. During the lively lecture, we discussed academia’s contributions to the development of enhanced capabilities to prevent nuclear terrorism.
In particular, the University of Tennessee is actively engaged in two of DNDO’s grant programs – the Academic Research Initiative and National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program.
The Academic Research Initiative invests in multi-year, leading-edge research at academic institutions in order to advance our detection and forensics capabilities. At the University of Tennessee, DNDO has funded research on improved detection of shielded highly-enriched uranium, and two projects to improve detector resolution while reducing the overall manufacturing costs.
The National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program is the U.S. Government’s comprehensive effort to grow and sustain the uniquely qualified technical expertise required to execute the Nation’s nuclear forensics mission. The University of Tennessee is one of 23 participating universities in the program, which supports over 300 undergraduate to post-doctoral students and faculty in nuclear and geochemical science specialties relevant to nuclear forensics. In fact, one University of Tennessee student is currently a graduate fellow in the program. Since the program’s inception, 21 new Ph.D. scientists have been added to the workforce.
DNDO remains committed to advancing our Nation’s nuclear detection and forensics capabilities and supporting a sustained nuclear expertise pipeline by leveraging the expertise of academic institutions like the University of Tennessee.
To learn more about opportunities involving the Academic Research Initiative, please visit http://www.dhs.gov/academic-research-initiative.
Information on student programs under the National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program is available for the following programs: