This week, ICE led the largest street gang take-down in New York City history, totaling more than 120 members and associates of two rival gangs operating in the Bronx. Official photo by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Secretary Jeh Johnson enjoyed lunch in the mess at @westpoint_usma, where he dined with current cadets and learned more about their training as the next generation of our nation’s leaders. Secretary Johnson was on campus to deliver remarks at the Second Annual Joint Service Academy Cyber Security Summit.
The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office’s (DNDO) efforts in nuclear forensics and detection were highlighted at the fourth Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. from March 31 to April 1, 2016. The Nuclear Security Summit has focused international efforts to address nuclear terrorism since it was launched by President Obama in 2010.
In support of the 2016 Summit, DNDO led the development of two nuclear forensics contributions, commonly known as “house gifts,” which are a nation’s accomplishments since the previous Summit. These house gifts provide a means for further collaboration with international partners.
The first house gift was a fact sheet on certified reference materials, which are used to verify the accuracy of nuclear forensics conclusions. DNDO is working with the interagency to develop these materials and make them available to the international community. Nuclear forensics helps a nation to determine the origin of interdicted nuclear and radiological material and hold responsible parties accountable.
The second was a model that can be used for communicating with the public in a timely and effective manner during a nuclear security incident as well as in the day-to-day environment.
Additionally, we worked with other countries on a pair of nuclear security commitments made jointly by multiple international partners. The first commitment is to combat illicit trafficking and malevolent use of nuclear and other radioactive material by developing a framework, or architecture, for detecting, analyzing, and reporting on material that is outside of regulatory control. This is the first time ministers and heads of state formally endorsed efforts to develop and implement national-level nuclear security detection architectures.
The second commitment is to present the Illicit Trafficking Radiation Program report to the international community. This program was a joint U.S.-European Union effort to evaluate nuclear detection technologies against common performance goals. This report will allow international partners to better understand the performance of commercially available detectors, harmonize standards, and encourage industry to advance technology.
DNDO will continue to support international efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism after this Nuclear Security Summit through participation in international fora such as the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as through bilateral engagements with partner nations. These efforts help protect the Homeland against the threat of nuclear terrorism.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK: On November 1, 1979, a U.S. Coast Guard crew lifted off as Rescue 1426 responding to the deadly collision of a freighter and tanker in the Gulf of Mexico and saved 22 lives. The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum yesterday unveiled the HH-52A as the first U.S. Coast Guard aircraft in their collection, a high honor to Coasties past present and future.
Official DHS Photo by Matt Harmon | Download High-Resolution Image (2048 x 1365)
Tax season is prime time for cyber crime. As millions of Americans file their taxes online, cyber criminals may look to steal your personal information and cash in on your tax refund. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning Americans that they have already seen a 400% surge in tax-related phishing and malware incidents this season.
Unfortunately, filing a fraudulent tax return online is easier than you might think. Cyber criminals only need a name, date of birth, and a Social Security number. Online thieves will find creative ways to steal this information from you and find ways to break into your devices or accounts to steal your online life, including phishing scams.
As always, be on the lookout for unsolicited emails, texts, and social media posts that ask you to share valuable personal and financial information. Some of these may be from people claiming to be IRS agents. Armed with your personal information, online thieves can access your sensitive accounts or commit identity theft.
The Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign encourages all Americans to take these steps to protect yourself from tax fraud:
- Don’t give out your personal information, unless it is to an established, trusted entity.
- Look out for phony messages or websites claiming to be from the IRS or tax preparation services. These websites can look quite legitimate so do your due diligence in spotting a fake.
- Beware of promises offering “free money” from inflated refunds.
- Back up your data and store your electronic tax files securely.
- Only share personal information over a secured network.
If you have been a victim of identity theft in general, report such incidents to the Federal Trade Commission at www.IdentityTheft.gov.
The IRS offers tips for filing taxes online; visit IRS.gov/Filing to learn more.
Visit the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign to find resources for how to stay safe online at www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Horses have been an integral part of the U.S. Border Patrol since the 1920s. Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas spent a day in the life of the Rio Grande Valley Sector’s Horse Patrol Unit, seeing firsthand how our talented horse patrol agents keep our border secure.
Official DHS photo by U.S. Border Patrol RGV Sector Field Communications Branch | Download High-Resolution Image (640 x 494)
At DHS, we’ve recently observed an increase in ransomware attacks across the country. Ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware, designed to block access to a computer system until a ransom is paid. Ransomware is typically spread through phishing emails or by unknowingly visiting an infected website.
Criminals may try to persuade you to inadvertently download ransomware, which would then infect your computer. For example, if you’re visiting a website, you may see a message like, “Your computer has been infected with a virus. Click here to resolve the issue.” In these cases, the computer has not yet been infected with ransomware, but clicking the link downloads the ransomware onto your computer.
After you download ransomware, a pop-up message will appear on your computer screen alerting you that your computer has been locked and that your files have been encrypted. Ransomware messages typically say something like, “Your computer was used to visit websites with illegal content. To unlock your computer, you must pay a $100 fine.” Or, “All files on your computer have been encrypted. You must pay $500 within 72 hours to regain access to your data.”
Ransomware can be devastating to an individual or an organization. Anyone with important data stored on their computer or network is at risk, including government or law enforcement agencies, healthcare systems or other critical infrastructure entities. Recovery can be a difficult process that may require the services of a reputable data recovery specialist, and some victims pay to recover their files. There is no guarantee that your files will be recovered if you pay the ransom.
The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) released an alert last week with precautions organizations can take to protect against the threat of ransomware. These include:
- Employ a data backup and recovery plan for all critical information and back up your data on a regular basis. Ideally, this data should be kept on a separate device and should be stored offline.
- Update software and operating systems with the latest patches. Out of date applications and operating systems are the target of most attacks. Keeping them up to date greatly reduces the number of exploitable entry points available to an attacker.
- Restrict users’ ability (permissions) to install and run software applications, and apply the principle of “least privilege” to all systems and services. Restricting these privileges may prevent malware from running or limit its capability to spread through your network.
- Remind employees to never click unsolicited links in emails.
- Follow safe practices when browsing the Internet. Read Good Security Habits and Safeguarding Your Data for additional details.
More precautions and technical information is available in the alert from US-CERT.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK: Secretary Johnson received an operational briefing on passenger and carryon screening this week while meeting with TSA employees at LAX. Thank you TSA for all of your diligence and hard work that keeps us safe!
Official DHS Photo | Download High-Resolution Image (1200 x 1500)
By Megan Mack, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Rev. David L. Myers, Director of the DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships
Today the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), along with eight other federal agencies, published a final rule that will provide new religious liberty protections for beneficiaries of federally funded social service programs, while also adding new protections for the ability of religious providers to compete for government funds on the same basis as any other private organization. The Department is proud to now have a final rule in place that provides clear guidance to the organizations that participate in our social service programs, and protects beneficiaries of these vital programs:
- USCIS Citizenship and Integration Program Grant: helps prepare individuals for naturalization exams and integrating into communities.
- FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program: funds the provision of food and shelter to individuals and families who have economic emergencies.
- FEMA Crisis Counseling: funded through the Stafford Act’s Individual Assistance Program, this program assists individuals recovering from the effects of disasters through the provision of emotional support, coping strategies, and stress reduction.
- FEMA Disaster Case Management: funded through the Stafford Act’s Individual Assistance Program, this program provides funding and technical assistance to ensure delivery of services to disaster survivors to help them develop and carry out Disaster Recovery Plans.
For instance, if a faith-based organization receives funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and provides disaster case management to a beneficiary, beneficiaries must be notified in writing that they: cannot be discriminated against based on religion; cannot be required to attend or participate in any privately funded religious activities that are offered separate from this federally funded program; and may request an alternative provider if the beneficiary objects to the religious character of the organization. At the same time, the regulations require that all decisions about DHS’s financial assistance be based solely on merit, without regard to an organization’s religious affiliation or lack thereof. The regulations—which are being published after public notice and comment—formally implement Executive Order 13559, Principles and Policymaking Criteria for Partnerships with Faith-Based and Other Neighborhood Organizations (which amends Executive Order 13279).
“These regulations build on widespread agreement that we can and should do more to protect the religious liberty of beneficiaries and provide greater clarity and transparency about applicable church-state rules,” said Melissa Rogers, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “These reforms will strengthen partnerships that serve people in need, and we commend the agencies for working together to issue these final regulations.”
The final regulations:
- Require DHS to ensure that all decisions about Federal financial assistance are based solely on merit, without regard to an organization’s religious affiliation or lack thereof, and free from political interference, or the appearance of such interference.
- Make clear that faith-based organizations are eligible to participate in DHS’s social service programs on the same basis as any other private organization.
- Clarify what activities can and cannot be supported with direct DHS financial assistance by replacing use of the term “inherently religious activities” with the term “explicitly religious activities” and providing examples of such activities.
- Prohibit organizations that receive DHS financial assistance for domestic social service programs from discriminating against beneficiaries, including denying services or benefits, based on religion, a religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to attend or participate in a religious practice.
- Require faith-based organizations that receive direct DHS financial assistance to provide written notice of certain protections to beneficiaries of the program.
Specifically, an organization that receives direct DHS financial assistance is required (unless the service provided or an exigent circumstance makes it impracticable) to give notice to beneficiaries that—
- The organization may not discriminate against a beneficiary based on religion, a religious belief, a refusal to hold a religious belief, or a refusal to attend or participate in a religious practice;
- The organization may not require a beneficiary to attend or participate in any explicitly religious activities that are offered by the organization, and any participation by the beneficiaries in those activities must be purely voluntary;
- The organization must separate in time or location any privately funded explicitly religious activities from activities supported by direct DHS financial assistance;
- If a beneficiary or prospective beneficiary objects to the religious character of the organization, the organization will undertake reasonable efforts to identify and refer the beneficiary to an alternative provider to which the beneficiary does not object; and
- A beneficiary or prospective beneficiary may report violations of these protections, including any denials of services or benefits, to DHS or an intermediary administering the program.
While these regulations become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, recipients of DHS financial assistance have until 90 days after publication in the Federal Register to satisfy the new obligations in the final regulations. For more information, read the final rule.