We believe the most important step to reduce or eliminate a threat is by taking a proactive approach to security. Being proactive means educating yourself to threats and vulnerabilities, learning how to reduce your risk and protect yourself, and having a good contingency plan. Security services can include protection for business meetings, out of town visitors, custodial protection/visitation, surveillance detection including covert/overt personal protection.
Additional security tips and information listed below.
Security Awareness Tips
Security awareness should be more than a term, it should be a phrase taught to your children and a way of living life safely. The most important thing is to be aware of your surroundings no matter where you are, and no matter what you are doing. This immediately puts you in a position of confidence and power most often what a thief is looking to avoid, thereby making someone else a better target than you. When entering an unfamiliar place, take a moment to familiarize yourself and take note of any other people in the room, your position relative to other doorways and exits, crowds of people, skirmishes, noises, or things to avoid. This is basically the first step of a security company’s threat assessment in any situation, and while it may appear a little over cautious on a personal level, that is precisely what can keep professionals safe when traveling in dangerous areas. Not a bad habit for anyone.
Washington State Investigators believes in proactive prevention. Look first and be aware of what, and who is around you before there is a problem. Identify who may be a threat to your personal security by their actions. They may be obviously drunk, wildly outspoken, or even belligerent or menacing to others. Take initial action by turning your body towards them which puts them in your field of view better by having them closer to your center scope of vision, and out of the edge of your peripheral vision. Always locate the nearest exit in case you need to make a necessary escape. The best way to avoid a threat is to not be there at all.
Washington State Investigators believe personal security means more that simply hiring a bodyguard or security team. Let’s be honest, most of us can’t afford a full-time bodyguard or security team in our daily lives. But, it may take more than just good observation to really feel confident in all situations. Taking precautions and being proactive may keep you safe in many situations.
Passwords of all kinds need to be protected. Not only for your computer at work or email account, but your bank code, PIN numbers on your cell phone or anything that requires a password. Don’t be ashamed to cover your cell with your free hand while punching in a code or hunching in towards the bank machine to block unwanted eyes, this is a good thing.
When out in public, you generally want to make sure that you don’t make yourself to be a target. People that appear to be observant and aware of their surroundings, and what they are doing are far less likely to become victims of personal crime. This means, don’t show off jewelry, don’t flash money around, and don’t give out your address or phone number unless you know who you’re giving it to and are prepared to have them keep that information. Stay on well-lit streets at night, and whenever possible, stay with a group while traveling on foot. Otherwise, take a licensed cab to avoid walking around altogether. In general, use common sense whether you are alone or in groups.
Carrying a personal defense tool like pepper spray can buy you some time to escape in sticky situations. However, a better alternative is to learn one of the many martial arts of self-defense. Hapkido, Jujitsu or Aikido, for example, can be incredibly empowering and give you confidence in your daily life while allowing you to defend yourself when the need arises.
If you have any diagnosed medical condition, it can be virtually a requirement to have a medical bracelet that identifies those concerns. The bracelet will assist medical personal when you are unable to speak for yourself. People who live with a medical condition that affects their mobility should consider an emergency response system for their home. An unfortunate truth is that most accidents happen in the home, so be prepared to have a plan or device available to call for help.
As your family grows, so does the responsibility of the parent(s) to protect their family and their children. No child has the wisdom to look out for themselves or the judgment to protect themselves.
After birth, you should register each of your children with your local police “child find” program. They take their photo, fingerprints and personal data, and securely store it. This makes it easier to track down in the case of emergency. Along with registration, important information like blood type and medical history will be included which can aid an emergency situation.
As your children grow older, have them memorize their first and last names, their phone number and their street address in case they get lost. Teach them the basics of common sense; look both ways before crossing the street, don’t talk to strangers, never take candy from a stranger, etc. These phrases are all rooted in our brains common sense department, or should be. Teach them to trust police officers and fire aid rescue personnel, because when an emergency occurs, your children need to know who they can trust.
In the home, have an emergency plan conduct annual family meetings to review it so that everybody knows what to do and their role. Have a list handy in the kitchen by the phone, as this is a room where family spends a lot of time. Keep track of emergency phone numbers for police, fire, poison control, relatives, etc. In your plan, include escape routes in case of fire or burglary and a place to stay, like a nearby hotel. Define a central phone number to call to check in, like a relative, a neighbor or the police. As previously mentioned, a plan like this needs to be reviewed annually so make every New Year’s Day, for example, your Family Plan Day. If your children are young, they may not appreciate your efforts, but you will be teaching them a good habit. If they are older children, you are teaching them tools learning how think and stay focused under pressure while setting them up for success as an adult.
A family password is also a good idea. As children grow and start school, you may need to send a friend to pick them up when you are unavailable. Training your children to require a password before allowing someone other than mommy or daddy to pick them up adds the element of safety. Unless the password is given, they should know to scream and make a scene, locate a teacher or policeman immediately. It might be more comfortable if they met the person picking them up in advance. The password should be something familiar to your child so they can remember it easier. It will comfort your child knowing that they are safe and comfort you knowing that they won’t allow themselves to walk away without causing a ruckus.
Holidays should bring the same common sense for safety. In busy surroundings, like summer fairs or shopping malls during the Christmas holiday season, be more aware of the people around you. When you arrive, plan on a place where everyone should meet if someone gets separated or lost. Keep your children in sight at all times and if they are very young, bring a stroller or tie a soft rope around your child and keep it in your hand.
These are fairly basic safety tips, but Washington State Investigators knows all too well how a parent feels when they cannot find their child and the fear a child has when not knowing where mommy or daddy went. We invite you to call us if you have any safety questions regarding your family.
Considering the amount of time we spend in our homes, there’s no doubt why we spend so much time worrying about the safety and security within our homes. Washington State Investigators know an easy way to make your home feel safe is to lock your doors. If someone is canvassing your home, they will see that you always use keys or remote to enter. Invest in external motion sensors to trigger a main external light to light up your front step, an easy and affordable option. Lights can scare prowlers off. Installing a few extra lights to illuminate your house may not only make your home a little safer, but also accent your home and any landscaping nicely.
We believe investing in a basic home security system is worthwhile. If any exterior windows or doors are opened while the system is active, your system can sound the sirens and send a signal to your alarm monitoring company. Of course, by the time the police arrive, which may take 10-15 minutes or more, monthly fees for monitoring may not be worth it. Make sure the siren is loud enough to alert everyone in the house as well as nearby houses. Most new houses include the wiring for a security system as part of the standard build for the house making it easier to install a security system in the future. Additionally, perimeter cameras using motion sensitivity along with WiFi can quickly notify you on your cell phone when an intrusion occurs, and is recommended by law enforcement. Stopping an intrusion at the onset is much better than after the bad guys are inside your home.
Consider investing in a fire-proof and water-proof safe. If you have valuable assets to protect or a need for safety, a fire-proof safe is a necessity. The biggest risk to a home is fire and water-proofing is a requirement. Water is commonly used to put out fire, so if you want to keep irreplaceable documents safe, they need to be kept in a water-proof environment. Another option is to consider a safety deposit box at a local bank. They are far more affordable and secure.
Learn statistics about your neighborhood. If your home is in a neighborhood with higher rate of crime, consider installing bars on any ground-accessible windows, they are a visible sign of physical security. Also, keep your curtains closed on the main floor, making it harder to see inside your home. This reduces the potential for a theft making it harder for a thief to view anything of value.
Homes are usually safer in a secure community. Be involved in your community, a strong community has a better chance of reducing or eliminating criminal elements. Community programs like Neighborhood Watch encourage each member of a community to watch out for each other and as a result, common crimes in those neighborhoods is dramatically lower.
Workplace Security is a very important topic. Most people spend a third of each week in their office, but security in the workplace is more than just personal health and safety. The single most important thing a company can do to improve itself from a security posture is to look internally. Human error is the weakest point of failure for any business. One of the best solutions is training employees about social engineering attacks, securing the workplace with clean desk policies and regular compliance monitoring.
Most offices directly or indirectly, have a strong sales force. With a strong sales force, an office may be available for client tours, meetings, etc. Implementing a clean desk policy not only makes your sales force happy, but also helps your staff focus on daily activities while ensuring that security is kept in mind. Every stray piece of paper can carry a risk. Usernames, passwords, IP addresses, customer names and phone numbers should be considered confidential. A messy office atmosphere may appear as if your staff doesn’t care about confidential information. If your staff can’t account for each piece of information, your company may loose valuable clients decreasing your sales. Make sure you have file storage at each desk, in drawers or on desks and that staff are reviewed periodically to make sure they keep their work area clean. To protect physical assets and to help control internal theft, laptops, printers, and other expensive light objects should be secured properly.
The corporate view of security is even wider and the needs for the company can far outweigh that of an individual. In most countries, larger corporations are legislated to have a health and safety committee, often requiring a management presence to ensure that employee concerns are actually addressed properly. For disaster recovery, corporations need to make sure that all important business data and client information files are stored somewhere where they can be backed up regularly. Never trust important data to a single computer or a single piece of paper. Although real cases of corporate espionage are rare, companies need to protect against Phishing attacks. People will try to break into a network by calling an employee, like a secretary, billing representative or act as a service provider and ask for names, numbers, passwords and other confidential information. You’d be surprised how often this works. If this happens, your company has two problems; a vulnerability has been exposed and breached, and exposure for legal liability.
When traveling to work and home, employees with responsibility should be vigilant and aware of their surroundings when carrying a briefcase or laptop bag, especially in areas like airports, bus stops and train stations. These employees are targets for thieves because a lot of people configure their laptops to connect automatically to their workplace and if compromised, they expose your work infrastructure to the thief. A hacker has a better chance of accessing your secure network with a pre-configured laptop under optimal circumstances.
The last thing you want when you’re traveling is stress. You want to get away from your daily stress, work activities and have a nice vacation. Take the time to plan your trip carefully and understand trip details, knowledge of customs and culture for your destination, etc. Careful planning now can save hours of frustration later.
Before you leave, research your destination. This means some of the major roadways, landmarks, public transit lines, and pictures from the area. Three different sources will give you enough detail to feel comfortable about the area and avoid some of the pitfalls. Knowing where you’re going, you will appear more confident and less like a target.
Look into the local laws and customs, because some countries have very different expectations of what is socially and culturally acceptable. If you abide by their customs, you will be less likely to stick out like a tourist. Some behaviors not accepted in other countries include drinking, smoking, or style of dress, could be cause for arrest. Ultimately, local laws always prevail regardless of what you may think or feel. Respect for the local culture and obedience to its laws will serve you best, avoiding the humility in the face of local officials.
As you arrive, check in immediately with your hotel. If you have any doubts as to the level of violence where you are traveling, check in with your country’s consulate, carry their address and phone number with you as you travel. Every country, no matter how civilized, has its own criminal elements and helpful locals. When you’re excited about being in the city center of a tropical paradise, shopping is no fun carrying an armful of suitcases and you are begging for an altercation with local criminals.
To limit your loss from local pick pockets, carry a “false wallet”, one that carries very little cash and no credit cards in case you run into a problem. Hide your money in a money belt or even in your sock assuming you are wearing pants. Use your hotel room’s safe or the hotel’s safety deposit box for any larger sums of money or valuables when you are away from your room. Keep a copy of all of your original passport, ID and travel documents as backup and carry them with you instead of your originals. Your travelers check receipts, passport, flight itinerary, etc. while not likely, may have value to someone else. So secure them on your person.
While you’re away, don’t forget the home you are leaving behind. Plan to have a friend or family member visit your house regularly. They might park their car in the driveway and pick up any mail or newspaper left on your doorstep. This will make your home appear inhabited. Make sure you have someone water and mow your lawn in the summer, rake leaves in the fall, and shovel your driveway free of snow in the winter. Finally, by setting a timer on a few lights in a bedroom and in the kitchen, you can give the impression of a fully occupied home, which is enough to deter most thieves. Using these safety tips will better secure your home, leaving you with peace of mind and a safe home to return too.
A growing concern to many people is identity theft. Using the Internet allows access to financial and identity information via online banking, accessing your credit card company, using e-commerce when making online purchases, and the list goes on. Because of the number of people accessing the Internet, Identity Theft is growing leaps and bounds. In brief, someone could steal your credit card information and buy things with your money, ruining your credit, or they could copy your driver’s license or social security number and then associate their face with that info. Their next step might be getting bank loans, making larger purchases in your name and leaving you in the dark to clear your name. Identity Theft recovery is one of the hardest events to go through. While it’s impossible to completely protect your identity, there are several steps that can make your identity credentials more secure, thereby reducing your risk and making yourself a harder target.
Many banks and financial institutions that have your personal information have policies under new laws and regulations to either opt-in, allowing your information to be shared with other businesses and third parties. They also give you the option to opt-out. This data, including your name, address, age and other personal details, like buying habits, credit rating, or educational background, is often shared with third parties for marketing purposes, targeted advertising or to simply sold to data collection businesses for resale. Make sure you contact any institution or business, like your bank, credit card company, school, etc. and request that your information be kept private. The fewer places having access to your personal information, the better.
Most major accounts, specifically banks, credit card companies and public utilities like telephone or utility services may have a password or pin number added to your account that you have to give over the phone before making changes or retrieving any information. Often, the phone conversation with these companies will begin with the request of your PIN and confirmation of your address before they will answer any questions. If you haven’t already, you should proactively call any companies you have an account with and request a password on your account to help protect your account from having unwanted information shared.
A paper shredder is a cheap and easy investment protecting documents and photos from being dumpster dived. Shred anything with an account number or personal information before throwing it away or recycling it. Many banks or institutions will accept an original bill with your name and address as a form of identification for creating a new account, so it can be valuable to a thief as is your driver’s license to you when creating a new account. By shredding these items, you not only stop them from being stolen, but you can still recycle the paper.
Check your bank and credit card statements monthly for fraudulent transactions. If you don’t act immediately once you find a fraudulent charge, it may be extremely difficult to have the charge removed. To help reduce theft of credit card numbers, on the back of every card there’s a 3 digit code which should be required when making online purchases, but not required when shopping in-person. Something as simple as a pizza delivered to your door could turn into a fraudulent $3000 purchase of car parts by someone stealing this code. Always keep your card in your possession or within eyesight. If you are ever in doubt, call the store manager for assistance.
Keep hard-copy records of all of your assets, investments and transactions and bill payments in case you lose the electronic information and in case there’s ever a disagreement.
Regardless of the operating system, computers are inherently secure, and only become insecure when people turn them on and start interacting with them. Installing programs and connecting to the Internet are two risky actions that may expose your system to potential threats and vulnerabilities. These are two things that people commonly do first with a new computer. Since the safest computer is one that is disconnected from the Internet or turned off, there are some behaviors you can adopt to reduce your risk.
Washington State investigators recommends controlling what you type into a web page and send across the Internet. Don’t type your home address, phone number, email address, etc. in a form unless the form is secure. Browse HTTPS secure websites, an alternative is TOR (TOR Project) or a VPN (virtual private network) when connecting to the internet.
Avoid saving all your passwords in a single file on your desktop or writing them down on paper. Use a Password Manager installed on your computer, kept in a USB or online. The best option may be to create an algorithm. You can find a lot of information on the internet about how to create your own algorithm. Set a password for logging into your computer system and your screen saver in case your computer is available to other people. These may seem like inconveniences, but they are less inconvenient than the potential risks.
Since the majority of threats come from what computer users do, beware of common threats that trick a user to do something they didn’t intend. Viruses are often sent via email at a rate greater than 10% of a user’s email and may be posing as a photo or attachment tempting the receiver to click on it infecting their operating system. The virus may cause the computer to crash, install a script so your computer passes personal information back to an unknown source, controlled as a remote drone or zombie or used to infect other computers. As a general rule of thumb, never click on an email attachment unless you are absolutely sure of the contents, were expecting the email and can verify the source. If needed, confirm the contents with a phone call. In the event your computer becomes infected, it may be faster to reinstall the operating system rather than attempting to remove the virus if multiple virus infections exist.
Th act of Phishing happens via email and attempts to trick the recipient into handing out confidential information. Official looking emails can be sent masquerading as a user’s bank, PayPal or eBay asking the recipient to confirm billing information, verify your account. This social engineering technique is used in an attempt to get the recipient’s credit card number or account username and password and may result in fraudulent purchases charged to the recipient. To avoid being Phished, never provide personal information in a response to an email. Make it a habit to login directly to the account in question or follow up with a phone call to the source. Opening a new web browser and manually typing in the company’s proper URL may be enough to bypass most Phishing attempts keeping users from being redirected to the malicious website.
Even if you are a security conscious computer user, you can’t guarantee that someone using your computer will be as well. A good idea to limit any potential damage a mistake may cause is to install a few protective applications. There are dozens of reputable anti-virus scanning software applications and any one of them will catch the majority of problems. We recommend installing a good Malware detection software as well. Installing good anti-virus and Malware protection software will help protect your computer from malicious attacks and make your web browsing experience more enjoyable.
The vast majority of viruses and Trojan applications are unfortunately written for the Windows platform due to the dominance of Microsoft market share. As a result, there are very fewer viruses written to infect Mac OSX or Linux. That doesn’t mean users of those operating systems have to stop being concerned, but the opportunity for Malware or virus infections is reduced. Regardless of the operating system, you should create a backup of your OS or any critical files, images, music and video. Resumes and other important personal records may be converted to a hard copy that will survive even if your hard drive doesn’t. There are more advanced backup management software options, however, they are beyond the scope of this article.
Don’t let the protective mindset stop at your computer, hand held computers called personal data assistants, or PDAs, are also susceptible to some of the same risks. If you lose your PDA, whoever finds it may have access to your personal or business information. Make sure you take some precautions and set your PDA to prompt for a password when turned on, which reduces the potential to access your personal or business information. Without your password, the only easy alternative is to reset the system from scratch, which removes from view any personal content. Recovery software may be used in an attempt to gain access to your information, but that is beyond the scope of this article. There are applications which can be used to encrypt passwords and financial information, like bank account numbers, so that sensitive information is kept even more safely.
For more information about computer security, anti-virus or Malware software, backup solutions or encryption software, we invite you to call Washington State Investigators.