Your Email is Filled with Attacks

Your Email is Filled with Attacks

The recent high-profile email dumps from Wikileaks appear to be obtained through an email “Phishing” scheme that is pervasive. I recieved the same email around the same time as the target of on of the most visible leaks. Here is how to minimize your risk.

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Online Security Can Leave us More Vulnerable than Physical Security

The Washington Post published an article from earlier this month titled “A quintessentially American crime declines: Robbing banks doesn’t pay as it used to.” It is a reminder that electronic security can leave us more vulnerable than physical security -- at least as far as financial loss.

Last week I heard about an associate who wrote about his recent experience as the victim of a “Whaling” cyber attack and consequently lost $400K. This morning our accounting staff received a email from a hacker spoofing one of our executives requesting accounting wire funds to a “vendor”.

SOURCE: Washington Post

SOURCE: Washington Post

Physical security systems are important. However, just as we need to be alert in the physical world, we need to recognize that the internet is a dodgy neighborhood. We need to be alert and vigilant or we will eventually find ourselves the victim of one of these attacks.

Some steps we can take to protect ourselves from this sort of security breach:

  • Always use 2-factor authentication. This is critical to the point that any of our customers who need assistance setting this up should reach out to us. Your bank should offer this type of security as well.
  • Follow set procedures -- In the case of the $400K theft from Verne Harnish, the hacker was able to accomplish their objective because his travel and other circumstances resulted in a deviation from their standard procedure. In the case of the whaling email we received today, the issue was escalated because our accounting person pushed back that they would need to submit the request using our set procedures. 

Keep in mind the standard warnings about email security and attachments:

  • Don’t download any Microsoft documents are executable files even if you know who they are coming from- (easy to spoof!)
  • Keep software and OS versions current and patched.
  • Use good passwords and make sure they are different and complex for anything sensitive.

If you are an Urban Alarm customer and would like assistance assessing your computer security situation and tools please let us know. We would be happy to help secure your personal online security as well as the physical security of your home and business.

Personal Safety Tips to Remember During a Terrorist Attack

When a truck plowed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France earlier this month, it was another painful reminder that a criminal or terrorist attack can happen at any point.

Although we should live our lives as normally as possible, it’s important that each of us is prepared to take personal safety measures if an incident occurs.

Taking stock of your surroundings

Photo Credit:  Bradley Gordo

Photo Credit: Bradley Gordo

Whenever you go to a public place — like a movie theater, shopping mall, restaurant, or sports arena — take the time to identify the closest two exits. It’s important to find a second exit in case your first option is cut off.

If you can sit closer to an exit (like in a movie theater), take the opportunity to do so. If you’re out at a restaurant, take note of the kitchen’s location since there’s usually an exit route nearby. Some stores in shopping malls will have storage areas that will also provide back-door exits.

Avoid looking down at your phone while you’re walking; instead, swivel your head from side to side so you see everything around you.

You don’t need to be on high alert at all times, but getting into a routine of constantly taking in your surroundings will let you quickly identify something that’s amiss.

If a shooter emerges, first try to evacuate

How should you respond if an active shooter is in your area? The Department of Homeland Security recommends following the “run, hide, fight” approach. That means first trying to evacuate.

If you’re unsure where the shooter is, it’s important to not run around blindly. Pick an escape route and stick to it.

There will be a commotion as the large crowd of people all tries to escape the area at the same time. Try to stay as low to the ground as possible, but be sure to have full control of your balance to avoid falling.

Don’t bring any belongings with you as that may slow you down. Keep your hands visible at all times.

Hide if you need to, fight as last resort

If running is not an option, then hide in an area outside the shooter’s line of sight, DHS recommends.

If possible, block entry to the location and lock the doors. Silence all cell phones.

In a restaurant, you may need to drop to the ground immediately and use your table as a cover. If you’re in a public office, then close and lock your doors and turn off the lights.

Take action against the shooter only as a very last resort. The Department of Homeland Security recommends throwing items and the shooter or trying to incapacitate the person in some other way.

This should be seen as a last possible option — only when your life is danger, and evacuation and hiding options have been exhausted.

Be prepared, even if you’re not at scene

Even if you’re not in the immediate location where a criminal or terrorist act occurs, the Red Cross recommends taking steps to ensure your safety.

Turn on the radio or TV to hear news and instructions, and follow the advice of local responders and public officials.

Smell for any gas leaks. If you suspect there is one, turn off the valve right away, open all windows, and leave the building.

Don’t light any matches or turn on light switches; instead, use your phone or a flashlight to check for damages to utilities and wiring. Be on the lookout for fires or fire hazards.

Make sure your family has an emergency plan. Practice it often so you’re ready to act if an incident does occur.

D.C. Government Now Offering Rebates for Private Security Cameras

Photo by V ictoria Pickering ; Creative Commons;  Flickr

Photo by Victoria Pickering; Creative Commons; Flickr

A new security camera rebate program is making it easier for D.C. residents to buy and install private security cameras.

Residents, businesses, and religious organizations in several D.C. wards can now apply for rebates to purchase and install security cameras on their buildings, as a part of the government’s  Private Security Camera Incentive Program.

The D.C. camera initiative will allow some owners and tenants to receive up to $200 per individual camera (there is a cap of $500 total per residence or $750 for commercial properties).

Offering security camera rebates is “another step to deter crime and assist police during investigations,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser in a statement. Police will be able to request video footage from camera owners to investigate crimes, but will not have access to live video feeds, the mayor’s office said.

In addition to capturing crime as it happens, the mere presence of video surveillance can deter intrusion altogether. Some systems also work like a motion detector to alert owners when something may be amiss.

The program will roll out first to applicants who live in these Police Service Areas (PSAs):

  • MPD First District: 104, 105, 107, 108
  • MPD Second District: 202, 207, 208
  • MPD Third District: 302, 303, 305
  • MPD Fourth District: 402, 403, 405, 409
  • MPD Fifth District: All PSAs
  • MPD 6th District: 602, 603, 604, 608
  • MPD 7th District: All PSAs

Applicants can identify their property’s PSA online. Only those in the priority PSAs can apply for now, but it will be opened up to anyone after August 1 — provided the program’s $500,000 budget has funding remaining.

Security cameras must be installed on the exterior of the building and need to meet minimum requirements — including 250 GB of storage for digital cameras (125 GB for analog) and 1280x720 screen resolution (640x480 for analog).

Recommended specifications are even higher. The ideal digital security camera will feature:

  • High video quality and at 15 frames per second
  • Camera resolution of 3 Megapixels
  • Screen resolution of 2048x1536 screen resolution
  • 2.5 TB of storage

The security cameras must have been purchased and set up after September 22, 2015. The property owner must also register the cameras with the Metropolitan Police Department in order to qualify for the rebate.

Qualified property owners or tenants can apply online for the rebate. The application requires:

  • Proof of purchase of the cameras
  • Proof of registration with MPD
  • Proof of installation
  • If the applicant is the tenant, proof that the property owner consents to the security cameras and rebate application

After the application is approved, it make take up to 45 days to process and send the rebate to the applicant.

Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6) authored the bill that ultimately led to the rebate program. He hopes the video surveillance will deter crime “by adding extra eyes on the street.”

DC’s Broken Vacant Property Laws


Vacant properties are a major contributor to community safety and security. The recent discussion around fixing DC's Vacant Property Laws is an excellent step. 

Missing from 4D-04 ANC Commissioner David Sheon’s report is a requirement to secure the property to avoid unwelcome occupants and nefarious activity. No neighbor should have to live next door to a property that is open to use for illicit activity at any time of day or night. This should be a priority to protect neighboring residents while the property is vacant and in the early stages of construction where crews are often not on site daily.

Vacant properties and construction sites can be very effectively secured. Fencing is already a requirement as part of most building permit processes, but effective intrusion security should be specified as well.

Security Alarm Systems installed and monitored by Urban Alarm on construction sites in DC have resulted in multiple arrests in 2015. We see these sites going from frequent regular issues to none once an effective system is deployed.

Urban Alarm’s approach to these systems is motion activated surveillance with video verification. When an alarm is triggered, the dispatcher reviews a video clip to determine the cause of the alarm and takes appropriate action including dispatching the police.

For more information on video verification and security alarm systems to secure vacant properties and construction sites.


June 2011 FBI Security Briefing on Specific Terrorism Threats

On Thursday, June 23rd, the FBI held a security briefing at the Renaissance Washington, which focused on threats to the hospitality industry. While these briefings are not unusual, and post 9/11 bureaucrats often communicate excess threat information to cover their butts, this one held particular weight as an Assistant Director of the FBI and the head of the DC Counter-terrorism Squad were sent to warn off a particular threat.

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