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Protect your privacy and avoid identity theft.
Cyber security, phishing, worms, firewalls, Trojan horses, hackers, and viruses seem to be in the news every day. Plus warnings to update your virus protection, watch out for online scams, protect your privacy, and watch what you click on are everywhere. But what does it all mean? And what can you do to safeguard access to your computer and to protect yourself and your family? What is this all about?
The first step in protecting yourself is to recognize the risks and become familiar with some of the terminology associated with cyber security. The Department of Homeland Security created this list of terms: Hacker, attacker, or intruder - These terms are applied to the people who seek to exploit weaknesses in software and computer systems for their own gain. Although their intentions are sometimes fairly benign and motivated solely by curiosity, their actions are typically in violation of the intended use of the systems they are exploiting. The results can range from mere mischief (creating a virus with no intentionally negative impact) to malicious (stealing or altering information).
Malicious code includes code such as viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. Although some people use these terms interchangeably, they have unique characteristics:
- Viruses - This type of malicious code requires you to actually do something before it infects your computer. This action could be opening an email attachment or going to a particular web page.
- Worms - Worms propagate without you r doing anything. They typically start by exploiting a software vulnerability (a flaw that allows the software's intended security policy to be violated). Then once the victim computer has been infected, the worm will attempt to find and infect other computers. Similar to viruses, worms can propagate via email, web sites, or network-based software. The automated self-propagation of worms distinguishes them from viruses.
- Trojan horses - A Trojan horse program is software that claims to do one thing while, in fact, doing something different behind the scenes. For example, a program that claims it will speed up your computer may actually be sending your confidential information to an intruder.
- Spyware - This sneaky software rides its way onto computers when you download screensavers, games, music, and other applications. Spyware sends information about what you're doing on the Internet to a third-party, usually to target you with pop-up ads. Browsers enable you to block pop-ups. You can also install anti-spyware to stop this threat to your privacy.
Minimize the Access Other People Have to Your Information
It is probably easy for you to identify people who could gain physical access to your computer—family members, roommates, co-workers, members of a cleaning crew, and maybe some others. But identifying the people who could gain remote access to your computer becomes much more difficult. As long as you have a computer and connect it to a network or the internet, you are vulnerable to someone or something else accessing or corrupting your information. Luckily, you can develop habits that make it more difficult.
- Lock or log-off your computer when you are away from it. This prevents another person from waiting for you to leave and then sitting down at your computer and accessing all of your information.
- To be really secure, disconnect your computer from the Internet when you aren't using it. DSL and cable modems make it possible for users to be online all the time, but this convenience comes with risks. The likelihood that attackers or viruses scanning the network for available computers will target your computer becomes much higher if your computer is always connected.
- Evaluate your security settings. It is important to examine your computer's settings, especially the security settings, and select options that meet your needs without putting you at increased risk. Many, but not all Internet providers offer free security software. If you don't receive free software, you should consider buying a commercial product that includes virus scan, firewall, and pop-up blockers. You should also be aware of your Internet cookies setting. Cookies are short pieces of data used by web servers to identify users. Some cookies are useful for storing images and data from websites that you frequent, but others are malicious and collect information about you. You'll have to decide how much risk from cookies you can accept. Finally, if you install a patch or a new version of software, or if you hear of something that might affect your settings, reevaluate your settings to make sure they are still appropriate.
- Look for signals that you are using a secure web page. A secure site encrypts or scrambles personal information so it cannot be easily intercepted. Signals include a screen notice that says you are on a secure site, a closed lock or unbroken key in the bottom corner of your screen, or the first letters of the Internet address you are viewing changes from "http" to "https."
Do You Think You are a Victim?
- If you believe you might have revealed sensitive information about your organization, report it to the appropriate people within the organization, including network administrators. They can be alert for any suspicious or unusual activity.
- If you believe your financial accounts may be compromised, contact your financial institution immediately and close any accounts that may have been compromised. Watch for any unexplainable charges to your account.
- Check your credit reports for unusual activity.
- Report your situation to local police, and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
Article by USA.gov
Did you know that hundreds of people die each year in the United States due to weather related incidents? Additionally, thousands of people are injured by these weather events each year. Don’t let it happen to you.
Tornadoes can produce winds greater than 300 mph, and can travel across the ground at up to 60 mph. They can develop any time of day, any month of the year, but are most common in the afternoon and evening, and in the spring and fall. Tornadoes are most common across the Great Plains and Gulf States regions of the US. More tornadoes occur in the United States than any other country in the world, and more tornadoes occur in Texas than any other state.
Below-ground shelters, and reinforced "safe rooms" provide the best protection against tornadic winds.
Other options include:
In homes or small buildings, go to the northeast corner of a basement. If a basement is not available, go to the smallest, most-interior room on the lowest floor, such as a closet or bathroom. Cover yourself to protect your body from flying debris.
In schools, hospitals, factories or shopping centers, go to the smallest, most-interior rooms and hallways on the lowest floor. Stay away from glass enclosed places or areas with wide-span roofs such as auditoriums and warehouses. Crouch down and cover your head.
In high rise buildings, go to the smallest, most-interior rooms or hallways. Stay away from exterior walls and windows.
In cars or mobile homes, abandon them immediately!! Cars and mobile homes provide no protection from tornadic winds. If you are in either of those locations, leave them and go to a substantial structure or designated tornado shelter. Do not attempt to seek shelter beneath an overpass or bridge. They provide little or no shelter and have proved to be deadly options.
If caught in the open, lie flat in a culvert, ditch or depression and cover your head.
Lightning is a threat anywhere thunderstorms occur. If you hear thunder, it is time to take shelter.
- Avoid using the telephone, or other electrical appliances.
- Do not take a bath or shower, or stand near plumbing.
If caught outdoors:
- Seek shelter in a sturdy building. A hard-top automobile can also offer protection.
- If you are boating or swimming, get out of the water and move to a safe shelter on land.
- If you are in a wooded area, seek shelter under a thick growth of relatively small trees.
- If you feel your hair standing on end, squat with your head between your knees. Do not lie flat!
- Avoid isolated trees or other tall objects, water, fences, convertible cars, tractors and motorcycles.
Flash Floods develop quickly. They can occur anywhere, along rivers or creeks, in low water crossings or in a dry stream bed. They can occur during any month and at any time during the day. In fact, flash floods often occur at night when it is difficult to find an escape route. Flash floods can be deceptive. Flood waters are likely deeper and moving faster than you think.
- Avoid low water crossings.
- Use alternate routes to avoid flood prone areas.
- Leave your vehicle immediately if it stalls in flood waters.
- Move to higher ground if you can do so safely.
- Most cars and light trucks will begin to float in as little as 12" of water.
- Act quickly, rising waters make vehicle doors difficult to open.
If you are outside:
- Stay away from flooded creeks, streams or drainage ditches.
- Swiftly flowing water can sweep away even the strongest swimmers.
- Soggy banks can collapse, dumping you into flood waters.
Article by Texas Severe Storm Association
When you read email or surf the Internet, you should be wary of scams that try to steal your personal information (identity theft), your money or both. Many of these scams are known as "phishing scams" because they "fish" for your information.
How to recognize scams
New scams seem to appear every day. You can learn to recognize a scam by familiarizing yourself with some of the telltale signs.
Scams can contain the following:
- Alarmist messages and threats of account closures.
- Promises of money for little or no effort.
- Deals that sound too good to be true.
- Requests to donate to a charitable organization after a disaster that has been in the news.
- Bad grammar and misspellings.
Here are some popular scams that you should be aware of:
Scams that use the Microsoft name or names of other well-known companies. These scams include fake email messages or websites that use the Microsoft name. The email message might claim that you have won a Microsoft contest, that Microsoft needs your logon information or password, or that a Microsoft representative is contacting you to help you with your computer. (These fake tech-support scams are often delivered by phone.)
Lottery scams. You might receive messages that claim that you have won the Microsoft lottery or sweepstakes. These messages might even look like they come from a Microsoft executive. There is no Microsoft Lottery. Delete the message.
Rogue security software scams. Rogue security software, also known as "scareware," is software that appears to be beneficial from a security perspective but provides limited or no security, generates erroneous or misleading alerts, or attempts to lure you into participating in fraudulent transactions. These scams can appear in email, online advertisements, your social networking site, search engine results, or even in pop-up windows on your computer that might appear to be part of your operating system, but are not.
How to report a scam
You can use Microsoft tools to report a suspected scam.
- Internet Explorer. While you are on a suspicious site, click the gear icon and then point to Safety. Then click Report Unsafe Website and use the web page that is displayed to report the website.
- Hotmail. If you receive a suspicious email message that asks for personal information, click the check box next to the message in your Hotmail inbox. Click Mark as and then point to Phishing scam.
- Microsoft Office Outlook. Attach the suspicious email message to a new email message and forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to do if you think you have been a victim of a scam
If you suspect that you've responded to a phishing scam with personal or financial information, take these steps to minimize any damage.
- Change the passwords or PINs on all your online accounts that you think might be compromised.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Check with your bank or financial adviser if you're not sure how to do this.
- Contact the bank or the online merchant directly. Do not follow the link in the fraudulent email message.
- If you know of any accounts that were accessed or opened fraudulently, close those accounts.
- Routinely review your bank and credit card statements monthly for unexplained charges or inquiries that you didn't initiate.
Tools to help you avoid scams
Microsoft offers several tools to help you avoid phishing scams when you browse the Web or read your email.
- Windows Internet Explorer. In Internet Explorer 8, the domain name in the address bar is emphasized with black type and the remainder of the address appears gray to make it easy to identify a website's true identity. The SmartScreen Filter in Internet Explorer also gives you warnings about potentially unsafe websites as you browse.
- Windows Live Hotmail. Microsoft's free webmail program also uses SmartScreen technology to screen email. SmartScreen helps identify and separate phishing threats and other junk email from legitimate email.
- Microsoft Office Outlook. The Junk E-mail Filter in Outlook 2010, Outlook 2007 and other Microsoft email programs evaluates each incoming message to see if it includes suspicious characteristics common to phishing scams.
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Information and recommendations are compiled from sources believed to be reliable. The Sheriff’s Office makes no guarantee as to and assumes no responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency or completeness of such information or recommendations. Other or additional safety measures may be required under particular circumstances.