During a Robbery: Fight or Comply?

Many of us are told that, when we’re attacked, we should let it happen so that the situation doesn’t get any worse. In some cases that may be your only option. But some studies have shown that fighting back is a better option. Showing resistance and making it difficult for your attacker to do their job often helps you get to safety. 

But what about when it’s a robbery? 

Robbery as defined in Wikipedia is the crime of seizing property through violence or intimidation. In common law, robbery is defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear. Precise definitions of the offence may vary between jurisdictions. Robbery differs from simple theft because of its use of violence and intimidation.

The Washington Post reports “four intruders – two white men and two black men – entered the single-family home about 11 a.m. and used a weapon to hold the family against their will, authorities said. … No one was hurt during the robbery, Mills said, and no information was immediately available about what type of weapon was displayed.”

If violence begins during a robbery, responding to violence with violence might be necessary.

To help protect yourself against robbery, follow these simple tips:

  1. Make sure you have an acute awareness of your environment.
  2. Install outdoor lighting that may keep the bad guys away.
  3. Use your cell phone from a closet.
  4. Make sure your home has a lived-in look so that, from the outside, your home looks like a tougher target, and that help is close by.
  5. Install security cameras.
  6. Have a panic button for your home alarm that calls for help and sends a screaming alarm.
  7. The worst thing you can do is nothing. If violence is imminent, decide on an escape route or recognize your options for protecting and defending yourself.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Your W-Fi Router Might Be Easy to Hack

Recently I became aware that many if not most home Wi-Fi routers are very easy to hack by cyber criminals.  I thought, my mom has Wi-Fi, and so probably does your mom. So here is a letter you can share with your loved ones—be they tech-savvy or not, to protect them from the hidden dangers lurking in their homes

Dear Mom,

I don’t want to scare you too much, but I want to let you know about a potential issue with your Wi-Fi router. First, Mom, your router is not your modem. In most cases your modem is the small box with a row of blinking lights that connects directly to your internet service provider’s feed which is either a cable connection coming out of the wall or a phone line. From there the signal is converted and sent to your router through a “cat5” cable that looks like a bigger,fatter telephone wire. Your router (in most cases) is the thingy that’sthen plugged into your computer or gives off your wireless connection.

Anyway, a recent study saidresearchers “have discovered critical security vulnerabilities in numerous small office/home office (SOHO) routers and wireless access points. We define acritical security vulnerability in a router as one that allows a remote attacker to take full control of the router’s configuration settings, or one that allows a local attacker to bypass authentication and take control. This control allows an attacker to intercept and modify network traffic as it enters and leaves the network.”

In case you didn’t catch all that, it basically means the cyber bad guys can break into your internet data stream just like a burglar might break into your car or house and grab important stuff like your passwords, SS number or bank account info that you don’t want them to have. A lot of common big name routers were tested and a lot of them failed. They warned that basically even if your router was not on the tested list, you should still be concerned.

Jake Thompson, one of the security analysts, disclosed  some easy-to-implement tips, including some obvious ones like making sure that you change the router’s default username and password credentials. However, he cautioned, not all routerslet you change the username. They also recommended that “people use WPA2 security protocol, over WEP” but that is probably going to be beyond your understanding

So I am going to recommend something even simpler: adding  a layer of protection by installing  a VPN.  Consider it an easy, cheap (in this case free) insurance policy. When on a PC or laptop, install and launch Hotspot Shield VPN. It’s a free VPN software, but I prefer the paid version; the expanded paid option is a little quicker and offers a cleaner interface. Either way, it’s a great option that will protect your entire web surfing session, securing your connections on all your devices regardless of any security issues with your router.

And BTW, how’s your cat?

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

Beware of Slimy Alarm Sales Calls

Call them con men, grifters, scammers or thieves. Or simply call them liars, because lying is what they do best. They stare you in the eyes, do it via email or over the phone, and lie through their teeth. They do it casually and with such conviction that we have no reason not to believe them.

Sometimes they call you or knock on your door trying to scam you. Whatever you tell them can be used against you. They can steal your identity. If they find out you don’t have an alarm, they may break into your house. If you tell them the company your home alarm is with, they may call you at a later date posing as that alarm company and requesting “updated credit card numbers.” They can also sell you a bogus alarm system.

The Detroit Free Press reports that scammers “come door-to-door selling free alarm systems or systems for $99. Then, they lock you into a long-term contract for three to five years. The equipment is inferior. I’ve known people that have been burglarized with this equipment, and the burglars just yank the alarm off the wall and it doesn’t work.”

This issue is best resolved by not answering any questions at all, hanging up, deleting the email or telling the person at the front door (while you speak through the locked door) you are not interested. No matter what, never give the scammer your Social Security or credit card number or reveal whether you have an alarm.

Only purchase alarm systems from reputable installers, and do your research to make sure the company has been properly reviewed and vetted for a quality product.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

What’s the difference between using Proxy vs VPN?

If you live in or travel to a country that controls what websites their citizens can and cannot visit then you might not have access to sites like Facebook or YouTube. In this case you may have considered using a proxy or a VPN.But what’s the difference?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a network set up to communicate privately over a public network. A VPN protects your data between your laptop, iPad, iPhone or Android device and an internet gateway. It does this by creating an impenetrable, secure tunnel to prevent snoopers, hackers and ISPs from viewing your web-browsing activities, instant messages, downloads, credit card information or anything else you send over the network.

A proxy server (sometimes called a web proxy) generally attempts to anonymize web surfing. There are different varieties of anonymizers. The destination server (the server that ultimately satisfies the web request) receives requests from the anonymizing proxy server, and thus does not receive information about the end user’s address.

Proxies and VPNs are both designed to change your IP address and manipulate your internet browsing to allow you to access YouTube, Facebook etc. – so they will essentially unblock those restricted sites.

However a proxy doesn’t offer encryption, which means the information you are sending and receiving may be intercepted and stolen on public Wi-Fi. AVPN, on the other hand, will act both as a proxy and allow the access but also keeps your information and communication private due to encryption.

Hotspot Shield  is a great VPN option that protects your entire web surfing session, securing your connection at both your home Internet network and public internet networks (both wired and wireless). Hotspot Shield’sfree proxy protects your identity by ensuring that all web transactions (shopping, filling out forms, downloads, etc.) are secured through HTTPS—the protected internet protocol.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

4 Completely Different Ways to Share Photos

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, people took pictures of the Tyrannosaurus Rex with film-based cameras that required them to drop their pics off at a Fotomat for processing. Then, instant pics in the form of Polaroid cameras came along and the term “instant gratification” was born. Today, most of us snap pics on phones because cameras are just another device that we don’t want to carry.

Now, documenting a person’s day, week, month, year, vacation or any event consists of hundreds if not thousands of photos because digital is easy and free. So what’s the best way to share all your pics in a fun, friendly and secure way? Well, that all depends on your lifestyle.

  • Facebook: When taking pics from your phone, you can easily upload and instantly share your images with your connections. The beauty of Facebook photos is that all 3,000 of your friends can enjoy them and comment on them. Using your PC is even easier when you are uploading entire albums. The bad thing is, once you upload to Facebook, you can’t expect the photos to ever be private. Even though you might lock down your privacy settings so only your friends can see them, it’s still very possible that your pics can be leaked.
  • Flickr: Flickr is a photo sharing site that you can always have in your back pocket via apps for iPhone, Windows 7, Android and more. Or use m.flickr.com from any mobile device to upload and share photos on the go. Share photos only with the people you want to with Flickr’s easy privacy settings. Flickr’s backed storage system makes sure you never lose another photo again.
  • Instagram: Share your photos in a simple photo stream with friends to see – and follow your friends’ photos with the click of a single button. Every day you open up Instagram, you’ll see new photos from your closest friends, and creative people from around the world. Share to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr too – it’s as easy as pie. It’s photo sharing, reinvented.
  • Dropbox: Most people don’t think of photo sharing when they think about Dropbox because Dropbox isn’t explicitly a photo sharing site. Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring together all your photos, docs and videos from anywhere. This means that any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, phones and even the Dropbox website.

All of these sites require usernames and passwords for access. And like all web-based portals, I suggest a different password for each. If you install an application on your mobile, make sure your device is password protected. Another layer of protection (albeit inconvenient) is to set up these apps to require a password every time you access them.

Robert Siciliano, is a personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto and author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! . Disclosures

What are My Risks with My Mobile Device?

Mobile technology is the new frontier for fraudsters. Today, there are more wireless devices than American people. Mobile devices connect to the Internet and have much of the same information and capability as a personal computer.

Your device and the private data it holds are very, very attractive to thieves. Yet, most of us don’t protect our smartphones or tablets—and the private information they contain—anywhere near as well as we do our wallets and PCs.

We make life easy for them. The places and ways that we use smartphones and tablets offer new chances for criminals to catch us off our guards—in the coffee shop, on the train, while shopping. When we are using our mobile devices, we usually have other things happening around us as well as on the device. We are easily distracted. And we want what we want now. Click to download. Click to view. Click to get a free app. Few of us take the time to “think before we click.”

We store passwords, bank account information, photos, and all our contacts on these devices so we can be even more fast and efficient as we live our mobile lives. That’s why 51% of us would rather lose our wallets than our mobile phones.

Some of the things you can expose yourself to if you don’t protect your mobile device include:

Financial fraud: Someone takes over your bank account, extracts money, or sets up a premium text scam where you pay for messages you don’t want.

Identity theft: By having information about you, someone can pretend to be you and sign up for credit cards, identity papers—even buy a car. It can take years to recover your good name.

Privacy loss: Someone gets information about you that you don’t want out there, including social network activities, GPS location, searches, texts, instant messages, downloads and app usage. This information could be just embarrassing—or it could cost you a friendship, a job, your credit rating or a chance for college.

Losing your device: In addition to having to buy a new device (unsubsidized by the operator), you can give a thief the information needed for the fraud, identity theft and privacy loss mentioned above.

To ensure that you protect your smartphone and tablet you should:

Don’t click on links in texts or emails, since these links may actually point toward malicious downloads

Keep your device with you, don’t let it out of your sight and don’t share it with others.

Make sure to have a pass code on your device and set it to auto-lock after a certain period of time

Before downloading any app, check other users’ reviews to see if it is safe, and read the app’s privacy policy to make sure that it is not sharing your personal information

Carefully review your mobile phone bills for any anomalies

Use comprehensive mobile security that include anti-theft, antivirus and web protection like McAfee Mobile Security or McAfee All Access

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  (Disclosures)

What is malware and why should I be concerned?

“Malware” is a shortened version of the words malicious software. It is defined as: a generic term used to describe any type of software or code specifically designed to exploit a computer/mobile device or the data it contains, without consent.

Most malware is designed to have some financial gain for the cybercriminal. Whether they are seeking your financial account information or holding your computer files for ransom or taking over your computer or mobile device to “rent” it out for malicious purposes to other criminals, they all involve some sort of payment to the cybercriminal. And because they are making money with malware, they continue their malicious ways.

There are a number of ways that malware can get “on” your computer or mobile device. You might open an attachment from someone you know whose files have already been infected. You might click a link in the body of an email or on a social networking site that automatically down­loads a virus. You might even click an ad banner on a website and end up downloading a virus or malware (known as “malvertising”). Or just by visiting a site you could get infected from what is called a drive-by download. Malware is also spread by sharing USB drives and other portable media.

And, now that mobile phones and tablets are basically mini computers, cybercriminals are targeting mobile devices. They are taking advantage of the inherent nature of the device to spread the malware, so as a mobile user you not only need to be aware of the same tricks cybercriminals use for computers, but also ones that apply to mobile devices.

Currently most mobile malware is spread by downloading an infected app so you need to be aware of what sites you download apps from and what permissions it accesses on your mobile device. Mobile malware can also spread via text messages (SMS). Scammers send phishing messages via text (called SMiShing) to try and lure you to give up personal or financial information or sign you up to premium text messages unknowingly.

What does this mean for you? You need to be aware of these tricks and scams as it could mean financial loss, reputation harm and device damage to you and your friends.There are things you should do to protect yourself, including making sure you protect all your devices with a cross-device security software like McAfee All Access. You should also make sure to:

Keep your operating system and applications updated, as updates often are to close security holes that have been exposed

Avoid clicking on links in emails, social networking sites, and text messages, especially if they are from someone you don’t know

Be selective about which sites you visit and use a safe search plug-in (like McAfee SiteAdvisor which is included with McAfee All Access) to protect you from going to malicious sites

Be choosy about which apps you download and from which sites you download them and be sure to look at the permissions for what information its accessing on your mobile device

Be smart and stay aware about cyber tricks, cons, and scams designed to fool you

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen.  Disclosures.

10 Ways to Prevent an Abduction

A recent article I wrote, titled “A Predator is Always a Predator,” discussed the 750,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S., the thousands more unaccounted for, the thousands more who’ve never been caught, and the fact that predators live amongst us. In Cleveland, Ohio, the residents know this all too well. Shock and disbelief is the common vibe in reaction to the news that three evil men abducted three innocent teen girls and held them captive for roughly 10 years.

In a 2009 horror story also out of Cleveland, a convicted rapist lured a 21-year-old woman to his bedroom back in 1989, spent 15 years in jail and then got a free pass in 2005. And, of course, he did it again. Why? Because that’s his brand of normal. It’s not OK, but it’s normal in that it’s his nature. A psychologist said to me years ago, “You would be amazed at how many levels of normal there are.”

A recent report of “Brooklyn Missing Boy: Police Arrest Man the Dismembered Child Had Asked for Directions” reminded us about how there always have been predators, there are predators today and there always will be predators—and we have to take steps to protect ourselves and those we care for.

When a true stranger—not a family member, not someone known to the child—steals a child, that child often won’t survive beyond three hours.

No matter what the statistics are, child abductions are real—and they happen far too often.

The last thing you ever want to think about is your child getting taken away from you by a stranger or even someone you know. And while the statistics aren’t nearly are bad as one would think, parents think about child abduction all the time.

The old-school training a lot of us received early on was, “Don’t talk to strangers”—as if strangers were the dangerous ones. Actually, most abductions occur when a family member takes the child after winding up on the losing end of a custody battle.

Today, most so-called helicopter parents won’t take their eyes off their kids—and I don’t see that as a bad thing. I know many will argue that point, but I don’t care.

Protecting yourself and your children begins with understanding basic security.

  1. As simple as it sounds, do not engage in behavior that creates an opportunity for the bad guy. Example: being too nice and accommodating. Recognize a potential lure.
  2. In the event that a child were to be approached, the best defense is a good offense. Resistance has often been a proven tactic for removing oneself from a dangerous situation. Running, screaming, biting, hitting and kicking may feel unnatural to teach your kids, but they are certainly natural traits they possess. I say if they are good at it now, train them to do it better!
  3. As soon as your child is at an age where he or she can comprehend this issue, it’s time to discuss it. By age four kids have a pretty good grasp, but age five they seem to be on solid footing.
  4. Role play with your kids. This is a delicate balance of awareness and play. Intellectually introduce scenarios for them to respond to. See how they articulate a response. Let them figure it out on their own. Then, if they don’t give you the answer you were looking for, work with them to understand the nature of their choice and its negative impact.
  5. Be specific, but be careful how you associate your analogies. Example: “If a white van pulled up next to you” will freak your kid out every time he or she sees a white van and will only make the child wary of people in vans, as opposed to those in cars or on foot.
  6. Make sure to discuss the internet and online predators. I’ll discuss this in depth in a future post, but in the meantime, do your research and know what risks your kids face. Take control of their access to PCs and monitor everything they do.
  7. Most importantly, this kind of education is about empowerment. It’s about taking control. It’s a gentle awareness that can very well save their lives. Don’t guilt them into making the right decisions and make them feel bad about not understanding the issue. If they aren’t ready to comprehend the issue, then back off for now.
  8. Always keep an eye on people who look out of place. Don’t take your eyes off the ones who belong, either. Predators often know their victims.
  9. And because your kids spend the majority of their time at home, do all the necessary things to strengthen your fort. Invest in home alarm systems. Install home security cameras inside and outside the home. Install proper fencing that keeps them in and others out.

10. Finally, live in peace and harmony. The chances that something like this can happen are very, very slim. But there is a chance, so these are your options.

Here’s more from Psychology Today on keeping your family safe.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures

The 4 Types of Credit Card Disputes

Love’m my credit cards. I get points, mileage and one place to view all my spending. Who doesn’t love that!

But I hate having to go through the misery of disputing charges. In my own research, I’ve determined four types of credit card disputes to look out for.

Unauthorized use: Basically, this is fraud—unauthorized use of your card when someone steals the card, skims the card, copies the number, hacks the number or double charges on purpose. Under federal law, you are responsible for up to $50 as long as you refute charges within 60 days with your credit card company. If it happens to you: Contact your credit card company ASAP and begin the resolution process. BillGuard can also help you open a dispute, at no cost to you. Just click the red button on your BillGuard Scan Report.

Disputes on dollar amounts: Mistakes happen. But I often find they don’t happen in my favor. They seem to always happen in the merchant’s favor. Funny how it works out like that, huh?

You might be billed incorrectly for products or services you didn’t purchase, charged for products you ordered but didn’t get, or be overcharged. (For the record, I don’t think I’ve ever been “undercharged.”).  If it happens to you: Contact the merchant ASAP and go through the merchant’s process for resolution. Don’t want to deal with the hassle? BillGuard will handle the dispute for you, for free.

Problems with products or services: Sometimes it’s a quality issue: products break within 30 days, are delivered broken, or the merchant fails to provide services requested. If it happens to you: Contact the merchant ASAP. If the merchant is uncooperative, contact BillGuard.

Grey charges:Grey charges are often charges that, in a roundabout way (that is, in the fine print), we agreed to by purchasing products or services. A grey charge may include mysterious subscriptions, automatic renewals, free products that result in paid products or cost creep. The initial purchase may be pennies, but over time ends up costing big dollars. If it happens to you: Flag the charge on your BillGuard Scan Report. We’ll help you open a dispute.

Here’s how to reduce your aggravation when it comes to credit card disputes:

  • Always reconcile your bills diligently and on a timely basis.
  • Refute unauthorized charges immediately—within one to two billing cycles.
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card, as credit cards offer more consumer protection.
  • Be patient—and be nice—when talking to customer support. Don’t yell like you’re some crazy Italian. (Disclosure: I am that crazy Italian.) Trust me. It usually doesn’t work.
  • Use BillGuard to watch your back and help you resolve unwanted charges.

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & advisor to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

5 Must-Have Security Apps for the Business Traveler

Prior to a trip it’s not uncommon for many of us to load up our smartphone with the latest time-killer games, social or travel apps. But an essential family of apps often overlooked revolves around security. Business travelers are in a unique category due to sensitive information they may carry but all of us are more at risk when we leave home and hit the road. Here are a few essential to take with you:

Hotspot Shield: Free, Protect yourself from hackers and identity theft while using Wi-Fi hotspots (VPN encrypts all traffic); protect your identity, your IP address and stop unwanted tracking. Share and communicate privately. Keep all your web activities anonymous and private, share and communicate with your colleagues without leaving a trace. An added bonus: get access to your favorite US apps and services—Pandora, Netflix, Hulu, PBS Kids, etc. when traveling overseas. Also save on overseas data roaming charges!

Lorex Live: Free, View live, full-screen security video from your home/office security cameras, wireless security cameras, or any other security camera at any time, from where ever you are. Keeping an eye on your home/office, your kids, or even your pets will make for a much more relaxed trip.

Kryptos: Free, Kryptos is a secure, fully encrypted voice communications application. Kryptos utilizes military grade 256 bit AES encryption to encrypt voice communications before transmission using 2048 bit RSA for key exchange.Kryptos provides VoIP connectivity for secure calls over 3G, 4G and WiFi. Users will download and install the client software and must then activate their account with Kryptos.

McAfee Mobile Security: $30.00 McAfee Mobile Security is the industry-leading mobile security solution that gives you confidence to explore everything the new mobile world has to offer, and do it safely. When you select new apps, shop online, browse social networks, or use your phone for banking and payments, McAfee Mobile Security is there to protect you. Its comprehensive security that’s as simple as it is powerful.

My TSA: Free, Check approximate wait times at TSA security checkpoints at the airport of your choice and add your own wait time for others to see.Quickly search whether you can bring items with you through the checkpoint onto the airplane.Consult the TSA Guide on how to prepare for and get through the security checkpoint quickly. Watch TSA Videos on tips for a smooth travel experience.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.