Tunisia Increasing Security Presence

Following the deadly terrorist attacks at a beach resort on June 26th that killed 39 people, Tunisia is answering the call for an increased security presence. A government minister of Tunisia, Kamel Jendoubi, on Saturday announced an increase of 100,000 security personnel to help protect the country from future terrorist attacks. The strengthened security measures include doubling the security presence at tourist locations such as beaches, hotels, and archaeological sites. The increase follows travel advisory warnings recently issues by the UK, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, and other nations that cater to the tourist traffic in the country.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that arbitrarily increased security measures in Tunisia threaten the human rights progress achieved by the 2011 uprising and enactment of the Tunisia Constitution. On Friday the HRW criticized arbitrary travel restrictions imposed by the Tunisian government as a violation of Tunisia and international law. The restrictions are primarily imposed on men and women under the age of 35 with the intended purpose of reducing the amount of citizens traveling abroad to join armed extremist groups. Although I do not want to see a country that has recently embraced a more democratic form of government to fall into a tyrannical state in the name of security, in this case I strongly feel the measures are justified, at least temporarily.

Other nations have also imposed similar travel restrictions and special counter-terrorism laws to combat the problem posed by the Islamic State and other similarly inspired groups. However, the Tunisian beachfront communities and the country as a whole rely on tourism to their pristine Mediterranean beaches as a source of economic vitality. In this instance, I strongly support their measures as long as the threat remains. The time to act is now.

More Details: OPM Hack

As we all know (or should) by now, the Office of Personnel Management has stated that personal data, including Social Security numbers, were stolen from current, prospective and former federal employees. Other information hacked are fingerprints, financial information and addresses. The OPM states anyone who applied for a background check in 2000 onwards is more than likely affected. Well, that isn’t certainly good news for me and my family.

“It’s a very significant breach,” Reginald Hyde, the Director of the Cyber Institute at the University of Alabama said. As I’ve also stated in a previous post, the OPM processes security clearances, so those of you who have been through one (from 2000 onwards – but most likely farther back) can be fairly certain that your information and the information of your close family and friends that were investigated in the process are in the hands of…do we know (drum roll)?

“Hyde says a lot of this information ends up being sold on the black market. He also adds if a foreign government is behind this, the implications could be a lot bigger.” “This is extremely serious because all of this data that they collected could be used to target Americans will high level security clearances for espionage purposes,” Hyde added.

Not good.

Hyde believes the OPM system is most likely an “open system”. What does that mean? “Systems like OPMs, I presume, had to have some interface with the outside world. I don’t know that for sure. They were probably not closed systems. So if systems aren’t closed it becomes very difficult to secure them because there’s a broad range of ways of attacking,” Hyde said. The OPM recently stated they will be working with theft monitoring companies to provide protection and restoration services to those affected, but I have yet to discover specific details regarding this commitment. I’m certain more information will be announced.

Security Ramped Up Across the Nation for 4th of July Celebrations

Millions of Americans on Saturday gathered for Independence Day parades, picnics and hotdog eating competitions, defying worries over possible security threats and the danger of wildfires in the West. Boston is celebrating Independence Day under the watchful eye of more than 80 surveillance cameras, a helicopter buzzing overhead as well as hundreds of state police, Boston police and Army National guard inside an area enclosed my metal fences around the Esplanade. State Police Colonel Timothy Alben said today that authorities had employed a “multi-layered” security plan amid warnings from the intelligence community about the potential for ISIS-inspired attacks on Fourth of July festivities.

Meanwhile in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered heightened security measures across the state over the U.S. July Fourth holiday weekend in response to a call for vigilance by the federal government. “We are keenly aware that New York State remains a top target for terrorists,” Cuomo said in a statement. The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have issued an alert calling for local authorities and the public to remain vigilant for possible threats following recent calls for violence by Islamic State militants.

It’s important that we continue to function as a society with a sense of normalcy despite the threat of terrorism that still lingers, especially on our national holiday. If we are to shut our doors, cancel the BBQs, and fear the firework shows and celebrations across our nation then we have let the terrorists win. I am thrilled to see so many fellow Americans out there celebrating. I plan on getting off this keyboard myself and joining in on the fun! Happy 4th everyone!

Rockets Reportedly Fired into Israel from Egypt’s Sinai

Fierce clashes between Egyptian security forces and an ISIS-affiliate, Sinai Province, have been occurring in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula since the group launched a major offensive Wednesday. The launch of the rockets into Israeli territory appeared to be linked to this offensive. An Israeli military source earlier said the rockets had been fired from Sinai, which borders Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Suez Canal. Israeli police said they had so far found remnants of two rockets in an open area. No damage or casualties were reported.

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Dozens of people have been killed in the past few days of clashes and air strikes in the desert region. Egyptian security sources earlier have stated they are investigating the incident, but thus far been unable to find any direct evidence the rockets came from Egyptian territory. Armed groups, including Sinai Province have fired rockets into Israel from Sinai on several occasions in the past. Israel has accused Hamas, the Palestinians group that controls Gaza, of helping ISIS in Sinai, an allegation Hamas denies.

An Egyptian security source said some Hamas members were involved in the Sinai battles, but that there were no wider organizational ties between the groups. Hamas, a group that seized power in Gaza in 2007, has faced its own threats from ISIS-linked groups. On Tuesday, ISIS released a video threatening Hamas and vowing to turn Gaza into another “fiefdom,” as in parts of Iraq and Syria. It also said in the video that it will uproot “the state of the Jews” and secular Palestinian movement Fatah, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

What is most interesting about this attack is that it purportedly came from an ISIS-linked organization. ISIS has been noted for avoiding direct confrontation with Israel since it began seizing large swathes of territory throughout the Middle East last year. Ideologically, they view Israel as the ‘final battle’ and see “cleansing” the Islamic world as their first priority before the final confrontation with Israel is made. Often times we see these smaller terrorist cells, sometimes more radical and less organized, striking out in ways that contrast starkly from their parent organizations.

Iran Nuclear Talks

Reaching a deal on Iran’s nuclear program is a matter of political will, and the “security of the world is at stake,” the European Union’s top diplomat said Sunday. European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini made the comments in Vienna, Austria, ahead of a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China – known collectively as the P5+1 – are pegging for a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran by June 30th.

Ultimately, the negotiations are aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program and keeping it from building a nuclear bomb, though Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful. The negotiations will be difficult for both parties and senior U.S. officials have disclosed the deadline may be pushed back, if necessary. One of the most sensitive issues needing to be addressed is ensuring access for International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to Iranian nuclear sites, including military ones. A second outstanding issue is related to sanctions against Iran being lifted or suspended.

This may sound pessimistic, but I have serious doubts about Iran’s willingness to cooperate in this matter. I also have the same doubts about other countries’ willingness to combat the issue, specifically Russia and China, due to their close economic ties with Iran. Furthermore, is this even an issue? Will a nuclear Iran be a true threat to the United States? I do not have the answers to these questions, but I think we should all be thinking about this in the coming days as these negotiations ramp up.

 

4th of July Terror Warning

Federal authorities have warned local law enforcement officials across the country about a heightened concern involving possible terror attacks targeting the July 4th holiday, a U.S. law enforcement official said. Although the FBI and DHS admitted to there being no specific threat for them to issue the warning, the recent terrorist attacks in Tunisia, France, and Kuwait seem to play a part in the warning. The bulletins are frequently issued in advance of major U.S. holidays out of an abundance of caution and concern that operatives may exploit the timing to generate greater attention.

The warning comes as federal investigators have worked to disrupt a number of Islamic State-inspired plots, including a planned assault earlier this month on police officers in Boston. In that case, authorities fatally shot Usaamah Rahim as he allegedly planned to attack police with military-style knives. Also this month, a New York suspect in a Islamic State-related terror investigation was arrested after attacking an FBI agent with a kitchen knife during a search of his home. Fareed Mumuni, 21, was charged with attempted murder, after he emerged as a suspect in alleged plots to use pressure-cooker explosives and knives to attack police.

In a statement Friday following attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said local law enforcement was being encouraged to be “vigilant and prepared” in preparation for July 4th celebrations. “We will also adjust security measures, seen and unseen, as necessary to protect the American people,” Johnson said. “We continue to encourage all Americans to attend public events and celebrate this country during this summer season, but always remain vigilant.”

We must continue to be vigilant in effectively identifying and combating terrorism throughout the world and in our nation.

Nest’s Security Cam

Today at an event in San Francisco Nest Labs (owned by Google) announced the Nest Cam. It’s basically a Dropcam Pro. It’s a $199 round, black camera that sits on a stand. It’s a little thinner, and has a smaller and more mobile stand, but it looks remarkably familiar. It records 1080p video (the biggest upgrade from the 720p Dropcam) with a 130-degree field of view, and has infrared night vision.

There’s a microphone built in so you can hear and be heard in your home. It will also alert you via an app if there is unexpected motion and/or sound in your home. Dropcam’s back-end service for watching and storing your camera’s video is being replaced by Nest Aware, a new paid service that lets you see what’s been going on in your house. You can save up to 30 days of video, and quickly save or share clips. The app can also algorithmically figure out which clips you’ll want to see, and show those first—it’s basically what you would expect from the combination of Dropcam and Google. It’ll start at $10 a month for your first camera.

I think this is a great nifty device for someone looking for added home monitoring oversight, but does not want to empty their pocketbook in the process.

Security Door Left Open in Fed Hack

It has now become quite apparent that one of the major reasons the recent hacking into the federal government database in which the private information of nearly every federal employee was stolen was due to a large level of negligence on the part of the government. What this boils down to is this simple fact: the government failed for years to take basic steps to secure its computer networks. Furthermore, we are also finding out that the government detailed personal histories of millions of individuals who have undergone security clearances and the people’s information of those involved in these background information (friends, family, co-workers, etc.).

The criticism came from within. Michael Esser, the agency’s assistant inspector general for audit, detailed a years long failure by Office of Personnel Management to adhere to reasonable cyber-security practices, and he said that that for a long time, the people running the agency’s information technology had no expertise. He also mentioned of an inspector general’s audit which advised that the agency shut down some of its networks because they were so vulnerable. The director, Katherine Archuleta, declined, saying it would interfere with the agency’s mission.

The director does not seem to possess the desire to take responsibility for what happened. Instead, she seems more interested in shifting blame and trying to defend this devastating breach of security. Maybe she isn’t really to blame and this problem would have happened regardless of her tenure at OPM. However, this country as a whole needs to learn well from this lesson and take cyber-security very seriously moving forward.

The time to act is now.

Dallas Police Station Shooting

Less than 24 hours before a gunman fired more than 40 bullets into Dallas police headquarters early Saturday, DPD Chief David Brown and a Fraternal Order of Police official discussed concerns about security at the city’s police stations. Officials within Dallas Police have long cited concerns about unsecured parking lots, broken lots on exterior and interior doors, and the lack of bulletproof glass at police headquarters and the seven police substations. Brown, citing concerns with security measures at the police headquarters, recently approved an overtime increase of $300,000 to ensure at least two armed officers were at the front desk around the clock.

The Dallas shooting, though, did not appear to be politically motivated. Authorities say a man angry at authorities about losing custody of his son was responsible for Saturday’s early morning rampage. The attack occurred on June 13, 2015, when a man, James Boulware, attacked the Dallas PD HQ from an armored van with what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon. The man later fled the scene to Hutchins, TX where he was killed by police during a standoff in a van. Luckily, no other fatalities have been reported as a result of the incident.

The conundrum that many departments find themselves in are two-fold: budgetary and perception. Many police departments are suffering budgetary cuts by cash-strapped municipal governments. Additionally, police departments, with all the coverage of the Ferguson riots and other related incidents, are afraid to further the furor over the growing ‘militarization’ of police in our country by increasing the usage of armor and physical protection barricades used in departmental buildings. Nonetheless, we must be fully supportive of the men and women who risk their lives to protect our community. Increasing security measures at police departments around the country isn’t about militarization or misuse of governmental funds, it is about doing the right thing for those who risk everything for our safety.

The time to act is now.

OPM Breach and Its Impacts

Every time we think the largest breach of cyber security has occurred, a separate breach comes along to “one-up” it. That’s seeming to be especially true with the recently disclosed hack of the federal Office of Personnel Management, the government’s human resources division. Initially, the government stated the hack exposed the personal information of approximately four million people – information such as Social Security numbers, birthdates and addresses of current and former federal workers. This, of course, has been proven wrong.

It turns out that the hackers, believed to be Chinese, also accessed information from SF-86 forms. These forms are used for conducting background checks for worker security clearances. The forms can contain a wealth of sensitive data not only about workers seeking security clearance, but also about their friends, spouses and other family members. They can also include potentially sensitive information about the applicant’s interactions with foreign nationals—information that could be used against those nationals in their own country.

The Theodore Roosevelt Building, headquarters of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 5, 2015. The disclosure by U.S. officials that Chinese hackers stole records of as many as 4 million government workers is now being linked to the thefts of personal information from health-care companies. The hackers, thought to have links to the Chinese government, got into the OPM computer system late last year, according to one U.S. official. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Theodore Roosevelt Building, headquarters of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Cyber security is proving to be a real challenge for not only corporations, but governments as well. We need to be able to successfully safeguard our information from hackers online (if not, there’s always pen-and-paper again!) The fact that the OPM did not have their own IT security staff until 2013 is also puzzling and alarming. It is time to safeguard your information online and understand that the threat to breach this information is very real.

The time to act is now.