1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.
  1. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard  last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.
  1. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste… and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.
  1. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might  leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it..
  1. If it snows while you’re out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot  tracks into the house.. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.
  1. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it’s set. That makes it too  easy.
  1. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on  the second floor, which often access the master bedroom – and your jewelry. It’s not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.
  1. It’s raining, you’re fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your  door – understandable. But understand this: I don’t take a day off because of  bad weather.
  1. I always knock first. If you answer, I’ll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don’t take me up on it.)
  1. Do you really think I won’t look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.
  1. Here’s a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids’ rooms.
  1. You’re right: I won’t have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it’s not bolted down, I’ll take it with me.
  1. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system.


Community Preparedness, Compare and Prepare

Ironically, I started to write this post a day before the catastrophic earthquake and Tsunami in northern Japan, but it seems the gripping headlines from this terrible tragedy continue to rewrite this post for me.  My original intent was to compare community emergency preparedness programs in New York and California called Ready New York and The Greatest Shakeout respectively. But omission of what the Japanese have achieved in the area of preparedness would be ludicrous. In light of the magnitude of this natural event and their effectiveness at containing life loss a more effective aim would be to discuss how preparedness elsewhere in the world compares to Japanese resilience to such incredibly destructive events in the hopes of applying clear takeaways to our own resilient communities.

As I write this post major natural disasters have been taking place around the globe. Japan just witnessed a major earthquake measured at 8.8 on the Richter scale, causing a tsunami with over 23-feet waves. Christchurch, New Zealand also experienced a horrific earthquake last month. North America has been under snow storm and most recently flooding disaster. The Midwest region of the US is also expecting its own bout with extreme weather with both tornados and flooding likely to cause major damage. I mentioned these examples to put things into context. Preparedness can’t exist in a void, there has to be significant cooperation from every member of the community. It is the most effective way to minimize life lost. Authorities in many countries realize this, which is why they have invested resources in systems, processes, and training to protect their communities’ most precious resources in the face on changing patterns fueling the spate of recent natural disasters.

Arguably large scale natural disasters are the context of many discussions lately. But discussions would be out of context without making reference to preparedness and awareness campaigns where we live and work. In that regard “The Great California Shakeout” is a community preparedness resource dedicated to promoting awareness about one of the State’s most prevalent natural hazards, earthquakes, more specifically a potential devastating earthquake. Started in 2008 as the largest earthquake drill in the US, it owes its beginnings to a group of concerned scientist who took it as their responsibility not only to study root causes for potential deadly quake activities, but also to educate the communities on how to protect themselves from their effects. Today the preparedness drills span all 58 counties with more than 6.9 million participating Californians.  At the center of the program is the simple to remember “Drop, Cover and Hold-on” which is essential to saving lives in a traumatic event.


The site encourages everyone from individuals, to public/private organizations and authorities at all levels to participate in preparedness exercises; besides providing advice and training materials.  The resources they provide have been approved by a team of multidisciplinary experts. The drill manuals cover a variety of learning styles and information intake based on age groups. Multimedia tools allow easy sharing and access which is important for widespread adoption of such information. Flyers and other mass communication tools also help put the word out. The site also links to news and events to aid in the awareness efforts and provides a forum for participants to share their inputs. It also has a presence through social media networks to keep people engaged and help push up-to-the-minute information. Regarding the latter, I stated in a recent post that “social media” has become an indispensable tool in rapid emergency communication and awareness”. That is as much as I can tell you about The Great California Shakeout. If you want to learn more follow the link to the official site:

New York’s community preparedness program by contrast takes a broader, all-hazards approach. Ready New York is a program managed through the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Through it they offer informational guides to help New Yorkers prepare for all types of emergencies. New Yorkers are encouraged to take three critical steps: make a plan, get a kit and be informed. Since 2003 when its public readiness campaigns began, they have been aimed at getting New Yorkers to a state of readiness.   The program’s common sense approach to potential hazards has also aided its broad adoption by New York’s diverse community.


Japan today is reeling from two catastrophic natural disasters a major earthquake and tsunami leaving a path of death and destruction in their wake. A third disaster, nuclear power plants, damaged by earthquakes destructive force looks likely to be averted for now, according to experts in the field. The death toll is likely to be high, but in contrast to recent earthquake disasters in Haiti, China or the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake which unleashed a series of devastating tsunamis, the number of victims will likely pale in comparison. It speaks bounds of Japanese resilience. It’s important to understand how this became so, if we intend to improve upon their approach in our own preparedness efforts. After the 1923 massive earthquake that struck the Kanto Plain nearly destroying Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan carefully rebuilt these cities ensuring resilience against another catastrophic event. Japan is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, owing to its location on the “Ring of Fire, an arc of seismic activity that encircles the Pacific Basin” for that reason their built environment (from highways, transportation tunnels and airport facilities, to residential/office building) were constructed with advanced earthquake science in common. Japan has invested significant resources for earthquake safety and disaster management research. In 2000, the country’s building codes were revised again, this time with specific requirements and mandatory checks. At the local level billions of dollars are allocated for “improving the safety of hospitals, schools and social welfare facilities.”

They also take preparedness serious, Japan “marks Disaster Prevention Day on Sept. 1, the anniversary of the 1923 Tokyo quake with a series of awareness activities. At many Japanese schools, first-day-of-class celebrations include an evacuation drill. Even the Prime Minster participates: at this year’s closing ceremony, Naoto Kan spoke about the importance of “mutual aid” in times of crisis.  Japan boasts the world’s most sophisticated earthquake early-warning systems. Emergency drills organized by public and private organizations work, among other things, to transport “stranded” commuters from their offices to their homes. Japan’s tsunami warning service, set up in 1952, consists of 300 sensors around the archipelago, including 80 aquatic sensors that monitor seismic activity 24/7. Small wonder how they have survived such catastrophic events with minimal casualties. The key here is a precise focus on preparedness at every level.

Why is this important to community preparedness around the world? My two illustrated States in the USA, California and New York have similar hazard elements as Japan with unstable fault lines, which may potentially trigger seismic activity in the future according to leading scientists. Both States also have major cities near their significant coast lines which make them vulnerable to tsunamis among other natural hazards. For the sake of our discussion, this is representative of many other developed regions around the world. In terms of critical infrastructure both California and New York have nuclear power plants among their energy assets, which is common among modern industrialized regions around the glove. As far as I’m aware, the Department of Energy regulates construction of power plants and oil refineries to withstand large scale seismic activity, as well as, advanced preparedness (including early warning and evacuation of surrounding communities) procedures in case of emergencies. However the recent oil disaster off the Gulf of Mexico raises concern regarding how strict these procedures have in fact been, when you peeled the bureaucratic layers at such facilities. Both states also strictly regulate building codes to ensure that high-rise building and industrial facilities are built to endure earthquakes. In terms of readiness, California and New York have far reaching community preparedness programs as previously explained. California for its part having identified, through its risk management measures, the high probability of getting hit with another major earthquake, emphasizes such readiness more so than other States. Be that as it may, there is always room for improvement.

Japan’s approach to preparedness offers proven lessons for all communities around the world.  In addition, the aftermath of the recent tragedy has revealed a number of takeaways that can further advanced earthquake safety research. Critical infrastructure such as nuclear power plants, refineries, weapons stockpile (including research facilities handling deadly toxins) require renewed attention anywhere there is high probability of an earthquake. Every citizen needs to take responsibility for their preparedness: heeding early warning signals; stocking emergency supplies like food, water and medicine (I’d also consider stocking iodine, a radiation antidote if I lived close enough to a nuclear power plant facility), as well as having access to emergency communication, with social media being a proven tool for such events.

Community preparedness is an intelligent way to minimize the risk to life and property loss during natural disasters. I have been involved in these community resilience efforts through my participation in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Comparing these two emergency preparedness programs from New York and California in light of recent experience around the world, should serve as motivation to get you acquainted with similar efforts in your community, and hopefully when disaster strikes you would know what to do. I hope that the magnitude of these tragic events would serve as incentive for everyone to keep preparedness top of mind. These life lessons carry incredible value beyond weathering a disaster, since they are about awareness and being ready for whatever the unpredictable force of nature throws at us.

Too Young to Learn Security Awareness?

As a father and security practitioner I often balance the benefits of teaching my kids how to be constantly aware of their surrounding.  I constantly adapt simple situation awareness lessons that would be normal for young children without crossing the line into paranoia. This is obviously a sensitive subject due to the fact that a child’s learning and behavior is malleable and subject to manipulation. I worry about them becoming the target of a predator, but in my drive to get them prepared and ready to prevent or react, I wouldn’t want to create any trauma or long term negative effect on their mental health as fear and anxiety can cause.

According to The International Centre For Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), more than 2.1 million children (younger than 18) go missing around the world in a one-year period. Leading scholars and researchers estimate that one in five girls and one in ten boys will be sexually victimized before they reach adulthood, and less than 35% of these sexual assault cases are reported. With the advent of the Internet, child predators have a new avenue to contact their victims with perceived anonymity and to perpetrate crimes against children. According to a U.S. Department of Justice study, of the estimated 24 million child Internet users, one in five has received unwanted sexual solicitations yet only one in four told a parent.

I’m grateful for awareness tools such as these great e-learning materials prepared by KinderVision. I have used it as a learning tool for my children and also with clients who have expressed concern for their children’s safety outside their home.  So far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  It’s our moral duty to contribute to making all our children safe by empowering them through awareness information.

A Thief’s World

When all you need for a thriving black market is a hot commodity any asset in a supply and demand loop is at risk.  Take for instance something as lame as old bricks from run down buildings in St. Louis, Missouri. According to this NYT article, real estate developers as far away as Florida have set a market for the City’s bricks and thieves have devised clever schemes for supplying them. The ancillary risk effect of this criminal trade puts the affected communities at high risk for loss of life and their properties. These developments are reminiscent of the rash of copper thefts that swept communities around the world when demand was driven by high commodity prices.  I can speak from first experience as a victim of copper theft when my vacant home at the time was broken into and had all the copper water supply lines striped out by thieves.  The damage left behind (Thousands of dollars worth) I’m sure far outweighed the benefit derived from the crime.

Car thefts are another example of the dynamics at play (supply and demand) in the black markets. According to this article in Time Magazine, car thieves prefer specific early model cars that have the highest demand for parts at collision shops around the US. The statistics from the National Insurance Crime Bureau reveals that the current state of the car theft economy runs counter to common wisdom, where late model cars would be in higher demand and fetch more money.  That doesn’t mean you should not be concerned and invest in antitheft devices (Standard features in most car models today) for your new vehicle, but if own an early model Honda accord you should take extra steps to protect your investment.

Privacy Matters – Part II

On this second installment, we discuss privacy issues related to ATM’s, network devices; social media’s latest (Snafu) bout with lack of privacy protection and transparency; Latin America’s “devil’s paradise” personal information bazaar, as well as some advice on wireless network protection for your defense toolkit and moe. If you’re keen to these patterns, you’d notice from this maelstrom of exploits how our everyday life is constantly compromise via various illicit schemes.  The fabric of our society’s technological systems has been cunningly hijacked. Our must effective means of defense is awareness, because through it we can device reverse engineering countermeasures. AV and other commercially available protection systems can only go so far. In the meantime the bad guys are free to profit from our self-imposed ignorance.

Hacker develops multi-platform rootkit for ATMs

In 5 years over 94,000 #counterfeit #Cisco networking devices seized by law enforcment.

Fast-Spreading P2P Worm Targets USB Drives

Network World (05/05/10) Dunn, John E.

Facebook’s lack of privacy:

4 things Facebook doesn’t tell you about your privacy and security

Personal cellphone data end up for sale at Mexico flea market

Printer dots raise privacy concerns

Wireless Security: The Basics

Is your web cam spying on you?

How To Nab Identity Thieves:

Cars’ Computer Systems Called at Risk to Hackers

New York Times (05/13/10) Markoff, John

Electricity: The New Math

‘Smart’ Meters Know When You’re Cooking, Cleaning; How About Dinner at 4? (This is all good and dandy as a savings tool, but who’s to say it would not be used for illegal spying on home activities)

Nobody encrypts phone calls. or

Privacy Matters

“But even the most stringent security precautions suffered from a fatal weakness: the human factor.”—Freedom

I sat down recently to analyze the issue of personal protection and safety. I write about various issues that impact our ability to defend our assets and reputation through this forum, but in light of my lack of subject-matter-expertise I tend to neglect writing about information protection matters. Yet very few things in our modern society of hyper-connectivity are as important as protecting our data, identity, only transactions—you pick the term that best suits this important task.  That is the reason I’ve decided to share with you links to privacy articles that in my view, have a high level of significance to our personal asset protection and security awareness. I will continue posting on this topic every month or so; therefore, visit this blog from time to time to see the latest “privacy matters”.  

Disabling cars by remote control: who didn’t see this coming?

E-waste: Criminals comb hard drives looking for personal data to use in scams  

Game Consoles at Work Threaten Corporate Security  

Privacy in a mobile world: The Massachusetts data privacy law     

“Storing documents on the cloud. Is Security a priority? Is it a secure proposition? Loosing connectivity can send documents flying into Cyber-space…” BBC’s Click — My own two cents: Is it cloud computing or fog computing? It all sounds nebulous to me…

How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi.  Wi-Fi makes it easier for you to work on the go–and easier for other people to sneak a peek at your data. We’ll show you how to remain secure on public wireless networks.  

Legal spying via the cell phone system

CBS Investigation Finds Personal Info on Copiers, Including Buffalo Police Copiers (Whose information gets copied on police precincts machines…that’s right yours, John Doe Public)

Google And Facebook’s Privacy Illusion –By Bruce Schneier  

Hancock Breach Reveals New Trend

Former Con Man Helps Feds Thwart Alleged ATM Hacking Spree

Home Protection Basics

By Francisco Mateo

“Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their information gathering, even using Google Earth and Streetview to plan their burglaries with military precision. Insurance providers are starting to take this into account when they are assessing claims and we may in future see insurers declining claims if they believe the customer was negligent.” — Darren Black, head of home insurance at

The fact is that, “what you don’t know can hurt you” when it comes to home burglary and theft protection.  All of us home owners should be aware of the latest tactics being employed by cat burglars these days. First off a maxim in protection strategies is that you must know your enemy and their methods of attack.  Subsequently we can implement proper prevention and defense. Consider these suggestions to make your home a well guarded castle:

Doors are Obvious Entry Points for Intruders

  • If you move into a new home, change the front and back door locks immediately. Install an alarm system.
  • Ensure front and back doors are secure. Never leave door keys near an open window. If possible, get doors that are solid and at least 1 3/4” (4.4cm) thick.
  • Never open the front door without first checking who it is. If you live in an apartment, use the peephole to find out who is at your door (if there isn’t one installed, ask the building management or landlord if it is possible to install one). If you live in a house, look through a window to see who it is before opening the front door. If you have a front door grill, make sure it is always locked.
  • Some thieves try to trick their way into your house by telling a variety of stories. They could be alone or in groups, young or old, male or female and any race or religion. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR to them or let them into your home especially if you are alone. Genuine callers, e.g. local police officers, should not mind coming back another time when other family members are home.

Windows Cannot be Compromised, Either

  • If you have window grills, make sure they are not big enough for a small person, or a child, to squeeze through. Burglars can pry open a window making just enough space to unlatch it from the outside and then squeeze through the grill opening. (A thief can get through any gap that is larger than a human head.)
  • At night and when nobody is in the house, ground floor windows should always be closed and latched properly. Even though there may be window grills, an open window gives burglars more access to your house.

Ensure Your House is Well Lit

  • Use energy saving light bulbs at strategic spots around the house which can be run all night. While the determined burglar might still try to break in, it could help deter others.

Install Sensor Lights in the Garden

  • It may make sense to install motion sensor lights either in the garage or the garden. However, ensure that the light is directed downwards, otherwise it can be annoying to neighbors and be dangerous to passing traffic.

Keep Tools and Ladders Away from View

  • If you keep tools in a shed or cabinet outside the house, keep it locked at all times. Otherwise, thieves can just help themselves to your tools to break into your house!

Garden Landscape Can Be a Hiding Place

  • Although trees and hedges can give you privacy, it can also be a good place for prowlers to hide. Keep the landscaping neatly trimmed so that your garden is visible from the outside.

When You are Away on Holiday

  • Try not to make it too obvious that nobody is home. Cancel newspaper deliveries so that they don’t pile up in your driveway.
  • Put some lights around the house on automatic (preferably random) timer so that the house is not left in complete darkness.
  • If possible, have a close friend or relative come in at different times every day to check on the house and bring in the mail.
  • Keep valuables like jewellery in a safe deposit box while you are away. If your car is left at home while you are away on holiday, do not keep the car keys in the house. This will avoid potential robbers stealing the car if they manage to break into your house.
  • Before you leave for your holiday, double check that all windows are secure and front and back doors are properly locked.