Department of Safety & Homeland Security Recognizes National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Thursday, October 03, 2013 | 12:11pm

NASHVILLE --- The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security observes October as National Cyber Security Awareness month. Department officials are urging citizens to protect themselves against potential cyber threats and crime, including identity theft, fraud and scams. This year’s theme is “Our Shared Responsibility.”

“Our goal is to raise awareness about potential cyber threats in Tennessee and encourage citizens to take security and safety precautions when using the internet. We have become more susceptible to cyber threats, as modern technology has become an everyday part of life. Everyone has to play a role in cyber security,” Commissioner Gibbons said.  

There have been several reports of cybercrime in Tennessee, including evidence of impersonators using the official state Office of Homeland Security website to facilitate an online scam. The unidentified impersonator has sent a series of e-mails to the victim requesting payment for “Homeland Security” fees and then threatened prosecution for non-compliance. It appeared the e-mails included the signature line of current OHS personnel or contained the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) logo.

“Our office would never contact citizens demanding money or other forms of ‘Homeland Security’ fees,” Assistant Commissioner David Purkey said, who oversees the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security. “This example is a reminder to everyone to use caution when receiving unsolicited e-mails or phone calls demanding money or threatening enforcement action for non-compliance.”

Other schemes reported in Tennessee include a Department of Homeland Security-themed “ransomware” – malicious software that restricts access to a computer system and demands a ransom in order to remove the restriction – and a phone scam targeting Knox County restaurants. Several citizens reported receiving phone calls regarding an issue with their Knoxville Utilities Board account. The victims were asked to purchase MoneyPak cash cards in specified amounts, and if refused, the suspect(s) threatened to disconnect power services.   

Citizens are encouraged to remain informed about cybercrimes in their communities and report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement or the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security.

Victims of malware or “ransomware” are encouraged to report the incident to the FBI

Listed below are a few basic steps to protect you from cyber threats and become more secure.

  • Make passwords long and strong: Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password.
  • Don’t share passwords with anyone!
  • Keep a clean machine. Your operating system, browser, and other critical software are optimized by installing regular updates.
  • Use a pop-up blocker (the links in pop-up ads are notorious sources of malware).
  • Before you enter your personal and financial information to make an online transaction, look for signs that the site is secure.
  • Maintain an open dialogue with your family, friends, and community about Internet safety.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you post online, and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely.
  • Be cautious about what you receive or read online. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Please visit the state’s Office of Homeland Security for cyber safety tips this October.     

Cyber Security Awareness Month is a nationally recognized effort coordinated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center and the National Cyber Security Alliance to raise cyber security awareness across the country and to empower citizens, businesses, government and schools to improve their cyber security preparedness.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to ensure that our state is a safe, secure place in which to live, work and travel; enforce the law with integrity; and provide customer-focused services professionally and efficiently.