Thursday, March 9, 2017

Director’s Message: Safety is First and Foremost

About five years ago, we asked a team of TEEXans to evaluate our mission, vision and core values. This team embraced the charge and diligently worked on defining what is our purpose, where are we going, and what is most important to us. Highest on the list of our core values was Safety.  It was very reassuring that this team felt that everything paramount to TEEX revolved around safety.

When you lay the cards on the table, it makes a lot of sense. Virtually all of our training and courses have safety as a significant component. We are considered among the best in emergency response training and technical assistance. Our students and customers rely on us to transfer our knowledge to them so that they can ensure their personal safety and the safety of their employees and organizations. 

To put it simply, Safety is in our DNA. So the question we need to ask ourselves is: “Are we taking care of each other as well as we are taking care of our students?” Every task we perform, every idea we want to try out, every step we take, should be put in the context of safety first. Safety is not just a slogan on a sign. Safety is a commitment that we make to each other. I care about your well-being, and being safe is first and foremost.  


~ Gary Sera is CEO of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, which conducts extension training and technical assistance for nearly 170,000 people each year.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cybersecurity and Romance: Looking at the Internet through Shakespeare's Eyes

February is the month of love and here at TEEX, we love cybersecurity! In honor of Valentine’s Day, Knowledge Engineering (KE) has provided cybersecurity tips inspired by some of William Shakespeare's most famous romantic quotes.

Tip #1: "Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."

It seems like every day there is a new story about someone saying or doing something on social media that is harmful to others, whether it is cyberbullying, trolling, posting insensitive videos, etc. Social media is a part of the internet that provides a platform for people to express themselves (both positively and negatively). It was created to share life experiences, whether that’s sharing pictures of your child being born, graduating from college or something as simple as wishing a friend or loved one “happy birthday.” However, the internet and social media can be used to execute crimes and as a place of contention and hate. Here are some positive ways to use the internet and methods on how to be safe doing it.

When posting on Facebook:

Love all: Keep it light. People visit their Facebook page to check up on friends and family, share uplifting messages and things they like, or to share photos of their vacation and family. 

o   Don’t use it as a place to broadcast your hatred of other people, famous or otherwise.

o   Use Facebook and other social media sites to make each other laugh and feel good. Don’t use it as a place to berate someone’s looks, choices, or point of view.

o   We all love a good laugh, but don’t post embarrassing photos or videos of others, unless you have their permission. It is no fun to be laughed at, unless you are laughing too!

·      Trust a few: Lock down your Facebook page. People are using social media sites to gather information before they initiate cyber attacks and physical attacks. If you leave your photos, friends list, and post open to anyone, you are providing the bad guys with information to further their attack.  Explore the security and privacy settings to see your options for securing your Facebook page.

·      Do wrong to none: Think about what you post on social media and how it may impact others. Once you post something on social media, it no longer belongs to you and won’t necessarily stay within your group of friends. A picture of someone in a compromising situation could do irreparable harm to their career or family.

Tip #2: “Love is blind, and lovers cannot see, the pretty follies that themselves commit.”

Most of us love the Internet. We can use it to catch up on what is going on in the world, buy whatever we want, watch cat videos, and communicate with friends. Who wouldn’t love that! But we shouldn’t let our love of the Internet blind us to the hazards associated with it. 
  • Malicious websites can download malware to your computer without you knowing, 
  • Public Wi-Fi connections can be set up by criminals to steal your personal information, and 
  • Hackers can create websites that look legitimate to record your login information so they can use it to access your accounts. Below are a few tips to prevent Internet blindness:
Not all browsers are equal when it comes to secure browsing. Firefox and Chrome are considered to be more secure than other popular browsers because of the security features they offer.

·     Watch out for malicious websites because they can look legitimate. Here are a few tips to help you spot a malicious site:

o   If you are visiting financial sites or shopping sites, check to make sure they are using encryption. The web addresses of secure sites will start with https://. For example, Wells Fargo’s web address is https://www.wellsfargo.com while a spoofed Wells Fargo web address would start with http://. What looks like a minor difference, could have a big impact if someone uses it to steal your banking information.

o   Pay attention to how it looks and what it is trying to get you to do. If something looks off or you are asked to download something you are not expecting, cancel the download and close out the site. Run your virus scan software just to make sure nothing malicious was downloaded.

o   Never click on web addresses in an email. Links in email aren’t always as they appear. Type the address into your browser or Google the company’s name to find the legitimate web address. It is extra work, but you can never be too careful!

·      Be careful when using open Wi-Fi connections. Public Wi-Fi is great, but did you know that for under a $100, someone can buy a device to set up a public Wi-Fi connection that they can use to intercept emails you are sending or log your keystrokes. Some ways to prevent this are:

o   Use a virtual private network (VPN) that encrypts your data. If a hacker intercepts it, chances are they won’t be able to decrypt it.

o   Refrain from visiting financial sites or purchasing items if you have to type in your credit card information.

o   When typing in passwords or other sensitive information, make sure no one is watching what you are doing (shoulder surfing). This is an easy way for criminals to obtain your information.

Tip #3 “I pray you, do not fall in love with me, for I am falser than vows made in wine.”

On the Internet it is easy to hide your true self. You can create a whole new identity for yourself and no one would know. Criminals and other unscrupulous people will use this to their advantage. People may create sad stories to collect “donations,” develop personal relationships on false pretenses for fun or to deliberately hurt someone, or sell counterfeit products as the real thing knowing you won’t have any recourse to get your money back. Always know who you are dealing with online. If something seems off, it probably is.

To learn more about cybersecurity, take one of TEEX’s online cybersecurity classes or schedule a face-to-face class in your jurisdiction. Visit us at www.teex.org/cyber and at www.facebook.com/teexcyber/ on Facebook. 

In honor of Shakespeare, always “Embrace the cyber world with love and safety in mind!”

~ by Diane Cornwell and Antonio Watson, Cybersecurity Training Coordinators with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.