The New Bill that will Protect you Against Cyber Attacks

Recently, the Federal government announced that cyber threats were the most dangerous threats to the security of our nation – even more so than terrorism. This statement should not come as too much of a surprise especially after large scale cyber attacks that occurred to a number of private companies in the United States within recent months. In order to help combat, a new bipartisan bill has been offered by leaders of the House Intelligence Committee. The bill is offered in attempt to make it easier for companies who have experienced cyber-threats to share their newfound information with the government in an effort to help prevent further attacks.

The bill promises to both protect civil liberties while helping the government be prepared to combat against hackers. The bill does not allow for the National Security Agency, the Department of Defense, or any other agency that is a part of the intelligence community to target an individual person for surveillance. The idea of the bill is not to take away civil liberties, but instead, it is to ensure that government agencies will have more knowledge as to how hacks occurred so that may be able to prevent future ones from happening. It is important to know how to protect yourself from cyber attacks. Private companies who have experienced threats of an attack or an actual attack would be able to report these findings to civilian agencies as opposed to directly to government agencies. However, once the information is with civilian agencies, any information acquired can then be shared with the government. In the past, businesses have been reluctant to share information regarding cyber attacks to the government for fear of consumers suing them. However, the bill offers some protection to companies from lawsuits that may arise. This is all in an effort to have the government access more information about the type of hacks that are occurring. With more information, they can presumably be more prepared for a future attack. The bill may reach the House floor sometime in April.

What is in E-Waste that is Hazardous if not Properly Recycled?

With the growing amount of E-Waste that is landing in US landfills, and landfills throughout the world, there have been more and more movements geared toward educating the public about the negative effects of E-Waste. This includes the amount of space that is being taken up by e-waste, the precious metals that are being lost, and the amount of energy we could be saving as a country if we were to instead recycle e-waste. Another negative effect of e-waste that is important not to forget is the hazardous repercussions that come from it. Most electronic items from cell phones to old computers contain trace amounts of hazardous chemicals that can be harmful to the environment and to humans. Here is a closer look about what is the importance of e-waste recycling and what makes it so harmful when not properly recycled.

landfill of computer waste

Lead and mercury are some of the most common hazardous materials that are found in e-waste, though there are many more than that. Though lead is the fifth most widely used chemical after iron, aluminum, copper and zinc, it is also very dangerous. Just from short-term exposure to high levels of lead, a person will experience convulsions, vomiting, diarrhea, coma or even death. Other symptoms also include abdominal pain, appetite loss, fatigue, constipation, irritability, sleeplessness, and headache. Lead exposure is also particularly dangerous for young children since it can cause damage to the nervous connection and even cause blood and brain disorders. While mercury is a metal that is widely used for producing electric and electronic products, it is also one of the most toxic metals. Mercury can cause liver and brain damage when inhaled or ingested. Other hazardous materials found in e-waste include arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, polyvinyl chloride, and selenium. Some of the effects of these hazardous materials include skin diseases, lung cancer, brain swelling, damage to the heart, muscle weakness, fever, chills, skin cancer, eye injury, impairment of immune system, and respiratory problems just to name a few. When e-waste is not properly recycled, these hazardous materials can sink into the land and contaminate water supplies. This is why it is important to always recycle e-waste.

New Tools for Corporations to Protect Your Data.

So much of what we do is now online. We bank, shop, share information with others and much more while online. While the Internet can be extremely useful, because we do so much on it, there is a lot of valuable information that is used on it, and therefore, information that can potentially be hacked. Knowing how to keep your identity secure online can be very difficult. In 2014, the US director of national intelligence stated that the breach of online systems and theft of valuable information online was the number 1 threat to America’s national safety. In fact, cyber security was put ahead of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

Recently, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (the research agency of the Pentagon) showcased their latest cyber security system, which they are calling Plan X. This new type of cyber security uses a 3-D graphical touch interface that displays attacks on a network in real time. One of the biggest problems that networks, companies, and even governments are facing when it comes to cyber attacks is that more often than not, they don’t even realize that they have been hacked after the fact. By that time, much of the damage has already been done. With Plan X, it will allow the network to react in real time so the moment that they are being hacked, they will know. This will now allow for the system to fight back, which will significantly decrease the chance of the hackers being able to infiltrate the system. Meanwhile, Congress has also passed an act, which will help cyber security as well.

The Federal Information Security Modernization Act allows for federal agencies to be more effective in the development and implementation process of network security measures. The act promotes more enabling of real-time technologies such as Plan X, the sharing of potential cyber security threats and vulnerabilities across federal, state, and local government agencies, and the opportunity to provide recommendations on security measures to federal and non-federal entities. These are just some of the ways the US government is working towards more cyber security.

Creating Strong and Secure Passwords

It is common to hear how important it is to know how to prevent identity theft by securing your information while online or on a computer. One of the simplest ways that you can protect yourself is through a strong password. While the implementation of a strong password is often talked about, the importance of one truly cannot be overstated. We use passwords for a variety of reasons such as logging into email accounts, social networking sites, online games, credit card accounts, bank accounts, online forums and a number of other accounts. Because there are so many accounts, many people often use the same two or three passwords for all of their accounts or they use passwords that are not very strong. These include nicknames, names, dates of birth, maiden names or other predictable and obvious information.

The problem with using the same, or a couple of passwords for all of your accounts is the fact that all of your different accounts most likely have different security strengths. For example, a system that you have an account with that does not store much personal information or any credit card information, such as an online game will not have a very strong security system since even if it was hacked, no vital information will be stolen. On the other hand, a bank or credit card company will have a very strong security system since valuable information is stored on your account. Now, if you use the same password for both the online game and your credit card account, a hacker can easily crack your password and username from the online game and try to use it on a number of different websites. Since the information you have used for the online game is the same for your credit card account, they will be able to hack into your account even though there is a good security system in place. This is why you should never use the same password for various accounts. To be safe, you should also create new passwords at least once a month. Passwords should be at least six characters long and contain a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. This will help ensure that your personal information remains safe.

How to Properly Dispose of E-Waste

Whenever we buy a new phone or gadget there is always a tendency to simply throw out the old piece of technology. Others opt to stash it in a drawer or attic where all the other old cell phones, keyboards, and chargers are stored. If this sounds like you, you are not alone; everybody does it.  However, our tendency to simply throw out old pieces of technology or to store them as they gather dust is a tendency that must be switched. Instead of tossing out old cell phones and electronics, you should learn how to properly dispose of e-waste.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, e-waste is the nation’s fastest growing type of waste. In fact, in 2010 Americans collectively threw away approximately 384 million pieces of electronics. This includes cell phones, computers, televisions and other commonly used devices. The
problem with throwing away e-waste is that there are potentially hazardous consequences. This is because electronics have trace amounts of dangerous chemicals such as mercury, cadmium and lead. Over time, these materials can sink into the ground where they can pollute our drinking water supplies. In addition, the chemicals are also hazardous to the environment as well.

While turning in your old electronics to a recycling company is always better than simply throwing them away where they will end up in a landfill, the quicker you take your old cell phone, for example, to a recycling center, the better. This is because, many times people will upgrade to a new phone or tablet when their old one still works nearly perfectly. When useable models are recycled, it is much easier for these products to be reused or for the materials to be used for a new and similar product. While your old phone should still be recycled, many of the parts on it cannot be reused since the technology is simply out of date. The next time you upgrade your phone or other electronic device, be sure to recycle the old one and do your part to help minimize the growing problem of e-waste.

Proper Cell Phone Recycling

The frequency with which consumers are purchasing new cell phones is quite alarming. While most phones are only built to last two years, many consumers purchase the latest models even more frequently than that. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, many of these old cell phones are not disposed of properly and are instead ending up in landfills as E-waste. Generally no one thinks about what to do with an old cell phone.

 According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Americans are discarding 100-125 million cell phones each year! All these cell phones equals about 65,000 tons of trash and is why cell phones are now the fastest type of e-waste in the country. Instead of simply throwing out your old cell phones, you should recycle them and here are a few reasons why.

One reason to recycle old phones is to help the environment. Cell phones contain toxic metals such as mercury and arsenic. These metals can seep into the landfill and end up in water sources. With over 100 million cell phones being thrown out each year, the amount of toxic metals in the environment is growing at an alarming rate. Another reason to recycle is the fact that recycling can help bring down the cost of new phones. When you recycle, all the good parts of your phone can be reused. This means that the cost spent on raw materials will be brought down which lowers the overall production costs meaning you get a cheaper new phone. A third reason to recycle your old phones is to save energy. When just one phone is recycled it saves enough energy to power a laptop for nearly 48 hours. This means that if Americans recycled all the phones that are thrown out in one year, the US could have enough energy saved to power over 24,000 homes for a whole year. With the US is trying to work towards energy dependency, you can do your part to achieve this goal by recycling. Some working cellphones can even be reused and there are a number of programs that re-sell them in order to benefit a variety of charities. These are just a few reasons that you should recycle your old phones.

The Equation Group: A New Threat to Cyber Security

Earlier this month, researchers at the Kaspersky Lab in Russia discovered an incredibly sophisticated cyber espionage operation. This operation has been dubbed the “Equation Group” and has been using malware tools and spyware to infect a number of computers. The Equation Group seems to have a very specific end in mind though as they have mostly attacked the computers of government institutions, research groups, telecommunications companies, and other organizations such as nuclear research groups, and military groups in more than 30 countries with at least 500 victims that have been noted. Some of the countries that have been attacked include Russia, India, Afghanistan, and China. While the Equation Group seems to have no quarrel with everyday citizens, this is still something that everyone should be concerned about.

As security expert Bruce Schneier says, “technology democratizes.” This means that while the extremely sophisticated malware is, for now, being used to attack governments, the same technology can trickle down so that other hackers without such lofty plans can possess this knowledge. What makes this technology so dangerous is that it is nearly impossible to detect and even more difficult to completely destroy. Even wiping the hard drive and overwriting the system does not completely destroy the malware. The technology uses at least six malware platforms, which means only the highest skilled cyber security expert can detect it. Researchers at the Kaspersky Lab reported that it took them two weeks to even crack just one cryptographic element and they were trying more than 300 billion guesses per second. In the end, the best way to get rid of the malware at this point in time is to physically destroy the hard drive. While this is not ideal, it is so far the only proven way to completely destroy the malware. If there is a good side to this, it is that the leak is now out in the open and it is now up to antivirus companies to figure out how to keep your data secure.

Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center

Do you recall the recent hacking attack that occurred to Sony a few months back? The ordeal brought to light the need for a strong security system against hackers. As a result, the Obama administration has just recently announced that there will be a new security agency initiated due to the number of high-profile cyber attacks that have occurred to various companies in the U.S. This new program will be called the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center or the CTIIC, which will be modeled on the National Counter-terrorism Center that is located at the Wilson Center in Washington.

While there are already agencies in the U.S. Government that work to combat hackers such as the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, the NSA, and the FBI, there are no agencies that currently coordinates and shares threats. The CTIIC has been created in the hopes to fill these current gaps in security. President Obama recently said in his State of the Union address, “we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information”. The seriousness of the threat of cyber attacks is clear just from the number of major attacks that have been made against companies such as Sony Pictures, Home Depot, Anthem Inc., Target, and more. In the case of the hackers that targeted Anthem Inc., the hackers were able to access the personal information of over 80 million customers. In addition, according to the company, the hackers were able to remain in the system for more than a month before a problem was even detected. This is unfortunate news, especially since Anthem Inc. is the second largest U.S. health insurer and such a large company with resources should be able to protect its information and the information of customers from cyber attacks. Another thing that will set apart the CTIIC from other current agencies is that fact that the CTIIC will rely more on private companies for their information as opposed to only what the other intelligence agencies can come up with. The hope is these data security best practices can help to combat cyber-attacks from multiple angles will help.

Protect your Identity with proper data destruction

With the rise of technology, protecting data online has been a growing concern. What with identity fraud, hacking, and other scenarios, it is extremely important that individuals and businesses are aware of how to protect important data. Knowing how to protect your data using secure data destruction methods is incredibly important, so here are some things to consider so that you can best protect your private information.

The first thing you should do is figure out where exactly you are storing all of your data. For example, many businesses store their data on different platforms: in the cloud, on local disks, offsite on tape, and disk-based backup systems just to name a few. It is important to know where your data is being stored because each different platform requires its own type of protection. If you are aware of where your data is being stored, then you can take the necessary steps that will best protect your data. In order to minimize the risk of data leaking, implement a “need to know” policy. Essentially, this means that policies are created that limit the amount of access to data sets. Only certain employees have access to certain information, which will allow you to keep better track of things. You can also initiate log entries so you can know who accessed what information and when. A third way to help data protection is to increase your network security. You probably already have firewalls and antivirus software, but it is vital to keep these up to date and to make sure that your network security includes tablets and even phones that are used for business purposes. Another thing to do is to create a lifecycle plan for your data. This requires you to figure out how to securely get rid of old or obsolete data. This includes inventory on all old hardware that may potentially have information stored in the hard drive still. Finally, be sure to educate everyone in your business about data security and the ramifications that may occur if a system is breached. When everyone is on board, it may significantly reduce the chances of data being leaked.

The Importance of Data Destruction

If you or your company are planning on getting rid of old electronics, specifically computers or phones, there is something that you need to know. Simply deleting the files is not enough to protect the valuable information that was stored in your piece of technology. This is especially important for businesses that store vital personal information of customers in their databases. From addresses, maiden names, financial records, banking information and more. Fortunately, there is something that you can do to protect your information or your clients’ information as well. Data destruction is a way to ensure that anyone who gets a hold of your computer after you get rid of it will not be able to unearth any personal information.

Since the demand for data destruction has been on the rise, there are a few options that you can choose from. Various companies have developed data destruction services such as wiping the hard drive, but you want to make sure they are an R2 Certified Recycler. When this is done, the company
is able to remove valuable information and data that has been stored in the hard drive. For the most part, this type of data destruction is quite effective. To take things a step further, you can use physical destruction of the hard drive, which is one of the most secure methods of making sure your data is completely destroyed. What is important to note is that the efficiency of physical destruction depends on how well the item is actually destroyed. If pieces are not broken down small enough, some hackers can still retrieve bits of information. These two services, wiping your hard drive and then physical destruction together is a very secure way of making sure your data won’t be stolen. Another option that tends to be less expensive is to acquire software that will perform data destruction. The software will write over codes for example making any information that is still on your computer unreadable. These are some of the best options for destroying data and keeping vital information safe. Luckily, there are a number of data destruction companies in LA.