Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Holiday Shopping and Cyber Safety: What you need to know

The holiday season is nearly upon us, and with that, so is the shopping season. With news daily about cyber security hacks being on the rise, how can you protect yourself while you're shopping? #TEEX Cyber Security's Catherine Gibson has some helpful information we can all use.

Remember, how we shop has changed. We've got several options now that include:

  • Shopping at the store.
  • Shopping online with delivery to the store.
  • Shopping online directly.

Stay safe with each method by starting out your shopping the right way.

  • Make sure your anti-virus and Malware are up-to-date.
  • Think about using a digital wallet or safe charge feature.
  • Choose one method and stick with it.
    • Credit Card - EXCELLENT
    • Gift card through Credit Card Company or Bank - GOOD
    • Debit Card - Turn off overdraft
    • Check - Least secure, avoid
  • Sign up for online email statements.
  • Check your transactions posted regularly.
  • Don't click the links, go directly to the site.

For Safer online shopping, make sure your connection is secure.

  • There is no such thing as totally safe.
  • Look for a secure connection with an https:// instead of http://.

Credit Cards are the best choice.

  • Automatic limit to liability
  • Long period to report fraud or theft - 60 days
  • The money "stolen" is not coming from your checking account - It's out in limbo with the credit card company.
  • Extra benefits like extended warranty periods.
  • Allows you to dispute broken or misrepresented goods.

And verify the safety "certifications" such as Verisign, GeoTrust, or McAfee SECURE.

What to do if you STILL get hacked.

  • As soon as you notice any charge, for any amount, on your credit card statement, REPORT IT!
  • To credit card company/bank.
  • To credit reporting agencies - All 3.
  • To FBI.
  • To local police - non-emergency if local.
  • Consider putting a permanent fraud alert on your credit reports requiring any new account requests to be verified by you.
  • Best source? Federal Trade Commission www.Consumer.FTC.

Stay safe and have a wonderful holiday season from all of us at TEEX!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cybersecurity: Let's Talk About Passwords.

Did you know that October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month? For the last five years, we've been promoting Stop.Think.Connect.™ 

Has it worked?

What are some things that you've done differently in your everyday online activities? Do you have different passwords for different sites? Have you uploaded the latest malware protection on your computer? Have you become educated about the ways that cyber thieves can break into your computer and your phone, retrieving information that can hurt you financially? If you haven't done anything or feel like you haven't done enough, Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) has some ideas for you. 

How can I keep my online accounts and data protected? 

Your best defense is a good offense.

Step 1.

Make your account and passwords STRONG! Pins too. Use alpha numeric and long, strong passwords. An 8 character password with upper, lower, numbers and symbols could take 16 minutes to crack.

For example, you often aren’t limited in length to make a password a sentence that only you can figure out. I like pan au chocolate with strong coffee becomes: Ilik3pan@chocolatew/strongc0ffe. Even if your password can’t be that long you can still use a passphrase to create a strong password. IL6@cwsC0yum is based on the same sentence and used the first letters of the words and substituted number and symbols for letters. At 12 mixed characters it is very strong. I Like 6an @u chocolate with strong Coffee yum.

There are excellent random password generators available if you want to use them and they do produce a truly random password.  Apps and sites include:

They all work perfectly well and many will be able to let you tweak the password to meet the parameters of the password you must create.  But, they all have one problem; used on their own you still have passwords that are hard to remember, so you might be tempted to write them down. Which you now know is a cardinal mistake. So what to do?

Get a password program or app. What you really need is a password app or program to safely store your passwords. As an added benefit, most good password apps let you organize and file your passwords, the site URL’s with the ability to link directly to the site, random password generators, and much more. Some password safes that reside on your computer or device can be turned on so that they capture your passwords and ID’s and you create them and automatically store them so you can retrieve them later. All you have to remember is the initial “Master Password.” Some of the best rated password keepers for 2015, according to PCMag are:

These all have costs that range from $12.00 to $39.99 but, all three have free version that will make password management much easier, even if the free versions don’t have all the bells and whistles of the premium ones have everything you need to get the job done.

Next, get educated about cybersecurity.

Step 2.

TEEX Cybersecurity offers a wide range of online and face-to-face cybersecurity training for everyone from first-time users to experienced IT professionals. And it costs you nothing because it's funded through FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Start with one of our Online for Everyone - Non-Technical (Cyber 101) courses like Information Security for Everyone. It's short and easy and is available 24/7.  

Next, visit the Stop.Think.Connect.™ website or contact stopthinkconnect@dhs.gov. They've got valuable tips and information you can use year-round

Let's stay Cybersecure all year long!

Catherine Gibson is a Training Coordinator for the TEEX Cybersecurity Program. A graduate of Texas A&M University, she has been active in adult education and IT security for 16 years.

NOTE: Currently, the TEEX Cyber Security Facebook Page is running a contest, so enter to win today! It ends on October 31, 2015.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Determination Drives Heavy Equipment Operator

The Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) trains hundreds of individuals each year to become heavy equipment operators. Although most are successful, each is exposed to unique operational challenges during field exercises. For some, the coordinated use of equipment controls is the most difficult; others have problems with depth perception.

Regardless of the challenges, very seldom if ever are new operators required to manipulate machinery without the use of both arms. That is, unless you’re McCulloch County heavy equipment operator, Cody Crouch. TEEX was there during a recent training delivery in Brady, Texas, to witness the 29-year-old’s amazing determination and skill. And the only operative word we have for Cody is . . . awesome.

Back when he was 18 years old, Cody was involved in a four-wheeler accident that severed spinal nerves responsible for control and function of his left arm and hand. Although Cody underwent 12-hours of surgery to remove nerves from other areas of his body to repair his damaged arm, the damage was too extensive and the arm could not be repaired. With no other options, Cody was encouraged to remain positive.  Maybe someday, new technology would make repairs possible.

In the meantime, Cody moved forward with his life and six years ago he was hired as a motor grader operator by McCulloch County, Precinct 3.

“It was challenging at first, but Cody picked it up pretty fast,” said McCulloch County Commissioner Jim Ross. The motor grader he operates for the county has eight controls and a steering wheel.  What most people learn to do with both arms, Cody accomplishes quite well with only one.

During recent proficiency training delivered by Billy Williams of TEEX, Cody was required to demonstrate motor grader proficiency on the Caterpillar® 140M3 motor grader.  This piece of equipment has two control joysticks; one used to steer the equipment; the other to control the blade movements. In addition to the Cat® 140M3, Cody proficiently operates the John Deere® 670-6 motor grader, as well as loaders, skid steers, dump trucks, and bulldozers.

After completing training, Cody’s supervisor praised him for “having a great attitude and for always going above and beyond the call of duty.” In return, Cody says, “I’m grateful to McCulloch County for giving me the opportunity to work for them.”

Now that’s what we call “Making the Grade.”

Learn more about TEEX Heavy Equipment Training.

By Guy Benson, a member of the Business Development & Marketing Department of TEEX’s Infrastructure and Safety Training Institute.