In mid-October, the U.S. government warned American businesses that cyber criminals apparently backed by the Chinese government were launching attacks against them. That’s the latest in a series of high-profile attacks on U.S. businesses and U.S. consumer data by well-organized Chinese and Russian cyberwarriors.
Considering the billions of dollars at stake and the hundreds of millions of dollars that businesses spend trying to protect their data and systems, you might be tempted to not even bother worrying about your own cyber security. If the banks that run our economic system can’t prevent being violated by foreign cyber thieves, what can you do?
You should and can do something. This month, many people will begin their Christmas shopping in earnest, both in-store and online. Dec. 1 is Cyber Monday, supposedly the biggest online shopping day.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Roberta Stempfley has produced a list of guidelines that can help decrease your vulnerability to being ripped off while you shop online:
Connect with care. Avoid doing any online shopping on unsecure wireless networks, such as places with public and free Wi-Fi. Do your online shopping at home using a password protected network.
Be cautious online. Don’t click on suspicious links or download items from unknown sources.
Pay attention to website URLs. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (for example, the malicious site may use .net instead of .com). Also, look in the address box for https:// before entering any personal or credit card information.
Set strong passwords. Make sure your passwords are complex and unique to each account. Change passwords often, and don’t set passwords that will be easy for cybercriminals to guess, such as “password.” A good rule is to create passwords with eight characters or more that use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols.
Don’t believe everything you see. Before you buy that new tablet for only $50, be sure to shop only on the websites of trusted retailers, and avoid shopping through pop-up ads or unfamiliar websites.
Use a credit card. Laws limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges. Debit cards might not have the same protection.
Keep a record of your order. Retain all documentation from the order in case your purchase doesn’t ship or you come across unauthorized charges on your bill.
Check your statements. Check your purchase records against your credit card and bank statements. If there are differences, report them immediately.
The crimes below are a small snapshot of what the officers of Northern Station are doing. For a more comprehensive list, visit sf-police.org; under Compstat, select the link to CrimeMAPS.
SPARE THE ROD
Aug. 3, 7 p.m.
Unit Block of Marina Boulevard
When a male left his smartphone on the table during a bathroom break at a restaurant, it was snatched by a thief. The victim called the phone and was told by the male who answered it that he’ll get the phone back — for $100. The victim agreed, and used the phone tracking service to locate the phone. The victim and a friend then arrived to attempt to recover the phone. The subject had a metal rod and told the victim “Give me the $100 or I’ll crack your skull and take [the phone] anyways.” The money was handed over and the the phone returned. But the subject followed the victim and tried to stop him from calling 911. The victim got into his car and the subject started swinging the rod at him, then walked away.
Police arrived and detained the subject, who was booked at Northern Station, where he was found to be in possession of numerous apparently stolen credit cards and identifications.
Aug. 8, 1:42 a.m.
2200 Block of Bush Street
Officers were sent to investigate a person breaking into a vehicle. They saw a male subject in the vehicle’s back seat; he was removed and handcuffed. He told the officers that he had just been taking a nap, but he also said he was on probation. A search found a large screwdriver in his front pocket, and there were pry marks on the car’s rear window consistent with a screwdriver. The rear of the vehicle looked in disarray, with items strewn all around.
Officers learned there were several outstanding warrants for the subject’s arrest. He was duly booked at Northern Station.
Aug. 9, 11:48 p.m.
Geary at Gough Streets
Another arson arrest occurred when officers were called to a location where someone was reportedly lighting a fire underneath a staircase. The fire department extinguished the flames, and the police officers drove the witness around looking for the perpetrator. They were in luck, and the subject was detained. The subject was appearing somewhat disoriented, pacing around and staring back toward where the fire was. The subject was booked at Northern Station.
KNIFE WIELDING CRACKMAN
Aug. 10, 5:55 p.m.
Geary at Franklin Streets
A disturbed man was reported to be brandishing knives on a Muni bus. A caller told police a man sitting three seats away from her pulled out the knives and began “playing with them,” all while talking to himself unintelligibly, and she was afraid he would hurt someone. Officers saw him with two fixed-blade, four-inch knives in his hands. When he saw the officers, he tried to conceal the knives in his coat. He was ordered off the bus and complied, dropping the knives. A search revealed suspected crack cocaine and methamphetamine. He was transported to Northern Station and booked.