Monday, August 28, 2017

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, be alert for relief scams

Gulf of Mexico radar image August 24, credit NOAA

Update 30 August 2017: the Federal Trade Commission is reporting scam robocalls telling victims their flood insurance premiums are past due, and demanding immediate payment in order for their Hurricane Harvey damages to be covered. Don’t do it. Instead, contact your insurance agent.

Update 11 September 2017: everything said of Hurricane Harvey in Texas is equally true of Hurricane Irma in Florida and Georgia.

This is a blog post I do not enjoy updating after each major natural disaster, but alas where there is disaster, there are lowlifes looking to profit from it.

August 25, Hurricane Harvey hit the middle Texas Coast as a major hurricane, packing sustained 130 mph winds. It then camped out in southeast Texas, dropping heretofore unheard of amounts of rain along a path from east of Austin, to the Houston metro area. 

Two weeks later, Hurricane Irma trashed the Caribbean before running up the west coast of Florida, again bringing widespread wind damage and flooding to much of that state and its neighbors.

As appalling as it is, major internationally-publicized disasters such as this invariably are followed by "cyber opportunists," criminals who take advantage of the publicity for their own nefarious gain. Two common methods are fraudulent requests for assistance, and malware-laden websites using search engine optimization to appear high in search results for news on the events of the day.

Whois David?

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I have spent the better part of two decades in information technology and security, with roots in application developer support, system administration, and network security. My specialty is cyber threat intelligence - software vulnerabilities and patching, malware, social networking risks, etc. In particular, I strive to write about complex cyber topics in a way that can be understood by those outside the infosec industry.

Why do I do this? A common comment I get from friends and family is that complex security topics give them headaches. They want to know in simple terms how to stay safe in a connected world. Folks like me and my peers have chosen to make a profession out of hacking and defending. I've been doing this for the better part of two decades, and so have a high degree of knowledge in the field. Others have chosen different paths - paths where I would be lost. This is my effort to share my knowledge with those that are experts in something else.

When not in front of a digital screen, I spend my time raising five rambunctious teens and pre-teens - including two sets of twins. Our family enjoys archery, raising show and meat rabbits, and simply enjoying life in the Texas hill country.

For a decade I served as either Commander or a division leader for the Awana Club in Dripping Springs, Texas; while I have retired from that role I continue to have a passion for children's ministry. At the moment I teach 1st through 3rd grade Sunday School. Follow FBC Dripping Springs Kids to see what is going on in our children's ministries.