Continued Cyber Attacks Place Police Department Information at Risk

In recent months, the number of hackers attempting to and in many cases accessing police department computers and databases has increased significantly. When you stop to think about the type of information stored in these systems, such as personal information, much of this data can be used to put law enforcement officers at risk.

Doxing Puts Officers at Risk
Cyberattacks, including doxing, which is when personal information is released online to the public, are increasingly putting law enforcement officers and their families at risk. A perfect example of this occurred shortly after the officer involved shooting in Ferguson, MO when the well-known hacker group Anonymous released personal information about Police Chief Jon Belmar on the web. Not only this, but they also released photos of Belmar and his family, his home address, and his phone number.

By the numbers, it is starting to look very grim for the “Boys in Blue” as there was an increase of 56 percent in the number of officers killed from 2015 to 2016. In 2016 64 officers were killed in the line of duty and of those, approximately one third lost their lives to ambush-style killings.

The problem is only expected to get worse as more personal information like this is released to the public. As this information becomes available, it makes it easier for those who have a beef with their local law enforcement officers to resort to violence against the officers in an attempt to take action for what they feel are injustices. It also makes it more important than ever for every member of law enforcement and their families to do everything they can to protect themselves and their personal information.

Aging Equipment Multiplies the Problem
From big city police departments to small towns and villages, one of the biggest problems tends to be aging computer equipment. These systems with their outdated operating systems and programming are far easier for hackers to successfully infiltrate. Small older departments simply may not have the money to upgrade their systems. But this doesn’t mean they can’t still be doing their part to prevent hackers from accessing their databases.
One of the best possible ways to keep hackers at bay is to be very wary when opening emails. Quite simply put, if you don’t recognize the sender, you should not open the email. By doing this, you can significantly reduce the possibility of hackers being able to access your system and the sensitive data it contains.

Help from the Department of Homeland Security
If you are interested in more information designed to help you protect your department’s database and keep the information it contains safe, the Department of Homeland Security has put together a wealth of information. Their website contains a number of simple things you can do without spending a lot of money your department may not have to spend. In the end, it is up to you and the officers in your department to do your part to protect your database and each other from hackers and personal attacks.

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Privacy for Cops Acquires PolicePrivacy.com

The Public Safety Assistance Foundation (“PSAF”), which operates as PrivacyforCops.org, has always been here to provide online opt-out services for members of law enforcement, public officials, and their families. Over the years, PSAF has been instrumental in helping to remove the private information of thousands of law enforcement officers and their families from countless online databases.

Why is this important you ask? The answer is simple, in this day and age our men and women in blue are not only under constant surveillance, but threats from those who would do them physical, emotional, and yes financial harm. In the early days, we focused our efforts in California with California sworn officers and officials, but thanks in part to our success and the support of our affiliates and numerous police officer associations, we are now able to reach out to law enforcement agencies around the country.

Who Is PolicePrivacy.com?
PolicePrivacy.com was founded in 2005 by California law enforcement officers. PolicePrivacy.com and PSAF were the initial two companies pioneering the Privacy Letter Packages for all elected and appointed officials in the state of California. Both organizations shared the same vision to help fellow law enforcement officers protect their privacy from those who would do them harm. Together, we share the same goals and try to provide our members with the latest information covering information removal.

Why Acquire PolicePrivacy.com?
With so many different ways to find personal information online, criminals and those with criminal intent, are finding ways to locate police officers and their families. Staying safe continues to become harder and harder virtually every day.

With two like-minded organization servicing the same industry, it made perfect sense to merge the two together in order to provide better coverage, more details, and of course reach more members of law enforcement. From helping you learn how to set up the privacy settings on your Facebook page to showing you how to keep your information at City Hall more secure, PSAF and PolicePrivacy.com is here to help.

Join us in this merger and let us help protect your privacy and that of your loved ones. Safety is everyone’s business, protecting your privacy starts here.

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Give Your Memory a Boost Using “Kim’s Game”

As a member of law enforcement, having an excellent memory is critical to your ability to do your job effectively. Unless you are a recent member of specific crack military units, you have probably never had much in the way of memory training. There are many different methods and programs you can take part in that have been proven to improve a person’s memory, one of which is Kim’s Game.

What Is Kim’s Game?
The story of Kim’s Game is told in Rudyard Kipling’s book “Kim” that was first published in 1901. The book tells the story of a young Irish immigrant who goes by the name Kim and how he was trained by the Indian government to be a spy for their intelligence agency. Kim’s training involved a great many things, one of the most important of which was memory training.

The memory training involved the use of a tray containing a number of gems and miscellaneous stones. Kim would be allowed to study the tray for one minute, after which it was covered with a cloth. At this point, Kim would be asked to list everything he saw on the tray. While this might seem to be a bit simplistic, memory training like this continues to be used by military units around the world. It is even used by the Boy Scouts to help scouts improve their memories.

Easy Game to Play
Kim’s Game is incredibly easy to play and takes at least 2 people to play. Of course, you can involve your entire shift meeting in it by giving each officer a sheet of paper to write down what they saw. You might be surprised at how quickly some people’s memories will improve. To add more challenge to the game, you can add more items or shorten viewing time.

According to history, during World War I, British Major Hesketh-Pritchard included Kim’s Game in his sniper training program. He wanted his snipers to be able to report back everything they saw each time they went out on a mission. At U.S. Army Sniper Training School, the snipers are not allowed to name the items they see. Instead of saying one paper clip, they have to describe it in great detail. One piece of silver wire that has been bent into two ovals.

U.S. Army training expands even further on the original game by stretching out the time between seeing the items and when the snipers-in-training are allowed to list them. By the end of training, trainees may see up to 25 items and then be required to train all day long before being asked to list them.

Although you might think you have a reasonably good memory, you just might be surprised at how much of a struggle trying to remember 20 or more items can be if you are only given a minute or less to see them. However, after only a few weeks of playing Kim’s Game, you will be even more surprised to see just how much better your memory is. Something that can make a huge difference in your ability to do your job.

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Protecting Your Online Banking Information

Do you know the best way to do your online banking? Should you be using a wired connection, WiFi, or some form of powerline networking? Not sure? The reality is that for the most part what form of internet connection you use is not quite as important as you might think. However, the simple fact you are asking this question means you are taking a serious approach to your online security.

Back to the Internet Question
Most experts would agree that a wired connection tends to be more secure a powerline network or WiFi. If you are not sure what powerline networking is, it’s when your internet connection comes from the electrical power lines coming into your home. To access an Ethernet connection, the would-be thief would have to be able to enter your home with a laptop. However, as WiFi signals extend beyond the walls of your home, the same thief would simply have to be in range of your signal.

The good news is that both WiFi and powerline network routers use a variety of encryption techniques that once turned on scramble the data. To access the data, a password must be entered. At the same time, most WiFi routers use outdated WEP encryption is easily hacked. On top of this, if you don’t bother to change the factory set password, a hacker can easily change the settings in your router to direct your internet traffic to a rogue site. This same problem can occur when using third-party WiFi hotspots.

Go for Two-Step Verification
These days it seems that no matter what type of internet connection you use, someone can find a way to access your data. Most banks, financial institutions, and major sites like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, no offer a “two-step” verification option designed to protect you in the event your password is lost.

These systems require you to vouch for any login request you make, some do this when you log in from an unknown computer or location by entering a special one-time password sent to your cell phone via text messaging or through some form of authenticator such as companies like Google and Blizzard Entertainment (online games) use.

While not all financial institutions have come on board the “two-step” verification bandwagon if you are lucky enough to belong to one that does, be sure you use it. No form of online security system is completely fail-safe. But at the same time, it falls on you to do everything in your power to keep your personal banking information as secure as possible.

The idea behind this article was not to scare you into doing less of your banking online, but instead to encourage you to take the steps necessary to make it safer. It was also to encourage you to do more of your banking online and to pay more attention to your online security as well as that of your family and keep you all out of harm’s way.

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Losing Your Online Privacy

On March 19th, 2017, the Republican-controlled Congress voted to pass a bill requiring no more than President Trump’s signature to make it law that would give internet service providers (ISPs) the right to snoop on their customers. This new law would allow ISPs to do this without the consent of their customers and then sell any collected data to marketing companies.

An Added Advantage
Those Republicans who backed this bill stated it would help to level the playing field for broadband companies like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon and give them an advantage in their battle against content providers like Facebook and Google.
Those Democrats who stood in opposition to the bill stated that this bill would give ISPs the right to monitor every aspect of their customers’ daily online lives. It would also give them the right to profit from selling their customer’s private data to marketers and advertisers. It could also make it much easier for hackers to benefit from this suddenly available mass of data.

Peter Eckersley, chief computer scientist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, states, ” Information about your activities may wind up being used to make adverse decisions about you. Something your kids search for online could be the basis for why you are denied a loan.” But, it’s not just individuals such as law enforcement officers who can be affected by this new law, many businesses could soon find their information in the wrong hands.

Think of it like this, if your ISP can sell your information, how long will it be before those with ill-intent find a way to access it and use what they find to cause significant problems. While Republicans laud this new law as a way to give ISPs the same advantages as content providers, Democrats call it an assault on the public’s right to privacy with the sole intent of helping ISPs to enjoy higher profit levels.
Minnesota Democrat Rep. Keith Ellison says, “It’s outrageous, I can’t believe that a person who is a constitutional conservative would vote for a monstrosity like this.” California Democrat Rep. Anna Eshoo said, “The message to the American people is clear: Your Privacy doesn’t matter.”

Changes in How We Use the Internet
One thing is sure, this new law is going to have a major impact on how people use their internet service. Many are likely to seek out encryption services or software as a way to get around the constant monitoring by their ISPs. The only bad part of doing this is that if your ISP is determined to collect your browsing history, these services may not be enough to protect your privacy from their prying eyes.
It seems that right now there is simply no way you are going to be able to protect your browsing history from your ISP service. The best thing you can do is be sure that you do everything to keep any private information secure using currently available encryption services and to be prepared to take legal action if your personal data is mishandled, at least until this law is changed or repealed.

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Continued Killings of Law Enforcement Officers Brings New Meaning to Being Vigilant

The number of “cop killings” continues to rise as more officers are being targeted simply because they are in uniform. With this in mind, no member of law enforcement can afford to let his or her guard down lest they become the next victim of this senseless violence. According to the latest statistics, there have been 17 officers killed in the line of duty since January 1st, 2017 by gunfire and the carnage has not been slowing down.

A Rising Tide
These officers are a part of what appears to be a rising tide of violence that is being focused on those whose job it is to “Serve and Protect.” In part, this is due to efforts around the country to “demonize” police officers both by members of the public and sadly by certain elements of the press. Some of the many protest groups around the country are only too happy to rush in and accuse an officer of murder in the event he/she is involved in a shooting.

The press is not much better and seems to be all too happy to jump on the bandwagon. They rush to publish what they believe to be eyewitness reports that indicate the officer is at fault before checking the facts. Often, once video recordings and body cam recordings are viewed, it becomes obvious the officer was not at fault. But, by then it’s too late as the general public has already formed an opinion that is not likely to be changed.

Research Shows
In a recent research study conducted by John Lott Jr. of the Crime Prevention Research Center, it was noted that of the 2,699 fatal police shootings between 2013 and 2015, race played very little role in the killings. White officers were no more likely to shoot African-Americans than any other race, nor was there a significant difference in the number of killings of African-Americans by black or white officers. The same was also noted of whites and Hispanics by officers of any race.

At the same time, it was noted that the use of body cameras by officers had little effect on the number of police shootings. What the report did note, is that the number one deterrent for officer-involved shootings was simply having more officers in the area.

However, the report did go on to say that the use of body cameras does serve a purpose. This is to protect officers from being falsely accused and convicted of crimes. They can also be used to prosecute those who attack officers physically or do things like spraying them with mace or gas them while they are on duty.

While it is virtually impossible to protect our brothers in blue from every form of attack, it is every officer’s duty to become more vigilant than ever before. This includes when they are on duty and conducting routine business and when they are off duty enjoying their everyday lives.

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Is a Law Enforcement Officer’s Cell Phone Protected Under the Constitution?

For today’s law enforcement officer his or her cellphone/smartphone has become just as much a part of their personal gear as their sidearm and handcuffs. Officers routinely use their phone to call in reports, take pictures of accident and crime scenes, even to email witnesses. At the same time, some us them to send distasteful text messages, call their spouses, surf the web, and store pictures of family and friends. A cellphone is no longer just a tool, it has literally become an extension of their on and off-duty life.

Privacy Desired

Given the types of information likely to be found stored in the many different files of the average officer’s phone, it is highly unlikely that they would want anybody such as their supervisor, a member of internal affairs, or any type of criminal investigator to see what they have stored. However, it has become very common for these people to want access to this information in order to investigate both internal and external complaints as well as to help substantiate or disprove any complaints of criminal behavior. The result of this confusion is that more officers are asking if their cell phones are susceptible to inspection. The answer is not as easy as you might think.

According to the Tenth Circuit, a determination has not been made as to whether a police officer’s cell phone is protected by the Fourth Amendment. Yet at the same time since a personal computer is protected by the Fourth Amendment and today’s smartphones are essentially miniature computers, it may be that they are offered this same level of protection.

Possession Indicates an Expectation of Privacy

Much like anything that may contain evidence or any type of information, the amount of protection afforded to it may be dependent on how much of a degree of privacy the officer in question seems to outwardly exhibit. In most cases, it appears that simply having a cell phone in one’s possession seems to be enough to give rise to the idea that there should be a certain amount of protection and privacy, even if the phone is provided by that officer’s department rather than being a personal device.

However, just because the phone might be protected under the Fourth Amendment, doesn’t necessarily mean that the officer’s employer does not have the right to access it. In fact, they may have the right to review the contents of the phone in the event of an investigation into misconduct that is work-related or for non-investigatory purposes, providing their inspection is deemed “reasonable”.

This idea of “reasonable”, gives the officer’s employer a lot of latitude with regard to this type of invasion of privacy. In certain instances, the employer may even be able to compel the officer to allow them to access their cell phone. The best way to avoid this type of situation, is to avoid is to ensure you do not record personal information on it and that if you are asked to turn it over for investigation, you politely decline and seek legal counsel.

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The Debate Over Filming and Police Privacy

A law enforcement department in Wilmington, NC has been forced to backtrack following an incident in which one of its officers was recorded by a citizen telling him that he could not record their interaction. This particularly unnerving incident once again raises the specter of just how much privacy a law enforcement officer has a right to expect when you consider the current climate in which there is a high demand for transparency, while at the same time balancing this with the need for increased officer safety and the need to investigate any possible misdoings by officers.

What Happened
According to reports, on the 26th of February, Sgt. Kenneth Becker of the Wilmington PD was recorded telling Jesse Bright that under a new state law, it was no longer legal to record police officers acting in the line of duty. The problem is that there is no such law on the books, Bright who is an attorney questioned the officer as the validity of this statement, knowing full well that none existed. During the interaction, Bright informed Becker that he was “scared” and that he wanted to continue “recording in case anything happened.” During the stop, Bright’s car was searched after being told a K-9 unit had detected drugs. Bright told local news station WECT that he was released after the officers found no sign of drugs.

Ralph Evangelous, Wilmington Police Chief, released a statement to say that an investigation had begun into the event and that all citizens do in fact have the right to record officers acting in the line of duty. His statement said, ” Taking photographs and videos of people that are in plain sight including the police is your legal right. As a matter of fact, we invite citizens to do so when they believe it is necessary. We believe that public videos help to protect the police as well as our citizens and provide critical information during police and citizen interaction.”

What the Laws Truly Say and Mean
While House Bill 972 that took effect back in October does make all footage from police body cameras and dash-cams private in the state of North Carolina, it does not cover any footage not created by a private citizen on their own equipment. While this might seem like a good idea, it adds yet another major mess into the melting pot that has become a huge issue with regard to the growing demands for both more transparency and the need to protect the privacy of police officers.

There is no doubt that across the country, the laws covering the use of video cameras by officers and civilians alike are a mess. Unfortunately, there have been far too many instances of violence against officers following the public release of footage like this. This makes critics highly wary of any laws designed to block public access while at the same time of making this type of footage public knowledge. It is a double-edged sword and one that is likely to plague law enforcement agencies for many years to come.

Bottom line at the moment is that until definitive laws are passed, the public still retains the right to actively film any law enforcement officer in the line of duty. At least unless filming police officers in the line of duty will actively hinder an ongoing investigation. So officers take heed, the public has the right to videotape you and currently, there is nothing you can do about it.

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Privacyforcops.org Announces Acquisition of PolicePrivacy.com

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Pasadena, CA – May 1, 2017 – The Public Safety Assistance Foundation (“PSAF”), a California Non-Profit 501(c)(3), operating under the name Privacyforcops.org, has recently acquired their longest standing and largest competitor PolicePrivacy.com. Both companies started in 2007 after California Government Code 6254.21 was passed. Over the years, there had been several talks in regards to Privacyforcops.org purchasing PolicePrivacy.com, but nothing ever transpired. Most recently, Privacyforcops.org was approached and undisclosed terms to purchase PolicePrivacy.com were reached. At this time, the purchase made sense and opened up a great opportunity for Privacyforcops.org to expand in the current market and also opens the doors to several other market opportunities. Privacyforcops.org is currently setup to utilize Government Code in California, Colorado, Idaho, and Texas, but the pursuance of being able to offer their service beyond these states is something they have been looking forward to do for some time now.

“Following multiple police shootings that arose in 2014, continued law enforcement scrutiny, and with the rise of information sharing websites targeting officers and officials, the expansion into more markets is coming at a perfect time,” said Joshua McIntire, Privacyforcops.org CEO. “And with the recent data breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), where personnel files and security clearance and background investigation files are presumed to have been taken by foreign actors, the safety of law enforcement officers and their loved ones continue to be at risk.”

“This was a great opportunity to provide this much needed service to a larger market,” said Joshua McIntire, Privacyforcops.org CEO. By posting the personal residence of an active or retired law enforcement officer or public official, it is in fact a violation of the law in many states. “Our goal is to stop websites from continuously posting personal information of law enforcement officers, public officials, and their families. As the industry leader in law enforcement and public official information removal, we work closely with the online databases to seek removal as fast as possible.”

About the Public Safety Assistance Foundation/Privacy for Cops
Privacyforcops.org is a California Non-Profit 501 (c)(3) organization. With a mission to assist law enforcement officers, public officials, federal and district judges, federal agents, district attorneys and their families — in facilitating, executing, and monitoring the removal of their personal information from information sharing databases, Privacyforcops.org helps eliminate the wide-spread use of sites publicly posting confidential information online. Recently, Privacyforcops.org has implemented a proprietary web-crawler to help monitor the internet and have several other products and affiliations in development. Privacyforcops.org has a team of committed board and staff members who continuously work on behalf of their members.

For more information please visit our website at www.privacyforcops.org or contact us directly at:

Privacyforcops.org
info@privacyforcops.org
866.418.0049
@privacyforcops
www.facebook.com/privacyforcops

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Police Officers and Civil Liability

Given the amount of media coverage over the past few months, law enforcement officers face more scrutiny than at any time in history. Naturally, with all of this scrutiny, the number of civil lawsuits being filed against officers for both on and off-duty actions has also increased and is having a significant impact on their employment. With this in mind it is becoming increasingly important that law enforcement officers become aware of the potential for them to be held personally liable for any actions they take in the line of duty that could end with a personal lawsuit being filed against them.

Law Enforcement Officers and Personal Civil Liability
The concept of personal liability for police officers refers to the idea that an officer can be considered civilly liable for any actions they take within the realm of their position. There are, in fact, a number of legal theories in which an officer can become the defendant in a civil lawsuit. These may include, but not be limited to; intentional injuries also known as torts as well as pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Lawsuits filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are considered to be the most common filed against police officers as they can be filed against any officer who has been accused of violating a person’s statutory or constitutional rights as described by law. These filings are typically called a “Bivens action” in reference to the case of Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).

Among the most common examples of this are:
• Cases of alleged false arrest
• Cases of alleged malicious prosecution
• Cases of alleged use of excessive force
• Cases of alleged failure of an officer to intervene when another officer is engaged in some form of unlawful action

Today, when a police department or federal law enforcement agency faces a civil lawsuit regarding one of their officer’s actions, the individual police officer is also named in the suit. In most cases, the main target of the plaintiff’s attorney is the particular department in question because they have the ability to pay any type of large settlement, but at the same time, the officer also becomes a target of the lawsuit. This can cause an undue amount of stress for the officer.

The Good News
The good news for the law enforcement officer named in the suit is that in most cases when an officer is named in the suit, the case itself is dismissed because law enforcement officers are afforded a certain amount of immunity. The average officer also lacks the ability to pay any type of larger settlement out of their own pockets. But, this does not seem to help relieve the stress of being named in such suits.

The courts, however, are very aware of this situation and tend to give officers a high level of deference, which in many cases make them immune to this type of suit. Those that you do see in the news are the ones in which this type of deference is not brought into play.

In most cases, the government will step in to defend an officer who is named in a civil lawsuit. Most Federal, state and local agencies have their own regulations in place that require them to provide legal representation for any officer who is accused of misconduct. However, these regulations may vary from agency to agency and may lead to the state or locality representing the officer and the agency at the same time to help avoid making the case any more complicated than it already is. On top of this, in the event the government makes the decision to settle the case, they will require the plaintiff to sign a full release against the officer and the government.

Private Insurance
It is highly recommended that law enforcement officers consider purchasing a private insurance policy designed to cover them in the event they need to hire an attorney for this type of civil lawsuit. The policy should not only cover the cost of legal defense, but also any settlement or judgment. It is your job as a law enforcement officer to ensure you are properly protected and that you fully understand your personal liabilities and the issues you face as a member of law enforcement.

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