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Winter Journal

Volume 29, Issue 1

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Jon Seals

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General used
innovative data matching tools to determine that the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) paid approximately $250 million in disaster
assistance to more than 29,000 Hurricane Sandy applicants who may have
received duplicate benefits from their private insurers, according to a new audit
report.
 
The information in this report, "FEMA Faces Challenges in Verifying Applicants'
Insurance Policies for the Individuals and Households Program," was compiled
by OIG auditors who conducted a large-scale data comparison of FEMA’s
records to a private insurance claims database. They sought to determine the
validity of FEMA’s process for validating insurance coverage – or lack thereof -
for applicants seeking assistance from the Individuals and Households
Program. While Federal statutes require FEMA to develop a verification process
for the program, the agency has so far been unable to develop or identify a
nationwide database for private insurance coverage. It instead solely relies on
applicants’ self-certification and legal warnings on application forms.
 
As a result of its work, the OIG referred 51 cases of possible fraud for further
investigation. Many abuses involved losses of automobiles, for which both
FEMA and the owners’ insurers paid large claims.
 
“FEMA needs to solve this insurance verification problem as soon as possible.
Until it does, Federal funds invested in disaster relief will continue to be at risk
of widespread fraud, waste and abuse,” said Inspector General John Roth.
 
“Moreover, just as we did in this audit, FEMA should use an insurance
database to review applications for possible duplication of benefits.”

Hurricane Patricia, the strongest storm ever measured in the eastern Pacific, is on track to devastate southwestern Mexico starting Friday afternoon. The National Hurricane Center is warning about a "potentially catastrophic landfall," and authorities are scrambling to evacuate the area:

The storm's current size is shocking. Just 30 hours ago, Patricia was an ordinary hurricane with maximum winds of 60 miles per hour. Since then, Patricia has grown into a monster Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds nearing 200 miles per hour. The current storm appears to be unprecedented in the historical record.

...

http://www.vox.com/2015/10/23/9603170/hurricane-patricia

Friday, 23 October 2015 00:00

Why MSPs are Failing Compliance Tests

Regardless of how efficient your cloud-based file sharing infrastructure is, having proper compliance is still essential.  If you’re the type of ambitious managed service provider (MSP) that plans on introducing your services to highly-regulated industries like healthcare, banking, or retail, compliance becomes even more important.

Sure, there is a lot of money to be made, but the barriers-to-entry for these coveted grounds are also pretty high. Manning these barriers are the compliance auditors, the gatekeepers that possess an array of methods with which they can figure out whether or not you are worthy of being let in.

Not only are the audits grueling, but failing to pass their scrutiny can lead to detrimental consequences for your company.  Not being compliant is as dangerous for your clients, as it is for you. So tread carefully, enterprising MSPs, because the penalties for not meeting standards can range from $500 to $1,500,000!

...

http://mspmentor.net/infocenter-cloud-based-file-sharing/102315/why-msps-are-failing-compliance-tests

While plenty of organizations are decommissioning their datacenters in favor of the cloud model, many are not comfortable with a leap to big public cloud providers. 

That’s why Breakthrough Technology Group (BTG) is finding success with private cloud – the sweet spot for customers that no longer want to manage their own on-premises datacenters, but have reservations about moving their infrastructure to mass-market public cloud services.

“We often hear from customers that they don’t want to be in the datacenter business anymore,” said Joey Widener, vice president of business development.

“However, they are wary of public clouds, for example, because they have no control over where their data resides and don’t want to compete with other customers for resources.”

...

https://www.citrix.com/blogs/2015/10/23/btg-finds-sweet-spot-for-mid-market-customers/

Friday, 23 October 2015 00:00

Making Visual Evidence Manageable

In the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the Boston Police Department encouraged anyone who had taken smartphone photos or video at the scene to send their footage to investigators. The public response was so strong that the department was soon overwhelmed by the volume of potential evidence it received, requiring the FBI to step in and help sift through it all.

The Vancouver, British Columbia, Police Department was similarly inundated by citizen-recorded photos and video after the city’s 2011 Stanley Cup riot — 5,000 hours of video alone had to be examined during the investigation. This job was too big for the department to handle. Luckily its personnel were aided by a team of experts assembled by the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association (LEVA).

In both instances, the citizen-supplied evidence was attached to a cloud of extensive IT resources and manpower demands, and all of this potential evidence had to be collected, accessed and stored somewhere. This can make citizen-sourced visual evidence an unmanageable nightmare for most police departments.

...

http://www.emergencymgmt.com/safety/Making-Visual-Evidence-Manageable.html

(TNS) - Hartshorne Public Schools Superintendent Mark Ichord recalls a day when the city’s tornado sirens blared as a violent thunderstorm approached.

“I was going through town and the sirens were going off,” Ichord said. His thoughts immediately flashed to the safety of the students — but they had nowhere to go.

“They didn’t have anything except a concrete block building,” he said. Fortunately, the storm passed, but it left a persistent feeling that Hartshorne students are too vulnerable to extreme weather.

Ichord and other members of the Hartshorne school administration and board of education would like to see that changed — not only for the students, but also for the entire community.

...

http://www.emergencymgmt.com/disaster/Hartshorne-Public-Schools-Seeks-School-Bond-for-Storm-Shelters.html

Cyber criminals in the UK are increasingly targeting specific individuals, rather than simply casting a wide net and hoping to get lucky, according to a new report.

Research by internet security campaigners Get Safe Online found many people in the UK have been exposed to this new wave of targeted attacks. More than one in five individuals surveyed stated they believed they had been specifically targeted by criminals, with 37 per cent left feeling vulnerable as a result.

One of the most common ways in which victims were targeted was through ‘phishing’ emails, with 26 per cent of people saying they had fallen victim to this.

This type of attack – and in particular its more targeted ‘spear phishing’ sub-type – can include information highly specific to an individual or company in an effort to get them to part with personal data such as financial details or business login credentials, which can then be used to steal sensitive data.

However, Britons are becoming more alert to the risks posed by cyber criminals, with some 30 per cent stated they know more about online security now compared with a year ago, while a further 21 per cent say they know more than they did two years ago.

Get Safe Online found the growing number of high-profile data breaches has played a key role in this. Almost two-thirds of the public (64 per cent) have become warier about sharing personal details with businesses, with 23 per cent saying this was a result of the Carphone Warehouse hack, while 18 per cent cited the Apple iTunes email scam and 17 per cent stated the TalkTalk, Sony and Ashley Madison breaches.

Chief executive of Get Safe Online Tony Neate said: “As we spend more of our lives online, our digital footprints inevitably get bigger. Sadly, that means opportunist fraudsters will use information about us to make their scams more believable and difficult to detect.”

When looking for data recovery services, look for one with a track record of success. Ontrack Data Recovery services has 40,000 data recovery stories to tell every year.

From:: http://www.krollontrack.co.uk/company/press-room/data-recovery-news/uk-cybercrime-getting-more-personal,-study-claims847.aspx

Friday, 23 October 2015 00:00

The Challenges of Reliable Tape Archiving

No matter whether we are talking about contracts, customer data or manufacturing plans and design diagrams, corporate data has a significantly longer half-life than the ephemeral IT systems on which it is stored. If legal retention periods are also taken into account, it is no wonder that companies are looking for a reliable and secure solution to archive their data. Tape archiving has proved to be the method of choice for decades, but there are some challenges and pitfalls lurking behind it that should be considered.

Archiving instead of saving

The most important basic rule in data archiving is that data may not simply be saved, but that it must be preserved in the long term so that it is accessible when necessary. Retention periods of 10 years and more cause companies to face problems over and over again, as proven by examples from everyday work at Kroll Ontrack. Thus, for example, a bank audit required the submission of 35,000 booking records from the 1980s. Since this bank takes its archiving responsibilities very seriously, the relevant data had been preserved on tapes, but the hardware and software required to run them was no longer operational.

At another company, the internal audit department ordered the restoration of all Lotus Notes email accounts from an AS/400 system. However, the hardware used at that time no longer existed at the company, thus lacking the ability to read the data needed.

...

http://blog.krollontrack.co.uk/pieces-of-interest/the-challenges-of-reliable-tape-archiving/

Friday, 23 October 2015 00:00

FEMA: Hurricane Wilma: Ten Years Later

ATLANTA -- Ten years ago October 24, Hurricane Wilma slammed ashore near Naples, Fla., as a Category 3 storm with a 50-mile-wide eye. Wilma was the most intense hurricane on record in the Atlantic Basin, with wind speeds reaching 175 mph over the Gulf of Mexico.

By the time Wilma exited the state near Palm Beach, it had spawned 10 tornadoes, left five people dead and six million people without power. Rainfall exceeded seven inches in some parts of the state. The President's Oct. 24, 2005, disaster declaration made federal funding available to disaster survivors in Brevard, Broward, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties.

In addition, federal funding was made available to the state and eligible local governments for debris removal, emergency protective measures and other public assistance in Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Collier, De Soto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach, Polk, Sarasota and St. Lucie counties.

To help disaster survivors FEMA obligated $342.5 million to 227,321 disaster applicants for the Individual and Household Program. Of that amount, $150.8 million was provided for housing (including temporary rentals and repairs) and $191.5 million for other serious disaster-related needs, such as personal property losses and moving and storage, medical or funeral expenses.    

FEMA also has obligated more than $1.4 billion in Public Assistance to the state of Florida, local governments and eligible nonprofit organizations for eligible projects. Of that amount:

  • $956.3 million reimbursed for debris clearance and emergency measures to protect public health and safety immediately after the storm;
  • $477.5 million reimbursed the work needed to make permanent repairs.

To date, more than $141.5 million has been obligated by FEMA for 119 Hazard Mitigation

Grant Program projects to build stronger, safer more resilient communities in Florida since Hurricane Wilma. A total of 111 mitigation projects are completed of which 90 are to retrofit public structures to protect against wind damage and 11 drainage projects to protect the public from flooding events.

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FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s historic floods affected people’s jobs, mental state or left them needing legal assistance. But help is still available. There are several programs to assist survivors with these issues as they work to recover from the floods:

Disaster Unemployment Assistance

Disaster Unemployment Assistance application deadlines are approaching for several counties. DUA may be available to survivors who lost their jobs or businesses as a result of the recent floods. Survivors in any of the federally designated counties are eligible to apply. Apply by visiting mybenefits.dew.sc.gov or by calling 866-831-1724.

The deadline for survivors to file a claim is Nov. 4 in Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland, and Williamsburg counties; Nov. 5 in Berkeley, Clarendon and Sumter counties; Nov. 6 in Calhoun, Darlington, Florence, Kershaw and Lee counties; Nov. 7 in Bamberg, Colleton and Greenwood counties; Nov. 12 in Newberry County; and Nov. 19 for Fairfield and Marion counties. Call 888-834-5890 for more information.

Disaster-Related Legal Assistance at No Charge

A free helpline is available for survivors who have disaster-related legal questions. A partnership between the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, the South Carolina Bar, the South Carolina Bar Young Lawyers Division and South Carolina Legal Services is providing the service.

Survivors who have flood-related legal issues and cannot afford a lawyer should call 877-797-2227 ext. 120 or 803-576-3815 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Crisis Counseling Available

Many survivors recovering from the floods are also recovering emotionally. Free help is available for flood survivors who feel overwhelmed, exhausted or unable to cope. Mental health professionals are available at disaster recovery centers. Survivors can find their closest recovery center by calling 800-621-3362 or by logging onto fema.gov/disaster-recovery-centers.

Survivors who sustained losses in Bamberg, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Greenwood, Horry, Kershaw, Lee, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter and Williamsburg counties are eligible to register for federal disaster assistance.

Apply for assistance by registering online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362. Disaster assistance applicants who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities should call 800-462-7585 (TTY); those who use 711/VRS may call 800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice. Survivors may also choose to visit a disaster recovery center in their county. To find the nearest center log onto fema.gov/disaster-recovery-centers.