National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Data breaches resulting in the compromise of personally identifiable information of thousands of Americans.

Intrusions into financial, corporate, and government networks.

Complex financial schemes committed by sophisticated cyber criminals against businesses and the public in general.

These are just a few examples of crimes perpetrated online over the past year or so, and part of the reason why Director James Comey, testifying before Congress last week, said that “the pervasiveness of the cyber threat is such that the FBI and other intelligence, military, homeland security, and law enforcement agencies across the government view cyber security and cyber attacks as a top priority.”

The FBI, according to Comey, targets the most dangerous malicious cyber activity—high-level intrusions by state-sponsored hackers and global cyber syndicates, and the most prolific botnets. And in doing so, we work collaboratively with our domestic and international partners and the private sector.

But it’s important for individuals, businesses, and others to be involved in their own cyber security. And National Cyber Security Awareness Month—a Department of Homeland Security-administered campaign held every October—is perhaps the most appropriate time to reflect on the universe of cyber threats and on doing your part to secure your own devices, networks, and data.

What are some of the more prolific cyber threats we’re currently facing?

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High-end retail theft ring busted that targeted Western US

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco prosecutors have charged 16 people in a retail theft ring that stole more than $200,000 worth of clothing, purses and other merchandise from high-end stores such as Louis Vuitton and Salvatore Ferragamo, the district attorney’s office said Monday.

Ten more people have been charged in other Western U.S. cities where the group stole an additional $200,000 worth of merchandise, including Honolulu and Seattle, prosecutors said. The group is accused in dozens of thefts dating back to 2015.

“We’re taking something that on its face might have been a single or maybe two or three events, and we have been able to connect this to many other events,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said at a news conference announcing the charges.

Linking the defendants to multiple thefts increases the potential sentences they face, he said.

The group in some cases sent as many as 10 or 12 people into a store with bags to grab as much merchandise as possible before running out the door, Assistant District Attorney Frank Carrubba said.

Some of the thefts became violent, with the thieves using pepper spray on store employees or brandishing knives, Carrubba said. There were often getaway drivers.

The charges filed include robbery, grand theft and commercial burglary.

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Clerical errors have kept hundreds of Alaska inmates in jail

Last Tuesday, a prisoner walked out of the Anchorage jail a free man. Unremarkable, except it was five months after his sentence ended.

By the Department of Corrections’ own admission, the man — who the department would not name — spent nearly an extra six months incarcerated because of a clerical error in the computation of his complicated sentence.

His case is an extreme example of a widespread and insidious problem in Alaska’s criminal justice system.

Over the past five years, DOC has kept — or would have kept if the errors hadn’t been discovered by state investigators — more than 100 inmates in jail for days, weeks and even months after their sentences expired because of clerical errors, an analysis of data from the state ombudsman’s office shows.

That number, attorneys and investigators agree, is probably a major under count. It represents only inmates who’ve completed a lengthy formal process with the Alaska Office of the Ombudsman.

For every prisoner who complains, there are more who just sit a few extra days in jail, said Bethel attorney Jim Valcarce. He consistently fields two to three calls per month from people, almost all in rural Alaska jails, who say they’ve been detained for longer than their sentence.

“I’ve seen it a few days and I’ve seen it as long as a month,” he said.

Those people are missing out on work, family life, subsistence activities, holidays, he says. They are missing out on their lives.

“I can’t think of anything worse, more unfair, than someone who is sitting in jail for no reason. That’s a miscarriage of justice.”

Such errors break one of the foundational contracts of the justice system: That people should go free once they’ve served their time. At the same time, sentence miscalculations cost the already cash-strapped state hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The prisoner released Tuesday alone would have cost the state at least $23,000 in unnecessary incarceration.

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82 Weapons Seized From Interstate Gun Trafficking Ring, Officials Say

CIVIC CENTER — Investigators busted six people on Friday and seized more than 80 weapons after breaking up an interstate gun trafficking ring that brought weapons from the south into the city up the I-95 “Iron Pipeline,” officials announced Monday.

Abdul Davis, 52, sold 82 guns — including assault weapons and handguns — to an undercover NYPD detective posing as a Manhattan-based dealer in Washington Heights after first purchasing them from four dealers in Georgia and Virginia, according to the NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

“And then each time, like clockwork, he headed back up I-95 and arranged to make sales to the undercover,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said during a press conference at One Police Plaza.

“And that’s where you get the name ‘Iron Pipeline’ on I-95.”

Officials said Davis worked with his girlfriend Shelita Funderberk, 50, out of their home in New Jersey to purchase the weapons from southern dealers Trenton Pointer, 45, Daemon Jenkins, 49, Malik Rainey, 44, and Milton Tillery, 37.

Officials said they were first tipped off to Davis through informants, and the New Jersey man may have been selling weapons for up to 10 years.

The undercover detective first started meeting with Davis on March 16, 2015, in his car at West 166th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, right next to New York Presbyterian Hospital, according to the Manhattan DA.

Davis sold the detective the guns — including 67 pistols, eight revolvers, five assault weapons and two shotguns — during 26 separate transactions, the most recent of which happened on April 19, Vance said.

The New Jersey man usually arranged the sales with the southern dealers through phone calls and text messages and wired money to their accounts before driving to their homes to pick up the weapons, officials said.

“The reason we can charge out-of-state defendants for criminal sale of weapons in New York was from evidence that they knew they were selling weapons to come up to New York State,” Vance said.

All six people were charged with conspiracy and criminal sale of a firearm.

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“They play an important role in not just fighting crime, but also in learning from actual encounters with the public,” he said in a statement.

The department launched its pilot program in January 2015 in the Shakespeare District on the Northwest Side. Thirty officers have been testing the cameras. Those officers made an average of 16 videos a month, compared with an average of 60 videos a month per officer during a pilot program in Seattle and 80 videos a month per officer in New Orleans, where virtually every cop wears one, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis found.

Chicago Police Department policy requires officers with body cameras to keep them on a “buffering mode” during their entire tour of duty. That means the camera is turned on, but not recording. But officers in the pilot program in the Shakespeare District were not required to follow that policy all the time, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

“It was a technical and usage analysis,” he said. “We were running a limited pilot, not requiring officers to turn them on at all times.”

That’s why the Chicago Police officers have recorded fewer videos on average than other cities, Guglielmi said.

Starting this spring and throughout the summer, the department will expand its pilot program to six other police districts — Austin, Wentworth, Deering, Ogden, South Chicago and Gresham. About 450 body cameras are being shipped to Chicago this week, officials said.

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Gun Storage Presents Problem For Vermont Law Enforcement

Sgt. Jason Covey sits at a conference table in the Middlebury Police Department offices. Displayed out in front of him are three guns. Each one has a little tag attached by a string, looped around the trigger like a price tag, with information about how the department acquired the gun.

“This we’ve had since 2005,” Covey explains, lifting a pistol from the table. “It was a firearm used in a violent crime in Middlebury.”

Putting the first gun down, he picks up another.

“This one we’ve had since 2000 and it’s a firearm that the serial number was purposely defaced and cannot be restored and that gun can legally never be released. So the only thing that can be done with it is stored forever or destroyed.”

These are a couple of guns the department would rather not have. But there are plenty of others that the department would like to be rid of too.

“Off the top of my head, 17 that could be destroyed today,” Covey says with a sigh.

These guns have to be stored appropriately, tagged, sometimes kept in climate controlled areas and preserved in the same shape as when the department acquired them. But they serve no evidentiary purpose.

“They take up a significant amount of space in an already packed evidence room that holds evidence and property from all our cases,” according to Covey. “That is a storage issue.”

Why can’t the department just destroy these guns? Covey says it’s complicated.

“I’m not aware of a specific rule that says we cannot,” he explains. “But the difficulties in doing so would be complying with all … Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms regulations, and having the appropriate means to completely destroy the weapon.”

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Heritage High School PTO treasurer charged with embezzlement

“A Hoagland woman who served as the treasurer for the Heritage Elementary Parent Teacher Organization (P.T.O.) was arrested Thursday morning following a four month long investigation into allegations she had been stealing money from the PTO according to state police.

An investigation was initiated, at the request of the Heritage High School PTO, by Indiana State Police Detective Clint Hetrick and Allen County Police Detective Doug Keller in November 2015 following an audit after a large amount of money was discovered to have been missing from the elementary PTO.

Hetrick and Keller’s investigation revealed that between January 2013 and November 2014, 36 year old Genevieve M. Meyer had used the elementary PTO’s credit card and had withdrawn money, which totaled came to excess of $18,000 in theft. As a result of their investigation, the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office charged Genevieve M. Meyer with two counts of theft.

Meyer was arrested without incident at her home and incarcerated in the Allen County Jail.”

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Retired cops could provide school security

Grandpa with a gun may soon be guarding your kids in school.

In February a New Jersey Senate committee voted unanimously to start the ball rolling on the creation of a new category of law enforcement officials, called Class Three Officers, eligible to be hired to patrol the corridors and grounds of schools.

They could be armed and prepared to take action whenever it’s called for.

The Bill has bi-partisan co-sponsorship in the Senate, authored by Senator Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, and Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester.

All three Hudson Senators, Nicholas Sacco, Brian Stack, and Sandra Cunningham, are co-sponsors. However, in the Assembly it’s an all-Republican Bill, sponsored by Senator Bucco’s son, Anthony, R-Morris, and four others.

The Bill was introduced in the last session as a response to public fears after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

It was approved by the Senate Law & Public Safety Committee in January but gained no traction before the session ended mid-month. This time the Buccos plan to make passage a priority.

Senator Bucco said having experienced officers in the schools would certainly upgrade safety and using retired officers would mean that municipalities would not have to provide health and pension benefits because retirees were already receiving them.

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Texas police get drones to watch over spring breakers coming to town

Surf’s up and so are the drones at this popular spring break destination in Texas.

The South Padre Island police have ordered two drones and plan on flying them above partying college students, where more than 25,000 spring breakers are expected to pour in this March.

The pair of drones feature a crystal-clear 4K camera so police can keep a watchful eye in the sky on every beer pong match, keg stand and chugging contest on the beach.

But even with an extra point-of-view above the revelers, police don’t think the drones will be a buzz to any parties.

“I don’t think it’s going to change people’s behavior,” Gary Ainsworth, the city’s public information officer, told the Daily News. “Any time you have an eye in the sky, it’s better than having just eyes on the ground.”

Ainsworth said there won’t be a specific schedule during spring break their drones will be patrolling, and pointed out they were not specifically requested to watch over college students on the beach.

The officer told the News they had requested these drones a while ago, and it was just a coincidence they arrived so close to spring break.

This will be the first time the city’s police roll out their two drones in the popular town.

“We can use it for beach patrol,” police chief Randy Smith told Valley Central. “We’re looking at deploying some that have a safety feature that releases a life jacket over a subject that is in distress.”

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Couple left kids in cold car at Sands Casino in Bethlehem

While the region endured single digit wind chills earlier this week, police said two children were struggling to stay warm inside a cold car while their parents gambled.

Officers were dispatched at 3:21 a.m. Monday to the second level of the Sands Casino parking garage in Bethlehem for the report of two children left alone inside a car that had been turned off for several hours, according to court documents released Wednesday.
The outside temperature at the time was approximately 11 degrees, with a wind chill of one degree above zero, police said. “I like to go to the casino, but I wouldn’t leave no kids,” said Carmelo Natoli, the couple’s next door neighbor.
The casino’s surveillance cameras captured video of the children and their parents, identified by police as Enrique and Frances Garcia, arriving at the casino at approximately 12:33 a.m., according to court documents.

The father came out twice — first at 1:35 a.m. and again at 2:35 a.m. — to check on the children, but he never turned on the car, said police, adding that the children had only jackets to keep them warm inside the blue 2002 Honda Accord.
Enrique Garcia, 49, and Frances Garcia, 45, both of the 1300 block of Muhlenberg Street in Reading, were each charged with endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor.
The casino’s surveillance cameras captured video of the children and their parents, identified by police as Enrique and Frances Garcia, arriving at the casino at approximately 12:33 a.m., according to court documents. The father came out twice — first at 1:35 a.m. and again at 2:35 a.m. — to check on the children, but he never turned on the car, said police, adding that the children had only jackets to keep them warm inside the blue 2002 Honda Accord. E
nrique Garcia, 49, and Frances Garcia, 45, both of the 1300 block of Muhlenberg Street in Reading, were each charged with endangering the welfare of children, a first-degree misdemeanor. Loved ones closed the door and did not want to answer any questions Wednesday.
Dr. Charles Barbera, chairman of the emergency department at Reading Hospital, said no one should be left in a cold car, and the situation can turn troublesome fairly quickly. “If someone is not prepared, they could feel the effects of 11-degree temperatures within a half hour and you could see some really profound effects,” Barbera said. The couple is free on bail. A judge has ordered them not to have any contact with the children or to visit another casino until their case is disposed of.

Police said they did not know the children’s ages. There are no signs posted in the Sands Casino parking garage alerting parents not to leave their kids in the car, but security checks are done regularly, according to casino officials. The casino said it is not sure if security guards or a guest noticed the Garcia children early Monday morning, but once the discovery was made, it alerted Bethlehem police immediately.

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