Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tips for preventing identity theft - Digital Hygiene: Conclusion


By Don Gardner

This is the sixth and final installment of a series of articles by Don Gardner, Clearwater County Emergency Management Coordinator, about protecting your digital identity. 

Digital hygiene when traveling, especially abroad

Did you know that a U.S. judge ruled that Customs and Border Protection has a right, without a warrant, to search your laptop when you enter the United States, even if you are an American citizen?

Do you access your bank accounts, email accounts or mortgage accounts online? Do you pay your rent, medical bills, parking tickets, credit cards, etc., from your computer or mobile device? Consider that you are essentially carrying your identity with you in an easy-to-steal package that might as well be wrapped with a ribbon.

Here are some tips.

Take “burn” laptops, tablets, and smartphones that are “clean” (free of substantial amounts of information) and are disposable when the trip is concluded.

Remove your battery from your devices even if they’re “off” during important conversations.

Wait an hour after landing at the airport before turning on your smart phone, and turn off your phone an hour before your return.

Lock every device with a password.

Update your stored owner information to just a phone number.

Turning off Bluetooth is an absolute Must, and adjust your near field communications (NFC) settings.

Enable data storage encryption.

Don’t open attachments from, or link to unknown source.

Do not download any software during your trip.

Watch for “shoulder surfers” - they’re watching for your password and reading your monitor.

Use your cellular G3 or G4 network, not the free WiFi in airports, hotels, and coffee shops, if possible.

Assume that a misplaced device is lost or stolen and report this immediately.

Just watch out for your digital self when you travel. 

How to report identity theft

If you suspect, or become a victim of, identity theft, follow these steps:

Report it to your financial institution. Call the phone number on your account statement or on the back of your credit or debit card.

Report the fraud to your local police immediately. Keep a copy of the police report, which will make it easier to prove your case to creditors and retailers.

Contact the credit-reporting bureaus and ask them to flag your account with a fraud alert, which asks merchants not to grant new credit without your approval.

Credit-reporting bureaus: Equifax: 1-800-685-1111 - Experian: 1-888-397-3742 - TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289.

To request your credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.

Next phase of Forest Plan begins; public comments encouraged

Rick Brazell, Forest Supervisor of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, announced the next phase of revising the Forest’s Land and Resource Management Plan (the Forest Plan).

The Forest has released the proposed action for the Forest Plan and is asking for additional public input. For the last 20 months, the Forest has engaged the public in collaborative public participation efforts which have been instrumental for providing input into development of the proposed action.

Brazell shared, “I appreciate the hard work that our interdisciplinary team and the public that has participated in collaboration have done to get us this far. The public has devoted a lot of their personal time to come to the table to discuss how the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests should be managed. We still have a lot of work to do and I welcome input on this initial proposal. I encourage anyone interested in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests to submit comments on the proposed action.”

The Nez Perce and Clearwater forest plans were written in 1987 and the forests were administratively combined in 2013, resulting in need for revision. The Forest is an early adopter of the 2012 Planning Rule which guides the planning process. The rule includes protection for forests, water and wildlife, while supporting the economic vitality of rural communities. It requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions.

The 2012 rule strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process. As an early adopter, the Forest is setting the stage for other national forests as they revise their plans.

The proposed action includes preliminary identification of the following items: forest-wide and management area desired conditions, objectives, standards, guidelines, and the suitability of lands for specific multiple uses, including those lands suitable for timber production; a long-term sustained yield calculation and a range of planned sale quantities; the distinctive roles and contributions the forest contributes within the broader landscape; priority restoration watersheds; proposed and possible actions that may occur on the plan area over the life of the plan; a list of rivers eligible for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic River inventory; and two preliminary options for areas to be recommended to Congress for inclusion in the Wilderness Preservation System.

Community meetings have been scheduled to provide an opportunity for the public to ask questions of the planning team. Meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., PT in the following locations:

In Orofino Tuesday, July 22, North Fork Ranger District, 12730 Highway 12.

In Grangeville Thursday, July 24, Forest Service Grangeville Office, 104 Airport Road.

In Lewiston Monday, July 28, Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game office, 3316 16th Street.

In Moscow Wednesday, July 30, 1912 Center, 412 East Third St., Moscow.

In Lolo, MT Monday, Aug. 4, Lolo Middle School, 11395 U.S. Hwy 93 S.

Public comments will help the Forest identify issues and develop alternatives for analysis in an Environmental Impact Statement. Comments or questions about plan revision can be submitted to fpr_npclw@fs.fed.us.

For those who prefer regular mail, written comments can be mailed to Forest Plan Revision, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, 903 3rd Street, Kamiah, ID 83536. In addition, geographic-specific comments can be submitted via the Collaborative Mapping Website at http://my.usgs.gov/ppgis/studio/launch/4290.

More information about the plan revision process, large scale color maps and the 2014 assessment is available online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/nezperceclearwater.

For more information contact: Timory Peel at (208) 935-2513.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tips for preventing identity theft - Digital Hygiene: Part 5

By Don Gardner

This is the fifth in a series of articles by Don Gardner, Clearwater County Emergency Management Coordinator, about protecting your digital identity.

Wireless theft

Your credit card information could be stolen just by walking by someone in a store or a mall that has possession of an RFID scanner. An RFID tag is located in credit cards that are noted by a radio signal symbol on the back of the card. If you have this radio signal on the back of your credit card, you need to take some precautionary measures.

The RFID tag includes a tiny microchip that works with an antenna sending out a radio signal with your credit card information. While it makes it easier for customers during checkout, it also makes stealing easier for committing fraud.

How can you protect yourself against wireless identity theft?

Leave the RFID credit cards at home. Only use these cards for only online purchases, and have another credit card without the RFID tag for outside purchases, or simply use cash.

You could wrap the RFID cards in aluminum foil before putting them in your wallet and it would block the signal, but it’s not a great idea. Or you could use a protective sleeve to help block RFID scanners from reading your card.

If a separate protective shield is not desired, consider a special wallet, such as DataSafe wallet. These wallets are manufactured with materials that have been approved by the Government Services Administration to block RFID transactions.

Monitoring credit card statements on a regular basis for errors or unknown charges can help detect purchases you did not make. Credit card fraud and identity theft can occur even if precautions are taken, however; monitoring statements regularly can help mitigate this risk.

Helpful sites

There are a host of tools, sites, and practices that can improve your chances of avoiding catching that digital virus or risking your private information. Below is a list of links that is by no means inclusive. Just remember, practicing good hygiene in your digital life will help ensure your offline activities aren’t interrupted. 

Tor - Anonymous browsing on the Internet https://www.torproject.org/

Tails - Bootable operating system with lots of privacy and security tools baked in https://tails.boum.org/

Guardian Project - Mobile security tools https://guardianproject.info/

TrueCrypt - Enryption of your data at rest http://www.truecrypt.org/

Avast - Anti-virus software http://www.avast.com/en-us/index

Tactical Technology - Has lots of resources for good digital hygiene for activists https://www.tacticaltech.org/

Portable Apps - Easy-to-use bootable apps http://portableapps.com/

Google 2-Factor Authentication - Increases email security https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/180744?hl=en

RedPhone - Encrypts mobile calls https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.thoughtcrime.redphone

TextSecure - Encrypts text messages https://whispersystems.org/

Facebook Privacy Settings - Change your Facebook Settings https://www.facebook.com/help/445588775451827

Increase the length and complexity of your passwords and use something like KeyPass for password management http://keepass.info/

Next week I will conclude this series, by providing tips to protect your information while traveling, and by describing how to report identity theft.

Clearwater County unemployment falls to 10 percent; highest in the state

Clearwater County, with a rate of 10 percent, was the only county in Idaho with a double-digit unemployment percentage in May. Ten percent is Clearwater County’s lowest unemployment rate in several years. In April of this year the rate was 10.6 percent, and in May of last year it was 10.9 percent.

The last time the state saw only one county in double digits was July 2008. 

Idaho County’s May rate was 6.7 percent, down from 7.1 percent in April, and from last year’s May rate of 8.6 percent.

Nez Perce County’s rate ticked down from 4.4 to 4.3 percent from April to May. In May of 2013 it was 5.4 percent.

Lewis County, at 4.0 percent, has the lowest rate in counties near Clearwater. In April Lewis County’s rate was 4.4 percent, and last May it was 5.7 percent.

Statewide information

Only four Idaho counties—Jefferson, Jerome, Owyhee and Power—saw jobless rates increase from April to May, but all 44 counties posted declines in unemployment from May 2013.

Eighteen counties had rates above 4.9 percent, down from 21 in April and 39 in May 2013. The lowest rate was 2.4 percent in Franklin County, and that was up a tenth from April’s rate.

Businesses hired at or just below their May average for the past five years, maintaining Idaho’s steady economic recovery and driving the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate below 5 percent for the first time in nearly six years.

Total employment increased another 1,000 from April to May, eclipsing 741,000 for the ninth record in as many months.

That was enough to accommodate the entry of 2,000 more workers into the labor force, holding the state’s labor force participation rate at 63.8 percent of all residents over age 15. Job generation by Idaho employers pulled another 1,000 workers off the unemployment rolls, dropping the number of jobless workers below 38,000 for the first time since July 2008.

With over 15,000 more people working this May than last, the unemployment rate at 4.9 percent was 1.5 percentage points below May 2013. Idaho’s rate was also 1.4 percentage points below the national jobless rate for May, marking more than 12½ years that the state rate has been lower.

Idaho’s economy has added 29,000 jobs since January, and total employment has risen every month since mid-2012. Financial services, real estate, information, health care, natural resources, mining, hotels and restaurants all generated jobs at just above the five-year average for May. Manufacturing, retail trade and transportation maintained the average, and only business services, private education services, construction and government fell short of their five-year performance. 

The state’s economic activity continued to drive down demand on the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, but the number of claims and amount paid has crept back up above the levels of the mid-1990s expansion.

In May, an average of 7,600 workers a week collected a total of $8.3 million in jobless benefits, down 42 percent from a year earlier with benefit payments – both state and federal extensions – 35 percent lower. Federally financed extended benefits ended in 2013.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests welcome holiday visitors

Wild and scenic rivers, lush forests and mountain vistas make the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests a natural choice for July 4, visitors.

Campsites

Dozens of campsites in several Forest Service campgrounds will be open for visitors. If you camp at a dispersed site, leave no trace of your stay. Use existing fire rings if available, and pack out your trash.

Most campgrounds offer first-come, first-serve site selection, but a few campgrounds have sites that you can reserve. Reserveable campsite options are: O’Hara Campground, located seven miles east of Lowell along Selway River Road; Fish Creek Group Site, eight miles south of Grangeville past the Fish Creek Meadows Campground; South Fork Group Use Site #5 at the South Fork Campground located on Highway 14, east of Grangeville; Wilderness Gateway, 49 miles east of Kooskia along U.S. Highway 12; Powell, 12 miles west of the Idaho-Montana state line along Highway 12; and Elk Creek, one mile north of Elk River. Call toll free at (877) 444-6777, or reserve online at www.recreation.gov.

Campgrounds with good access and sites for RV campers include O’Hara, Fish Creek, South Fork, Castle Creek, Spring Bar, Powell, Wendover and Whitehouse (a few miles west of Powell), Wilderness Gateway and Elk Creek. Powell and Elk Creek also have several electrical hookup sites.

A stay at Adams Ranger Cabin is a great alternative to camping. The fee is $50 per night with a minimum of two nights’ stay on weekends. To make reservations, visit the Adams Ranger Station information page at www.recreation.gov or call (877) 444-6777.

On the Powell Ranger District, Elk Summit Campground remains snow-covered in places, making the camp loops inaccessible. The Jerry Johnson Campground is closed for the season.

Along the North Fork Clearwater River, the popular Aquarius, Washington Creek, Noe Creek and Kelly Forks Campgrounds are up and running and waiting for Independence Day visitors.

Cedars Campground is also open and ready for happy, high-country campers. Hidden Creek Campground is inaccessible due to snowslide south of the campground, near Elizabeth Creek, and a large rockslide just north of Hidden Creek.

On the Palouse Ranger District, Giant White Pine, Laird Park and Little Boulder Campgrounds are great places to spend the long holiday weekend. If you’re planning a fun-filled 4th of July family get-together, the Palouse District also boasts three picnic sites that can be reserved.


Roads

On the Moose Creek Ranger District, Indian Hill Road 290 is closed to all motorized traffic due to a road failure. Falls Point Road 443 is open only to vehicles less than 50 inches. O’Hara/Hamby Road 651 is open to the snowline. All other roads on the district are open, with some snow at higher elevations.

The popular Magruder Corridor Road 468 is open to mile marker 10.5 on the west side and closed after that by snow. For updated information, call the Red River Ranger District at (208) 842-2245.

All roads on the Salmon River Ranger District are open except the Free Use Road 243, Nut Basin Road 441, Seven Devils Road 517, and Square Mountain/Gospel Road 444, are closed to the snowline.

All roads along the Highway 14 Corridor are open, except the historic Elk City Wagon Road 284.

On the North Fork Ranger District: Beaver Creek Road 247 is open from Headquarters to Bungalow. Forest Service Road 250, also called French Mountain Road, is open from Pierce to four miles north of the Kelly Forks Work Center. Deception Saddle Road 255 is open all the way to its northernmost junction with Road 250, three miles south of Cedars Campground. Toboggan Ridge Road 581 and Hoodoo Pass are still blocked by snow. Mush Saddle Road 711 and Cool Creek Road 5295 are closed because of logging activity in the area.

Lolo Motorway Road 500 and Elk Summit Road 360 remain closed due to snow. Call the Powell Ranger Station at (208) 942-3113 for updates.

Current road and trail conditions are located at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nezperceclearwater/alerts-notices.


Trails

Many Forest trails below 6000 feet in elevation are snow-free and accessible, although visitors should be prepared to encounter high creek crossings, downed trees and debris. Check with your local ranger districts for a complete listing of trails that have been cleared to date.

For safety’s sake, and to protect sensitive plant life, trail users are asked to stay on trails. Always yield to stock.

Check out the new “2014 Go-To Guide for Popular Hiking Trails on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests” at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/nezperceclearwater/recreation/hiking.


Forest Service offices and visitor centers

Most Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests offices, with a few exceptions, will close Friday, July 4, in observance of the holiday. If you’re thinking of buying a firewood cutting and/or mushroom permit, America the Beautiful Senior Pass (Golden Age Passport) or a national forest visitor map to use over the holiday weekend, please be sure to stop by your nearest forest office prior to the close of business on Thursday, July 3.

The Lolo Pass Visitor Center at the Idaho-Montana state line along Highway 12 is open seven days a week, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time. The visitor center will be open the 4th of July.

The Lochsa Historical Ranger Station, located 48 miles east of Kooskia along Highway 12, is open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Labor Day. The LHRS will be open to welcome visitors on July 4.

 
Fire information

Please be careful and responsible with your cigarettes and campfires. Use existing fire rings if available. Make sure your campfire is completely out when you leave a campsite.

Fireworks are not allowed on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. The use of all fireworks and other pyrotechnic devices is prohibited on almost all national forests regardless of weather conditions or holidays.

For additional information, call the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Supervisor’s Office in Kamiah at (208) 935-2513, or your local Forest Service Office. Or check online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/nezperce-clearwater.

Tips for preventing identity theft - Digital Hygiene: Part 4

By Don Gardner

This is the fourth in a series of articles by Don Gardner, Clearwater County Emergency Management Coordinator, about protecting your digital identity.

This week I will continue discussing the Level 2 (more advanced) steps for protecting your digital identity.

Stay off Skype. No one should use Skype for secure communications. Earlier this year, Ars Technica found that Skype is not using end-to-end encryption and, more than likely, your conversations are being listened to. In fact, Skype’s privacy policy states that they have the right to scan and review your instant messages and SMS. Unfortunately, there is no good, trustable, encrypted voice or video infrastructure to replace Skype, so we recommend you simply don’t use it for sensitive discussions.

If you are going to use Skype, there are a few things you can do to at least protect yourself from Skype-targeted phishing, spam, and viruses. In your privacy settings, make sure that only people in your contact list can contact you either through IM or video.

Use HTTPS by default. When you see HTTPS at the beginning of a Web address, you know that communication between you and that page are encrypted. Even though many sites offer HTTPS, such as Wikipedia and Google, many still don’t default to it. You can use an HTTPS Everywhere type program to help keep you at HTTPS.

Don’t install unknown programs. This really means “don’t visit suspicious sites” (pornography sites, cracked software sites, torrent sites serving music and video); not because you’ll get in trouble, but because they tend to be crawling with pop-ups waiting to trick you into installing something you didn’t mean to.

The Web is littered with software that earns its keep by spying on users, and sometimes it’s even more malicious than that. If you don’t know who makes and distributes a program, it’s hard to know if that software is safe.

Never click on a pop-up that wants you to do something. Even clicking on the X to remove the pop-up can start a download you don’t want. One way to protect yourself is to close the browser and not visit that site again. Make it a habit to download programs directly from websites of trusted vendors or well-known open-source projects.


Password tips

Did you know that a simple PC can crack 100 million passwords a second, and that many passwords can be found through Facebook? Unfortunately, having a strong password that you routinely change is part of the cost of being online.

Avoid using the same password across multiple sites and services. That way, if Yahoo credentials are breached, hackers won’t be able to jump across into your Twitter, or online banking, and other accounts.

Choose a password that is not easy to guess. Words with a dictionary root followed by numerals are very common choices and predictable patterns that cyber criminals can use to crack your password very fast.

Set up password change/reset mechanisms properly–not obviously. Password reset forms on many services ask questions like “Where did you go to school?” or “Name of your first dog?” These questions are easy to answer and can typically be mined from social media sites. Why would hackers guess your password if they can just surf social media to find out where you went to school and how old you are? (You did, after all announce your birthday last year on Facebook didn’t you?)

Instead, I suggest lying on the Internet. Come up with a scheme of answers to these questions that you won’t forget. An answer to the inevitable “mother's maiden name” question could be Miss 7#BrE_r (mom will understand), but no one will ever guess your “secret questions.”

Bigger equals better! Short passwords might be guessed in second or minutes or hours (it depends on the implementation), where very long passwords could take years of work (and the cyber criminals are likely to go after someone else). Therefore, making your password 40-60 characters makes life much harder for the cyber criminals if they do manage to break into a service like Yahoo. This of course assumes the provider isn’t just storing your password in clear text.

Use a password manager. Password managers generate strong unique passwords for each of your services and then store them in an encrypted database which you can unlock with one good master password. It is a reasonable compromise for those that do not have an amazing memory. Only use a program like this from a company you trust, and don’t repeat similar passwords across multiple sites.

Next week I will begin the super advanced, Level 3 tips for protecting your digital identity.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dworshak Reservoir almost full; July 4 outdoor fun awaits visitors

Dworshak Reservoir will likely reach full pool elevation by the end of June, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water managers announced today.

An above-normal snow pack throughout the Clearwater sub-Basin challenged water managers to balance the need to maintain space in the reservoir for any unexpected water inflows with the desire to have the reservoir close to full pool (1,600 feet in elevation) in time for the July 4 holiday weekend, said Steve Hall, reservoir manager for the Corps' Walla Walla District.

Hall and other Corps water experts conducted an observation flight on June 10 to visually confirm how much snow-covered area remained in the basin, and came back with good news for Dworshak holiday visitors: only about 5 percent of the area was still covered by snow, allowing water managers to continue safely filling the reservoir.

"The reservoir is about 10 feet shy of full, and conditions are great right now for outdoor water recreation," said Hall.

Hall said Corps water managers plan to maintain full pool at Dworshak Reservoir through July 8, subject to downstream needs to maintain healthy river temperatures for outmigrating ESA-listed fish species. Wednesday morning, June 18, water temperatures at Lower Granite Lock and Dam on the Snake River were at about 55 degrees - 13 degrees cooler than the maximum temperature considered healthy for fish (68 degrees).

Dworshak Dam and Reservoir offers a variety of outdoor summer fun opportunities during the July 4 holiday - boating, camping water sports, swimming, fishing, hiking and more. Dworshak Dam's Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tours are offered daily at 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. All tours begin at the Visitor Center.

All campgrounds, mini-camps and boat ramps are open for use, said Paul Pence, Dworshak natural resources manager. Dent Acres campground, group camp, and picnic shelter is reservable for the summer recreation season. To make reservations, call 1-877-444-6777, or go online to www.recreation.gov. Reservations are not required, but are recommended to be guaranteed a particular camping spot.

The reserving of mini-camp sites along the Dworshak Reservoir shoreline is prohibited. Early placement of camping equipment at mini-camp sites in an attempt to save a spot for the weekend can result in the removal of the camping equipment or a citation if personal gear is left unattended for an extended period.

The Corps invites visitors to come use the recreation facilities at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir, but it's important to enjoy the reservoir safely by taking the following precautions:

Changing weather conditions can create unsafe situations on open water. Make sure your boat is serviceable, know the weather forecast and have a float plan.

Ensure proper fitting, accessible and serviceable life vests are available for each occupant on your boat. Better yet, wear them. Keep life jackets on children while on or around the water. Don't let small children out of your sight.

Before proceeding at higher speeds, familiarize yourself with the area you will be boating as there may be floating woody debris or rocks, stumps and shallow areas not visible from the surface.

When boating on the reservoir, please use caution because lake levels can change quickly - anchor your boat in water deep enough to avoid beaching and leave enough slack in your anchorline to avoid sinking should lake levels fluctuate up or down.

Campfires should be made using established fire rings only.

For more information regarding water levels, facilities access or recreation, call the Dworshak Dam Visitor Center at 208-476-1255.