Thinking High Holiday Security & Preparedness
After a year that included the horrible events of Pittsburgh and Poway, JCRC-NY recommends that Jewish institutions increase their levels of vigilance. This is especially true during the High Holidays, when people know that Jews congregate. Synagogues should review this document, ADL’s Security Recommendations For the High Holidays or SCN’s High Holy Days Security Planning. For more information click to our contact form here and someone will get back to you.
Your services are usually associated with larger than normal crowds and could be an attractive target for terrorism and other crimes. The single, most important step that congregations should consider: screen all attendees before they enter your premises. Your screeners (who might be equipped with a “panic button” to be used if there’s an emergency) may assess those with valid, High Holiday tickets as “pre-screened” (see “Ticket sales” below) so that+ any others merit a higher level of scrutiny. Trained guards, staff, or volunteers should conduct screening. Consider bag checks.
Hm-m-m-m-m. Any special planning for severe weather?
Here are some additional suggestions:
- Create a culture of security. Institutions should not merely subcontract security. Even buildings with well-trained security personnel should expect that staff and constituencies should be part of the security equation. Everyone should have heightened vigilance in times like these. For tips on security awareness, Indicators of Terrorist Activity from the NYPD and/or the ADL’s Guide to Detecting Surveillance at Jewish Institutions.
- Connect with your local police. Someone (or more than one) should have ongoing personal relationships with key police personnel. They should know you, your building and your organizational activities.
- Discuss your security procedures with them and ask them for suggestions for improvement. Inform them of the dates and times of your services, regular events and special events.
- Special attention is given to a synagogue based on an assessment of the current threat balanced by the availability of resources. In some jurisdictions it is a longstanding practice to assign police personnel to synagogues during services. In others, patrol cars are directed to visit synagogues at regular intervals. Discuss your situation with local police officials as soon as possible so that they have time to make their assessments and to secure the resources that they need to protect you.
- In some instances, the traffic conditions surrounding services warrant police attention.
- Private security. Some police departments allow private parties to hire off-duty officers in uniform for events (in NYC, contact the Paid Detail Unit). Others use other off-duty officers (hired privately or through a security firm), retired officers or hire private security guards.
- Security guards must be trained in security awareness, understand your environment, be in harmony with your organization’s culture and be customer-service-oriented. You must clearly detail what is expected of your security guards, including specific duties, inspection of your facilities and your access control policy. (See more at the JCCA Security Readiness Manual, pp. 50 ff.)
- Check that your security firm is appropriately insured and ask for a Certificate of Insurance naming your synagogue as an additional named insured.
- Revisit and review your security plans and procedures.
- Access control. Did you hear the one about a pro-Israel organization visited by a middle-aged, well-dressed woman saying that she wanted to make a contribution? They opened the door for her and a dozen protesters rushed in. Nine of the invaders were arrested. Are you vulnerable to such antics? Take the time to review your access control procedures. For more information and guidance, see JCRC-NY’s Sample Building Access Policies & Procedures (PDF).
- Active shooters. Have a plan and train your staff and key volunteers on its implementation. See JCRC’s dedicated active shooter webpage here.
- Bomb threats. Review your bomb threat procedures and make sure that your staffers (especially those who answer the phones) know what is expected of them. For a range of resources from top agencies, including the FBI and the DHS guidance click here.
- Train your staff and key volunteers. It might not be practical to have evacuation/active shooter drills for your entire congregation before the holidays, but do conduct drills for your staff and key volunteers (e.g., ushers, area captains) as soon as possible. Get their feedback on your plans and update the plans as necessary.
- Suspicious packages. Is your staff aware that they should be on the lookout for suspicious packages? For USPS guidance click here.
- Assess your cybersecurity. Over the past month the websites of several Jewish-affiliated organizations were hacked. Protect your organization. See Cybersecurity for Jewish organizations 101: an update and how to have inexpensive and effective backup and other plans at Resources to prepare your organization’s technology for a disaster.
- Questions? Click here to send questions, comments and suggestions.
Today, the New York Times reported that “This has been the summer of crippling ransomware attacks” to all types of computer systems. Not only have 40 municipalities been struck — their data encrypted and a ransom demanded — but last week there was a report that another synagogue ransomware attack investigated by the FBI.
Cyber-hygiene. If you look closely at the screenshot above, you will see a pop-up from the anti-malware provider Malwarebytes, stating that its database is out of date (Oops!). What should you be doing to ensure a good cyber-hygiene regimen? (see a longer article from Symantec here)? What can you do to protect your data?
- Deploy an antivirus/anti-malware product. An up-to-date, real-time antivirus might stop a cyber-attack.
- Backup. Make sure to back up your important documents and keep a backup set offsite (in case of fire, etc.). There’s no excuse. These days, cloud backups are free or low-cost and you can automatically sync documents to your cloud account.
- Update, update,update. It’s a constant battle. Bad actors learn how to sneak into our systems to do bad things. Software providers constantly provide security patches designed to close the open doors that bad actors use. Update your operating systems (Window or Mac), browsers, remote management software, Adobe products, Microsoft products, firewalls — everything. True, updates sometimes cause problems, but not updating leads to worse problems.
- Use a firewall. Firewalls are the guards designed to protect your network from the internet. Whether you have a hardware or software firewall, it is critical that you keep it up to date.
- Set strong passwords and use two-factor authentication. People still use easy-to-guess passwords like, “Welcome123”, fail to change default passwords, or use the same password for multiple sites. Check out password tips from Google here. Check out a good primer from PC Mag, Two-Factor Authentication: Who Has It and How to Set It Up.
- Before you pay a ransom ask for help! Contact the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the FBI, or the Secret Service and work with an experienced advisor to help recover from a cyber attack. Victims of ransomware should report it immediately to CISA at www.us-cert.gov/report, a local FBI Field Office, or Secret Service Field Office.
Consider cyber-attack insurance. Cyber-attacks can be costly. Even if you are following all of the steps recommended above and have current backups of everything, you may still be attacked and getting back to business may be costly. A compromised computer or network will have to be restored. If there is a data breach and your members’ confidential data is compromised, other steps will have to be taken. Work with your insurance broker to determine what it would cost to recover from a cyber-attack versus the cost of the policy and do a cost-benefit analysis.
Note: Membership records. The synagogue was lucky, their membership data is stored in the cloud (e.g., Chaverware, ShulCloud). Most of the established synagogue management software stores data online, encrypts it and backs up its database. User agreements should specify that it is the vendor’s responsibility to protect your data and to be prepared to quickly restore it.
For more information visit the CISA Resource Page on Ransomware.
In light of the increasing number of reports of ransomware attacks against government data DHS and its partners issued the following statement. The three steps to resilience are good advice for all of us to implement.
CISA, MS-ISAC, NGA & NASCIO RECOMMEND IMMEDIATE ACTION TO SAFEGUARD AGAINST RANSOMWARE ATTACKS
Take the First Three Steps to Resilience Against Ransomware for State and Local Partners
WASHINGTON – July 29, 2019 – The recent ransomware attacks targeting systems across the country are the latest in a string of attacks affecting State and local government partners. The growing number of such attacks highlights the critical importance of making cyber preparedness a priority and taking the necessary steps to secure our networks against adversaries. Prevention is the most effective defense against ransomware.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), National Governors Association (NGA), and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) are committed to supporting ransomware victims and encouraging all levels of government to proactively protect their networks against the threat of a ransomware attack. Today, we call on our State, local, territorial and tribal government partners, along with the wider cyber community, to take the following essential actions to enhance their defensive posture against ransomware. Through this collective action, we can better protect ourselves and our communities, and further advance the cyber preparedness and resilience of the Nation.
Three Steps to Resilience Against Ransomware
Back-Up Your Systems – Now (and Daily)
Immediately and regularly back up all critical agency and system configuration information on a separate device and store the back-ups offline, verifying their integrity and restoration process. If recovering after an attack, restore a stronger system than you lost, fully patched and updated to the latest version.
Reinforce Basic Cybersecurity Awareness and Education
Ransomware attacks often require the human element to succeed. Refresh employee training on recognizing cyber threats, phishing and suspicious links – the most common vectors for ransomware attacks. Remind employees of how to report incidents to appropriate IT staff in a timely manner, which should include out-of-band communication paths.
Revisit and Refine Cyber Incident Response Plans
Agencies must have a clear plan to address attacks when they occur, including when internal capabilities are overwhelmed. Make sure response plans include how to request assistance from external cyber first responders, such as state agencies, CISA and the MS-ISAC, in the event of an attack.
- MS-ISAC Security Primer on Ransomware
- CISA Tip Sheet on Ransomware
- NGA Disruption Response Planning Memo
- NASCIO Cyber Disruption Planning Guide
After implementing these recommendations, refer to the ransomware best practices published by CISA, MS-ISAC, NGA, and NASCIO for additional steps to protect your organization.
Cybersecurity Best Practices
The following is a list of best practices designed to keep individuals and their data safe when connected to the internet.
Avoid opening emails, downloading attachments, or clicking on suspicious links sent from unknown or untrusted sources.
Verify unexpected attachments or links from known senders by contacting them via another method of communication.
Avoid providing your email address, phone number, or other personal information to unknown sources.
Avoid providing sensitive information to anyone via email. If you must, be sure to encrypt it before sending.
Be skeptical of emails written with a sense of urgency and requesting an immediate response, such as those stating your account will be closed if you do not click on an embedded link or provide the sender with sensitive information.
Beware of emails with poor design, grammar, or spelling.
Ensure an email’s “sender name” corresponds to the correct email address to identify common email spoofing tactics.
Never open spam emails; report them as spam, and/or delete them. Do not respond to spam emails or use included “Unsubscribe” links as this only confirms to the spammer that your email address is active and may exacerbate the problem.
PASSWORDS AND MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION
Use strong passwords on all of your accounts.
Long, complex passwords make you less susceptible to brute-force attacks.
Use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
Avoid easy-to-guess elements like pets’ names, children’s names, birthdays, etc.
To reduce the risk of account compromise, account holders should:
Avoid using the same password across multiple accounts or platforms.
Never share their password with anyone, leave passwords out in the open for others to read, or store them in an unsecured, plaintext file on computers or mobile devices.
Consider using long acronyms or passphrases to increase the length of your password.
Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) on all accounts that offer it. This will help prevent unauthorized access in the event of credential compromise.
ON THE WEB
Ensure any websites requesting the insertion of account credentials and those used to conduct transactions online are encrypted with a valid digital certificate to ensure your data is secure. These website addresses will have a green padlock displayed in the URL field and will begin with https.
Avoid saving account information, such as passwords or credit card information, in web browsers or browser extensions.
Avoid using public computers and public Wi-Fi connections to log into accounts and access sensitive information.
Consider using ad-blocking, script-blocking, and coin-blocking browser extensions to protect systems against malicious advertising attacks and scripts designed to launch malware or mine cryptocurrency.
Sign out of accounts and shut down computers and mobile devices when not in use. Program systems and devices to automatically lock the active session after a set period of inactivity.
Keep all hardware and software updated with the latest, patched version.
Run reputable antivirus or anti-malware applications on all devices and keep them updated with the latest version.
Create multiple, redundant backups of all critical and sensitive data and keep them stored off the network in the event of a ransomware infection or other destructive malware incident. This will allow you to recover lost files, if needed.