FBI: How to protect yourself when shopping online

Why do online shoppers have to take special precautions?

The Internet offers convenience not available from other shopping outlets. From the comfort of your home, you can search for items from multiple vendors, compare prices with a few mouse clicks, and make purchases without waiting in line. However, the Internet is also convenient for attackers, giving them multiple ways to access the personal and financial information of unsuspecting shoppers. Attackers who are able to obtain this information may use it for their own financial gain, either by making purchases themselves or by selling the information to someone else.

How do attackers target online shoppers?

There are three common ways that attackers can take advantage of online shoppers:

  • Creating fraudulent sites and email messages – Unlike traditional shopping, where you know that a store is actually the store it claims to be, attackers can create malicious websites or email messages that appear to be legitimate. Attackers may also misrepresent themselves as charities, especially after natural disasters or during holiday seasons. Attackers create these malicious sites and email messages to try to convince you to supply personal and financial information.
  • Intercepting insecure transactions – If a vendor does not use encryption, an attacker may be able to intercept your information as it is transmitted.
  • Targeting vulnerable computers – If you do not take steps to protect your computer from viruses or other malicious code, an attacker may be able to gain access to your computer and all of the information on it. It is also important for vendors to protect their computers to prevent attackers from accessing customer databases.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Do business with reputable vendors – Before providing any personal or financial information, make sure that you are interacting with a reputable, established vendor. Some attackers may try to trick you by creating malicious websites that appear to be legitimate, so you should verify the legitimacy before supplying any information. (See Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks and Understanding Web Site Certificates for more information.) Attackers may obtain a site certificate for a malicious website to appear more authentic, so review the certificate information, particularly the “issued to” information. Locate and note phone numbers and physical addresses of vendors in case there is a problem with your transaction or your bill.
  • Make sure your information is being encrypted – Many sites use secure sockets layer (SSL) to encrypt information. Indications that your information will be encrypted include a URL that begins with “https:” instead of “http:” and a padlock icon. If the padlock is closed, the information is encrypted. The location of the icon varies by browser; for example, it may be to the right of the address bar or at the bottom of the window. Some attackers try to trick users by adding a fake padlock icon, so make sure that the icon is in the appropriate location for your browser.
  • Be wary of emails requesting information – Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending emails requesting that you confirm purchase or account information. (See Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks.) Legitimate businesses will not solicit this type of information through email. Do not provide sensitive information through email. If you receive an unsolicited email from a business, instead of clicking on the provided link, directly log on to the authentic website by typing the address yourself. (See Recognizing and Avoiding Email Scams.)
  • Use a credit card – There are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, but you may not have the same level of protection for your debit cards. Additionally, because a debit card draws money directly from your bank account, unauthorized charges could leave you with insufficient funds to pay other bills. You can minimize potential damage by using a single, low-limit credit card to making all of your online purchases. Also use a credit card when using a payment gateway such as PayPal, Google Wallet, or Apple Pay.
  • Check your shopping app settings – Look for apps that tell you what they do with your data and how they keep it secure. Keep in mind that there is no legal limit on your liability with money stored in a shopping app (or on a gift card). Unless otherwise stated under the terms of service, you are responsible for all charges made through your shopping app.
  • Check your statements – Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages, and compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately. (See Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft.)
  • Check privacy policies – Before providing personal or financial information, check the website’s privacy policy. Make sure you understand how your information will be stored and used. (See Protecting Your Privacy.)

Report: Amazon.com Toy Sales Jump 30% in Third Quarter – and the deals aren’t over yet

A report out Monday finds that the Toys product group on Amazon.com sold an estimated $510M for Q3 2018, up 30% from last year. Amazon.co.uk Toy sales also witnessed a significant year-over-year growth of 15% with total estimated sales reaching £60M.

Edge’s Market Share research reveals that Outdoor Play, Toys for Adults and Automotive toy trends will carry Amazon into the new year as one of the biggest toy sellers in America. Additionally, Edge predicts that 2019 will be the year Amazon expands its private brand strategy to include the toys category. To get the latest Q4 update on Amazon’s private and exclusive brands sales and strategy, read Edge by Ascential’s report here: Amazon.com Private Labels & Exclusive Brands Q4 Update. (RELATED: Check Out Amazon’s Amazing Toys and Games Page)

“In our previous Toys report, we predicted that the Amazon.com 2018 holiday season would be all about Games, and that prediction has been supported by the very strong growth experienced in Q3 2018,” explains Chris Perry, VP at Edge by Ascential. “The Games category also represents one of the larger trends evident on Amazon.com: toys for adults. Because both adult and family-friendly board and card games are group activities, their popularity soars when family and friends to get together and celebrate the holidays, so we expect this category to continue this strong growth through Q4.”

In the quarter leading up to the crucial holiday period, Edge found that Games grew by 65% to reach an estimated $100 million in sales, made up of mostly ‘analog’ games such as board and card games, puzzles, and other group games like Jenga. Toys and games marketed to adults made up 8 of the top 50 toys during Q3 2018 and most of those products were board or card games.

On Amazon.co.uk, LEGO, the classic construction blocks brand, was the number one Toy trend and produced 14 of the 50 bestselling toys on Amazon.co.uk during Q3. Edge’s Market Share data found that the fastest-growing toy category on Amazon.co.uk was Outdoor & Sports Toys, which grew by over 40% YoY during Q3 2018 to surpass Games & Puzzles and Infant & Preschool in total sales.

“Most toymakers make over a third of their annual sales during the holiday season and as the first year with Toys R Us, more of those sales are going to go online,” continues Perry. “Although the UK toy market is in decline, Amazon is still growing strong and increasing its market share while also enjoying the most loyalty from its customers. In the coming years, Amazon.co.uk will be at the heart of growth in toy retail. And considering how closely Amazon’s first foray into toys follows the closure of Toys R Us and the release of the retailer’s “A Holiday of Play” print catalog, it’s not much of a stretch to expect this to be just the beginning, in both regions.”

Still looking for the perfect gift for that special child? Amazon’s “Kid Picks” will make you a hero!

3 Iraqi Refugees Arrested After Plotting Attack in Germany

3 Iraqi refugees were arrested in Northern Germany, for preparing a terrorist attack. 2 of the 3 suspects reportedly created homemade bombs and plotted to either commit an armed or vehicle attack.

German authorities had been investigating the two 23-year-old and one 36-year-old Iraqi refugees months before their arrest in Schleswig Holstein.

Investigators said that the two younger suspects downloaded bomb-making instructions on the internet and tried to purchase a bomb detonation device from the UK but British authorities stopped the purchase. The three also tried to purchase 9mm handguns but found it too expensive and turned their focus to committing a vehicle attack.

One of the 23-year-olds took driving lessons at the beginning of January. The 3 terrorists sought to “carry out an Islamist motivated attack in Germany,” prosecutors said.

“Further investigations must determine whether the accused are tied to any terrorist organization,” they added.

It is unclear what if any actions the federal government in Berlin will take in light of this failed attack, but the leading opposition group, Alternative for Germany, is expected to use the incident to influence the public that to push for change in Germany’s controversial open door immigration policy, and to push the post-Merkel Christian Democratic Union (CDU) further to the right on immigration.

Pentagon Submits U.S. Space Force Proposal to Congress [Full Text]

“Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security.”

President Donald J. Trump

The establishment of the U.S. Space Force will help ensure the United States is postured to deter aggression and outpace potential adversaries in order to protect and defend our national interests in the face of a changing space environment and growing threats.

    • Fundamentally transform our approach to space
    • Establish the U.S. Space Force 
    • Maximize warfighting capacity and advocacy for space
    • Outpace future threats 
    • Defend our vital national interests in space 

The Defense Department has forwarded to Congress a proposal to create the U.S. Space Force — the sixth branch of the armed forces, officials at the Pentagon said today.

Space is a vital national interest, and the Defense Department seeks to maintain America’s comparative advantage in this new domain of great power competition, officials said. To that end, they explained, DOD has proposed that the U.S. Space Force initially be established as a new military service within the Department of the Air Force.

In this model, the new military service would have a similar relationship to the Department of the Air Force that the Marine Corps has with the Department of the Navy. A uniformed four-star Space Force (chief of staff who would be granted full membership in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Additionally, the proposal calls for a new undersecretary of the Air Force for space, who would provide dedicated civilian supervision of the USSF, under the direction of the secretary of the Air Force.

Many nations have advanced their space capabilities and are actively looking for ways to deny America’s access to this critical domain. China and Russia have developed anti-satellite capabilities, and other nations — such as North Korea and Iran — are developing assets designed to negate American advantages.

“It is imperative that the United States adapt its national security organizations, policies, doctrine and capabilities to deter aggression and protect our interests,” President Donald J. Trump said in a directive he signed Feb. 19.

If Congress passes the proposal, the U.S. Space Force would be authorized to organize, train, and equip military and civilian personnel “to ensure unfettered access to and freedom to operate in space and to provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces in peacetime and across the spectrum of conflict,” the proposal says.

The proposal indicates that stand-up of the U.S. Space Force would be phased over five years – fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2024. During this period, the preponderance of space missions, capabilities, and associated personnel residing in the existing military services, including the Air Force, would transfer into the U.S. Space Force, under the direction and final approval of the secretary of defense.

Full Text of the DoD Proposal


Strategic Overview


Fact Sheet


Frequently Asked Questions


Threat Assessment

Defense Intelligence Agency Threat Assessment

The New trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom looks AMAZING!

Universal Pictures released the first full trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this week. The story, action and special effects look first rate. Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and Jeff Goldblum return to give the story continuity and the feel of a solid sequel.

It’s been four years since theme park and luxury resort Jurassic World was destroyed by dinosaurs out of containment. Isla Nublar now sits abandoned by humans while the surviving dinosaurs fend for themselves in the jungles.

When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event. Owen is driven to find Blue, his lead raptor who’s still missing in the wild, and Claire has grown a respect for these creatures she now makes her mission. Arriving on the unstable island as lava begins raining down, their expedition uncovers a conspiracy that could return our entire planet to a perilous order not seen since prehistoric times.

With all of the wonder, adventure and thrills synonymous with one of the most popular and successful series in cinema history, this all-new motion-picture event sees the return of favorite characters and dinosaurs—along with new breeds more awe-inspiring and terrifying than ever before. Welcome to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Stars Pratt and Howard return alongside executive producers Steven Spielberg and Colin Trevorrow for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. They are joined by co-stars James Cromwell, Ted Levine, Justice Smith, Geraldine Chaplin, Daniella Pineda, Toby Jones, Rafe Spall and Isabella Sermon, while BD Wong and Jeff Goldblum reprise their roles.

Directed by J.A. Bayona (The Impossible), the epic action-adventure is written by Jurassic World’s director, Trevorrow, and its co-writer, Derek Connolly. Producers Frank Marshall and Pat Crowley once again partner with Spielberg and Trevorrow in leading the filmmakers for this stunning installment. Belén Atienza joins the team as a producer.

Eucom, NATO Assessing Lessons of Trident Juncture

Officials throughout NATO are assessing the lessons learned from the massive Trident Juncture exercise last year, and U.S. European Command officials vow to apply those lessons to exercises moving forward.

Air Force Maj. Gen. John P. Healy, the command’s director of exercises and assessments, praised the soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and civilian employees who participated in NATO’s Trident Juncture in Norway last year. “They did the heavy work,” he said.

Trident Juncture is a monumental exercise with thousands of moving parts — from Marines drawing equipment from war stocks and a carrier battle group operating north of the Arctic Circle to airmen bringing in equipment and supplies and engineers examining roads and bridges.

NATO designed the exercise to test interoperability of alliance and partner troops. It examined command and control aspects of alliance forces, and examined the logistics behind the effort, Healy said.

“The unique attribute of the U.S. with our partners and allies is we are the only ones who can actually move stuff to this effect, with this degree of efficiency and effectiveness anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice,” the general said in an interview from U.S. European Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

But interoperability is more than just solving logistical problems, Healy said. It means forces can work together in a battlespace. “With 31 different nations participating in the exercise, we’ve got 31 different methodologies on how they want to command and control the troops they are bringing along with them,” the general said.

Now the job for U.S. European Command will be to internalize the lessons of Trident Juncture. “We are going to take the lessons and use them in all the NATO exercises, our EUCOM exercises as well as our combined exercises,” he said.

Working with other countries is important to American goals in Europe. “We are one of the partners and allies associated with NATO,” Healy said. “We need to make sure that what we are doing is in line with what NATO’s expectation of a collective defense is and vice versa.”

Customers Are Paying Nearly 100% Of Seattle’s New Soda Tax, Study Says

Seattle soda drinkers are paying nearly every penny of a tax on sugary drinks that the city council put in place in January 2018, according to a new study.

University of Washington researchers studied the effects of the soda tax on the prices of taxed and untaxed drinks at various types of stores. The study found that, on average, 97 percent of the 1.75 cents per fluid ounce tax is paid by consumers, according to the January 2019 report.

“We don’t know why, but they did see something similar in Berkeley,” research-team leader Jesse Jones-Smith told The Seattle Times, referencing Berkeley, California, which passed a soda tax before Seattle.

Researchers studied drink prices at more than 200 Seattle stores before the tax was enacted and compared them to prices at the same stores six months after the tax went into effect. The researchers also studied prices at 200 stores outside Seattle in surrounding communities to gather a baseline.

Researchers also studied how the tax affected the prices of likely replacement products if people moved away from buying the taxed items.

“The most important finding is that in the large grocery stores most of the tax is being passed through,” Jones-Smith told The Seattle Times.

More of the tax burden was passed on to consumers in small stores than in larger supermarkets. Small stores passed on 104 percent of the tax to consumers, according to the report. Larger stores passed on 86 percent.

Across all stores, 102 percent of the tax was passed on to consumers on soft drinks, 84 percent on sweetened teas and sports drinks, 63 percent on sugar-sweetened juice drinks and 62 percent on sweetened bottled coffee drinks.

The city implemented the tax to curb residents’ sugary-drink consumption while raising additional funding for city programs. University of Washington researchers are still studying if the tax affected soda consumption.

Seattle collected nearly $17 million more in tax revenue in the first nine months of 2018, and the city is now planning future spending based on that level of revenue, The Seattle Times reports.

Washington voted to ban any new soda taxes in the state in November 2017.

New Zealand Goes Full Islam After Mosque Attacks

  • New Zealand politicians, members of the media, and non-Muslim women embraced displays of Muslim faith Friday in an effort to show solidarity with the country’s Muslim community after the Christchurch shootings. 
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern donned a hijab, along with thousands of other non-Muslim women, and recited a passage from the Koran at a ceremony in Hagley Park shortly before the Muslim call to prayer broadcast nationwide, while women news anchors also wore hijabs, newspapers featured a common Arabic greeting on their front pages, and politicians began their addresses in parliament with the same Arabic phrase.
  • Despite overwhelming support for the #scarvesinsolidarity campaign, Muslim and non-Muslim critics lambasted it, arguing that hijabs are used to oppress women in Muslim majority countries. 

New Zealand politicians and journalists have all but converted to Islam in their efforts to show solidarity with the Muslim community after the Christchurch shootings.

Thousands of New Zealanders engaged in nationally sanctioned displays of Islamic faith Friday, ranging from the national broadcast of the Islamic call to prayer and non-Muslim women donning hijabs to newspapers running Arabic greetings on their front pages. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, police officers, and news anchors joined in the displays of faith throughout the day.

New Zealand broadcast the Islamic call to prayer at 1:30 p.m. local time nationwide, the time when the attacks began the previous Friday, on both television and radio. Thousands of New Zealanders of various faiths also gathered at Hagley Park and other areas around the country to attend a live call to prayer, followed by two minutes of silence and reflection.

Ardern also recited a passage from the Koran prior to the call to prayer.

Politicians and members of the media also reportedly began their broadcasts and addresses with the Arabic greeting Al Salaam Alaykum.

Some New Zealand newspapers also featured the a version of the greeting on their front pages.

Thaya Ashman, a doctor in Aukland, began the social media campaign #scarvesinsolidarity after the shooting urging non-Muslim women to wear hijabs on Friday as a show of support for the Muslim community.

The campaign garnered massive support throughout the country, with leaders like Ardern wearing a hijab to Hagley Park and thousands of women donning hijabs for ceremonies to commemorate the mosque shooting victims, 50 of whom were killed and several others were hospitalized with wounds. Muslim volunteers even distributed hijabs at the events and helped non-Muslim women don them, according to The Washington Post.

“Why am I wearing a headscarf today? Well, my primary reason was that if anybody else turns up waving a gun, I want to stand between him and anybody he might be pointing it at. And I don’t want him to be able to tell the difference, because there is no difference,” Bell Sibly, a woman in Christchurch, told Reuters.

Women police officers providing security for the ceremonies and later for the burial of the victims also sported hijabs.

The campaign for non-Muslim women to wear hijabs garnered criticism, however, as hijabs and various other forms of Islamic headwear for women are seen as a form of oppression against women, since wearing them is not optional for women in conservative Muslim communities.

Despite the criticism from Muslims and non-Muslims alike, New Zealand women took to the embrace of conservative Islam with fervor.

“If I could I would be attending the mosque and standing outside to show my support for my Muslim whanau but I’ve got lectures and I can’t really skip them,” college student Kate Workman, who wore a hijab Friday, told The Globe Post.

Other women who wore hijabs, like Rafaela Stoakes, expressed similar sentiments.

“It is amazing how different I felt for the short time I was out this morning,” Stoakes told AFP.

“There were a lot of confused looks and some slightly aggressive ones,” she said. “I did feel a sense of pride to honor my Muslim friends, but I also felt very vulnerable and alone as I was the only person wearing one.”

Medal of Honor Monday: Marine Corps Pvt. Albert Smith

The majority of service members who earn the Medal of Honor do so during times of conflict, but several recipients earned it for bravery that didn’t have anything to do with war.

Marine Corps Pvt. Albert J. Smith is one of those recipients, and he earned his medal on this day 98 years ago.

Smith was born in Calumet, Michigan, on July 31, 1898, to parents who had emigrated from Austria and Germany. According to the historical society of Schoolcraft County, Michigan, the family eventually moved to a farm in Thompson, Michigan, where Smith spent his childhood helping his father.

Smith was fascinated with flying, so in October 1919, when he was 21, he joined the Marine Corps in hopes of becoming a pilot.

A year later, Smith was stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. It was the only U.S. naval air station during World War I and had been responsible for training 1,000 naval aviators — most of whom were officers — by war’s end.

On Feb. 11, 1921, Smith was on duty as a sentry at the station’s Marine barracks. According to the Michigan newspaper Manistique Pioneer Tribune, two naval machinists were warming up a seaplane when something went wrong, and it took off. The plane came crashing to the ground right near the gate where Smith was posted, and its gas tank exploded, sending fire everywhere.

Smith immediately sprang into action to help Plen Phelps, the one machinist who had been on the aircraft when it took off. Without any concern for his own safety, Smith pushed his way through until he found Phelps pinned under the burning wreckage.

Smith managed to drag the unconscious Phelps out, despite suffering serious burns to his head, neck and hands.

Smith received the Medal of Honor for his actions on Sept. 29, 1921. According to the Tribune, he was presented the medal by the brigadier general who commanded the 1st Marine Aviation Squadron in Santo Domingo in the modern-day Dominican Republic, where Smith was stationed after Pensacola.

Smith’s actions just go to show that service members are ready to come to the rescue at all times. We thank them for that!

This article is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we highlight one of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.

A Clinton-authorized National Monument Has Killed at Least 50 People

Dozens of people died after getting lost in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument because federal regulations prohibited officials from putting directional signs in place, a Utah county commissioner said.

Leland Pollock, the commission chair for Garfield County in Utah, testified in front of Congress Wednesday in favor of President Donald Trump’s decision to roll back the designation of GRENM. The monument, established in 1996 by former President Bill Clinton, has taken an “egregious” toll on human life, Pollock testified.

Garfield County is one of three that contain portions of GSENM within its boundaries.

“The 1996 monument prohibits the most basic signing to direct visitors to and from the Dry Fork slot canyons. In the spring of 2018, an individual died from heat exhaustion after leaving the Dry Fork slot canyons and becoming unable to locate his way back to the parking lot,” Pollock said. “A simple $10 sign could have prevented the loss of life.”

“Reports indicate that in the 20 years the Clinton monument has been in existence more than 50 individuals have lost their lives, largely due to lack of appropriate, low-cost signing. Most of the deficiencies with the Clinton monument can be attributed to overly restrictive regulations which prohibited reasonable visitation management,” Pollock added.

Democratic lawmakers called the hearing “Forgotten Voices: The Inadequate Review and Improper Alteration of Our National Monuments” and focused largely on the Trump administration’s December 2017 cutbacks of two national monuments in Utah, GSENM and Bears Ears.

The hearing, meant to be a reckoning on the review process that resulted in the cutbacks, grew partly into an indictment of the original GSENM designation. The Clinton administration largely kept the decision a secret until it was finalized. The administration sought no public input, nor did it consult with the state’s congressional delegation.

Nicole Croft, executive director of Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, slammed the Trump administration for suspending the monument’s advisory board, though the board had no decision-making authority.

“He suspended the Monument Advisory Committee, which was comprised of locals, stakeholders and BLM leadership, and stopped the committee from discussing issues, addressing management concerns or new approaches, along with BLM management updates. This was exactly the venue for local stakeholder involvement,” Croft testified.