NJ Homeland Security Issues Safety Advisory As Holiday Season Begins

As the holiday season gets underway, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and its cybersecurity division, the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell, are reminding the public to stay alert for signs of physical and cyber threats.

“This holiday season we are reminding New Jerseyans to stay safe and to report any suspicious activity to the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Whether it’s shopping, attending services or participating in public seasonal festivities, we’re asking the public to remain vigilant. While people hope they’ll never have to make that call, the public can play a vital role to ensure New Jersey has a safe holiday season.”

HOLIDAY PUBLIC GATHERINGS

While there are currently no known, specific or credible threats to New Jersey, with the upcoming holiday crowd surges expected at both indoor and outdoor locations, NJOHSP Director Laurie Doran is urging the public to remain vigilant and maintain situational awareness at mass gatherings.

“The holidays are a time of year which call for celebration as well as extra caution,” Director Doran said. “Holiday festivities provide threat actors with opportunity, especially at vulnerable locations including – houses of worships, malls, parades and so forth. By far, one of our best defenses is an educated and attentive public, who can identify the signs of suspicious activity and alert the authorities. With a 24/7 Counterterrorism Watch Desk, our agency, along with local, State and Federal law enforcement partners, stands ready to respond.”

NJOHSP’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign, which promotes suspicious activity reporting and other targeted violence, is critical to thwarting a potential incident.

With a recent uptick in suspicious activity reports involving New Jersey’s houses of worship, NJOHSP recommends all faith-based communities preparing for holiday observances and other functions to keep their congregations informed on reporting, have emergency operations plans in place and complete a facility vulnerability risk self-assessment if they haven’t done so already.

NJOHSP offers numerous reporting resources on its website, including the 15 signs of terrorist-related suspicious activity, details about the New Jersey Suspicious Activity Reporting System and various printable “See Something, Say Something” posters and brochures.

“The bottom line is that you know what your normal looks like,” said NJOHSP Deputy Director Dan Engelhardt. “If something doesn’t feel right in your gut, report it. In our line of work, hesitation can cost lives, so please first report and let our team decide if it’s a legitimate threat. It’s important to note here that NJOHSP will follow-up on each and every tip we receive.”

The public can report suspicious activity by contacting local police or NJOHSP’s Counterterrorism Watch Desk at 866-4-SAFE-NJ (866-472-3365) or at tips@njohsp.gov.

CYBERCRIME

While security-related efforts can heavily focus on preventing physical attacks during the holidays, online shoppers looking to streamline their holiday shopping experience also face a significant seasonal risk of cyberattacks.

NJCCIC Director Michael Geraghty suggests several effective tools to help e-commerce consumers better protect themselves, including:

Being wary of links and attachments in emails
Taking precautions with social media ads
Avoiding public computers and public Wi-Fi
Enabling multi-factor authentication wherever possible
“Using cyber hygiene year-round to protect your personal and financial information from cyber criminals is a critical practice in our technology-dependent world, but it’s especially important during the holiday season,” Geraghty said. “Social media platforms are a target for cyber criminals and with retailers and shoppers both experiencing the strains of inflation, consumers may feel pressured to make quick holiday purchases and more willing to buy from unknown vendors to get a great deal. It’s always best to shop from trusted sources.”

Social media scams that try to dupe shoppers into clicking malicious links to fraudulent websites are another area of concern this season. Scammers are now able to co-opt a company’s name and branding to create copycat versions of legitimate websites; and in several incidents, these cyber threat actors are advertising through social media platforms to promote them.

The NJCCIC’s updated annual holiday report, Stay Cyber Safe This Holiday Season, lists common attack vectors and recommendations to combat threats this holiday season.

Users can report cyber incidents to the NJCCIC via the cyber incident reporting form. Signing up for an NJCCIC membership comes at no cost and provides alerts and advisories, bulletins, training notifications and other updates on the latest cyber activity and best practices.

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