BY JESSICA ANDERSON
As the Jewish Federation’s community security director, you may think I spend most of my days working with congregations and organizations. Yes, my days are mostly spent fielding questions about suspicious emails, helping organizations develop safety plans, following up on potentially criminal activity, and connecting people and resources.
But did you know I am also your security director? If you have safety or security concerns in your personal or professional life, I’m always available to meet with you and have done so many times with individual community members.
I’ve worked with parents of kids who have been bullied in school and individuals who have felt threatened in online spaces related to their work. Other people I’ve met with have experienced unsettling situations in their apartment buildings and homes.
The range of concerns is quite varied and often simply talking with someone who provides a professional perspective can be immensely reassuring. In addition, we can work together to develop some concrete steps or actions you can take to help you navigate the situation. If you’d like to speak with me, please email email@example.com.
This leads me to think about the ways I use various tools to protect myself, particularly in online spaces, and I want to share them with you. These are not official SCN recommendations but are an accumulation of practices I’ve adopted.
As a Jewish community professional, I do feel vulnerable. My name, email address and photo are publicly available on the JFGP website, and it used to take exactly one step to find my home address. I felt a little exposed with that and recently subscribed to deleteme.com. This is an online service that scrubs publicly available databases and continually requests the removal of my information. It’s been several months since I subscribed, and I’m pleased that my personal address is not the first thing that pops up anymore.
We all have online accounts, and hackers have likely obtained data from at least one of them. If you want to know which of your accounts have been compromised, search for your email address on HaveIBeenPwned.com. This is a free service that cross-references your email address with hundreds of data breaches. When I find a website where my information was compromised, I change my password.
For all my banking-related accounts, I’ve installed two-step authentication, so I get a text or email to confirm it’s really me. It’s a little annoying, but particularly for my financial accounts, it’s a small extra layer of protection that I feel better about.
Companies and websites track everything we do online. Every ad, social network button and website collects information about your location, browsing habits and more. To prevent some of that collection, I’ve installed ghostery.com on my laptop. Ghostery is a tracker and advertisement blocker that prevents access to my browsing habits. While I don’t think this is a major safety or security issue, it’s been fascinating to see how many trackers are working behind the scenes as I surf the web.
Finally, our phones are with us almost everywhere we go. Most phone app default settings are set to track your location. Take some time to go through your settings and turn off your location for everything that doesn’t need to know where you are. Yes, Apple and Google maps need it, but Spotify, Reddit and Amazon do not.
None of the things I’ve listed above are going to dramatically change your life. What I like is that in a world where there’s a lot I can’t control, there are a few things that I can.
It’s kind of like safety and security training. To paraphrase SCN National Director Michael Masters, you can’t choose the time and place of emergency situations. What you can do is be prepared for them and have your body and brain know what to do. If you’d like to join one of my online safety and security courses, visit my security page on the JFGP website: jewishportland.org/security.
Jessica Anderson is the Portland-area Director of Community Security. She previously was an FBI agent for 24 years. This position is funded by SCN (the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America) and a local three-way partnership of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Oregon Jewish Community Foundation Endowment Fund and multiple Jewish organizations in the region.