Situational Awareness Starts with You!

Peter Fellini
Oct 16, 2019 1:00:00 PM

Having situational awareness can get you out of a lot of jams. Let me elaborate on what I mean by that. Have you ever received that annoying phone call from “Macrosoft Support”? This is known as a vishing attack. It’s the practice of eliciting information or attempting to influence action via the telephone. Vishing attacks have put a great deal of pressure on our elderly population resulting in many seniors losing huge sums of money.

In my spare time, I volunteer at local senior centers to provide situational awareness education to senior citizens. Through my presentations, I educate them on the different types of scams that are going on, how they work, and what the seniors can do to protect themselves and stay situationally aware in all scenarios. Here are some tips I give:

  • First and foremost, it’s your phone-you don’t need to talk to anyone you don’t want to. If you’re unsure of the number, they’ll leave a voicemail. Some people save all junk phone call numbers in their cell phone, so they can identify whose call they don’t want to pick up
  • If you do pick up, one of the best ways to protect against vishing attacks (phone scams) is to have a way to confirm with whom you are speaking. Don’t provide any information to an unknown caller without first verifying their identity. When in doubt, ask the caller for more information. If the caller cannot give you the information needed or has a great story as to why they can’t, stick to a policy that you cannot release information until you can confirm their identity. Some callers will just speak very quickly when giving their name, employee ID, phone number, etc. in the hopes that you will not question it. There is no rush, so ask them to repeat it slowly. Ask them for their name, company, title, and a phone number to call them back
  • Let’s say you get a call saying, “Hey Grandma, I’m in trouble”. If it is one of your grandchildren, you don’t want to hang up on them, you want to help them. Have them go through a validation process. If you say the name “Jacob” and you actually do have a grandchild named “Jacob”, you have now given them some information. These types of attacks are open-ended attacks and they let you fill in the blanks. One way to validate that the grandchild is who they say they are is to use a name that isn’t one of your grandchildren. For example, say, “Anthony”. The person on the phone might respond “Ya Grandma, it’s me Anthony…”. HANG UP. But if they say, “No, it’s me Jacob” they’ve now gone one step further in validating themselves

Situational awareness can also be used in physical environments, like when you or your family is out shopping. Understanding and paying attention to what’s going on around you is situational awareness. We’re coming up on the holiday season and that means increased holiday shopping and many people being targeted by thieves in areas such as parking lots. Thieves usually target people that are preoccupied and not aware of their surroundings. One of the best ways to stay situationally aware is to get unplugged. What I mean when I say get unplugged is taking the headphones out of your ears and hanging up the phone. These are two things that the bad guys look for. You can’t hear them approaching or you’re so caught up in a conversation that you don’t see them coming. You’re not identifying a potential risk that could result in you being harmed or losing something of value.

Situational awareness is the perception of the environment or situation. It can help you notice that a situation is either going wrong, has gone wrong, or is about to go wrong and you can now make a better judgement on whether to stick around. It can be broken down into three segments: perception of elements in the environment, comprehension of the situation, and projection of future status. Perception of the elements in the environment is using your senses to analyze what is around you. For example, are there a lot of people wearing masks hanging around you? This doesn’t mean very much if it’s windy and cold, but it could foreshadow something if it’s 80°F out and some type of rally is about to start. Comprehension of the situation is understanding the meaning or intent of what is going on. The mask could be to help prevent frost bite, or it could be to mask someone’s identity. Projection of future status is thinking ahead of the current moment; where might this lead in the future? Could this potential rally turn violent? Put all the information that you have together to project what the outcome may be. Situational awareness holds great importance to your safety both in the digital and physical realms. The best thing you can do is continuously read up on these incidents to learn from them, so that you are prepared to react properly if ever faced with a similar situation!

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