Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pack Less Stuff

I was thrilled this summer when Jerry Gross, my boss for three years at Washington Mutual, asked if he could read the book as it went to press.  He complimented me then, saying that he (Mr. Tech Gadget, Mr. Cutting Edge Everything) had learned some new stuff in the chapter that covers the online experience.  Today he posted the following up to Amazon.  
"Annie Searle has created a straight-forward guide to mitigate our personal risks. Through her easy-going style of recounting her personal risk journey, Advice From A Risk Detective is structured around four contexts we all live within: At Home, At Work, Online and On the Road.

Annie provides practical insight into increasing our "360 degree" view of our lives and how to be proactive. It's up-to-date providing tips on Social Media and use of mobile iOS devices and the Appendix is a great summary snapshot of her key messages and artifacts. There are too many great tips to mention, BUT I particularly found her On The Road chapter particularly helpful in convincing my wife to pack less stuff!"

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Old Year's Resolutions

I've heard from so many of you that you plan to put together an emergency kit, but just haven't had the time to do it.  My book has a list of kit items, as well as a link where you can just buy a kit that comes in a backpack rather than try to assemble all items yourselves if you prefer.

The Christmas Day windstorm we had here in the Northwest knocked out power for thousands.  And heavy snows with close to blizzard conditions have already hit the Midwest.  Think of such events as reminders to get your own house organized.  If you don't already have my book, take a look at a government site in your area, like this one for Seattle.

Doing it yet this week means one less item to put on your list of New Year's resolutions.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Think before you click

 A Washington Post article on spear-pfishing illustrates the problem with not paying attention when you are on the Internet.  Evidently Chinese hackers gained access to U.S. Chamber of Commerce accounts through planting a link within an email or on a social media site for the viewer to click on -- which in turns led to code being installed on the viewer's computer.  It's very difficult to detect that such code has been installed and the results can be quite damaging.

The third chapter of my book is devoted to high impact risks when you are online.  One of the most remarkable statistics I note is from a Reuters article indicating that only 13% of Facebook users vett requests to be friends.  The Post article points out that the easiest locations for hackers to plant links is within social media accounts like Facebook or Twitter.  And if it's this easy to "friend" someone, it's equally easy to plant that code.

Most who bank online know by now -- sometimes through hard experience -- that their bank will never ask them to provide their login or password information via an email request.  Now we need to apply that same standard of care to other types of communication, where who or what is being asked are unknown.

Like with most other risks, being alert to this risk now that it's been identified should help us avoid becoming a victim of this type of attack.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Germs and travel

Thanks to the Wall Street Journal, we now have a pretty comprehensive list of the risks of going through security and then flying, at least from the germicidal perspective.  You'll want to click through to the article if you're traveling over the holiday season.

Read this article and take action appropriately.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday delivery thefts increase

Thanks to our neighborhood blog that is also a "block watch" site, where I've learned of a new risk with holiday package deliveries.  Police have indicated that FedEx or UPS drivers are often followed when they make deliveries, and packages are promptly stolen right off the front porch.  In some cases, drivers are trying to find more secure locations for the packages at the home, which may mean increased searches to find the packages. Since it's happened more than once in our neighborhood, so it's safe to assume that is happening elsewhere.

One of the bloggers for our neighborhood pointed out that Amazon now offers delivery to your home or to the closest secure locker location, noting that such locations have extended hours.  If you're not at home in the daytime, you might wish to consider having packages shipped to your office or to another secure location.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Managing Risk Across the World

Front from left, Rosalita Whitehair, Elizabeth Davis, Oluremi Olowu, Molly Grant, Kelly Discount. Second row: Carmen Rodriquez; Evelyn Rising representing NACWC, Inc.; Rosemary Cloud; Kay Goss; Avagene Moore; Annie Searle; Lisa Orloff. Back row:  Major Darryl Leedom representing Catherine and Evangeline Booth, posthumously; Margaret Verbeek; Susan Diehl-Brenits. Not present for the photograph were Lynn Canton and Dorothy Lewis. Inducted posthumously were First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Eglantyne Jebb. © 2011 inWEM

I just received these photos from the November Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony for the International Network of Women in Emergency Management.  I'm proud of the breadth of the awards across both the public and private sectors, and around the world. The women handing me my award in the photo above is Dr. Jacqueline McBride, who organized the entire program and ceremony.

Not much else to say except for my motto:  "You always get back more than you give."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mental Risk

My book looks at the commonest risks in four areas of life -- home, work, online and on the road.  I would have added a fourth area -- mental risk -- but decided instead to try to incorporate that risk inside the external four.

There's so much noise in the world that it's sometimes difficult to hear oneself think.  Yet thinking is at the heart of the premise of my book:  Managing risk is possible only by thinking about understanding what constitutes a potential threat or behavior.

"Being aware means that it is possible to identify risks and make a plan. Being prepared means having more control over the outcome of events." (from the Forward)

If you're tired or burned out, then your mental risk is probably higher than at any other time.  You need personal time and a good night's sleep.  You don't need to be posting too much data on social media sites or in blog entries. You can erase the post later, but you can't erase the impression you leave for  those who read it.

Which puts us back to the slogan I posted last week:  "Measure twice, cut once."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

More Holiday TIps

 I was happy to see this morning that the Seattle Times reprinted two relevant articles from other sources.

First is Michelle Higgins' New York Times article that covers changes in travel regulations over the past year that should be read by anyone planning to travel for the holidays.

And the other is for those (like myself) who may not have done any online shopping yet, and that's an eminently readable set of tips fro Andrea Chang in her Los Angeles Times article.

The fourth chapter of my book covers the largest travel risks, and in fact cites an earlier article by Michelle Higgins.  The third chapter of the book is all about online precautions and behavior where your digital identity is concern.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Your Digital Identity

CIO Insider has just published another of their lists of ten tips, and this time it's about Facebook.  Take a look at Four Facebook Tips for 2012.

My book has both tips and a longer discussion of the pro's and con's of Facebook.  The point in both the book and this article is the same:  your digital identity can be compromised if you fail to think about what data you are presenting to the world.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trojan Horses

Our Internet hosting service sent out a security alert earlier today, concerning a new Trojan virus for which there is yet no quarantine.  I've posted their message below.  Nonetheless, it's a reminder that you should not open emails or attachments from unknown senders, especially if they are already marked as SPAM by filters on your computer. And you should not click on sites that you are not familiar with that may appear while you are in the midst of performing some other transaction on the Internet.
 Do set up your computer to automatically install security updates as well as any operating system patches.  And if you're active on the Internet, it's a good idea to invest in a good antivirus program that will also handle spyware and malware.  
 You can find more details on reasonable Internet precautions in Chapter III of my book.
 In the meantime, here's details of the new "DHL" Trojan virus --
We have identified a potential threat to your email users in the form of a new spam campaign that masquerades as a shipping notification from DHL. Currently, none of the major anti-virus providers are capable of catching and quarantining this message. As such, this scam has the potential to be successful and can have serious consequences. We have manually updated our virus definitions to stop future incoming messages and are working with our providers to ensure protection against this virus. However, you users may already have messages in their inbox.

Therefore, we recommend that you take the following action: • Notify all your email users about this threat • Caution your users not to open any attachments from DHL or any unknown sender • Be aware that this is a rapidly-changing virus. Even if your anti-virus provider lists it as covered, you may still be at risk.

Monday, December 5, 2011


This time of year, with the holiday madness starting to spin up, there's a good reason to adopt the carpenter's equivalent of "measure twice, cut once."  When we get busy, it's hard to stay focused so that items on our list get done properly rather than having to go back for rework. 

In juggling work projects that need to be finished before the end of the year with a long list of "to do's" at home, try to prioritize then give each of those tasks the right amount of time so that you don't end up with what I call a "do-over."

And while you're at it, take a more objective look at that list of priorities once you've laid them all out.  You may find that you can eliminate at least half of them if simplification is a goal.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Back it up!

I spend a fair amount of time discussing computer backup strategies in my Chapter III of my book.  In case I ever thought I was preaching mostly to the choir, I was just reminded by an email from a stressed out colleague that most people still don't back up their data at all. When a computer crashes, those folks are helpless until a technician can attempt to recover their data and perform any other parts replacements or repairs.  Sometimes the data can be recovered, and sometimes even with technical support, it's just plain gone because the hard disk in the computer has died.

Home computers often have hundreds of digital photos, email and contact information for friends and legal or financial information.  Work computers not only contain corporate data, but often also house personal email account information and photos.

If you can't be bothered to learn how to back up critical files to an external USB port hard drive on a regular basis, then please do the research and purchase a continuous online backup program from a company such as Mozy or Carbonite.  Given the amount of time each of us spends on the computer, it's worth it to eliminate at least one source of high anxiety when your computer crashes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Some figure more prominently for their ideas and support."

On the day of my book launch celebration -- it seems appropriate to reprint its dedication page here.

"Many people have made this book possible, and I thank them all.  Some figure more prominently for their ideas and support.  In particular, I would like to thank Lauren Du Graf for seeing what could make this a better book; Emily Oxenford for masterful technical support; Jesse Brown for his design of the book; editor Molly Martin for her keen eye; and the two men in my life who offer unwavering support of my work, Leroy F. Searle and James H.S. Searle." 

Three of these people have worked with me since 2009, to create and launch Annie Searle & Associates LLC, my risk consulting and research firm.  Lauren and Molly created and refined content and organization of, its website.  This past summer, Lauren did the initial edit to the book as originally written, and encouraged me to increase the number of stories in the book and to rethink and magnify the "risk detective" theme.  Molly did the final lucid edits to the manuscript, working closely with Jesse on particulars that only a former newspaper person would catch.   Jesse designed ASA's logo in 2009, including its internet look and feel and its printed materials. He's done a superb job on this book as well.  Emily was ASA's research associate for the 2010-2011 academic year, and provided technical support on the book from inception until it was turned over to Jesse for design this past summer.

The final thanks in the dedication are to my husband and my son and should be self-explanatory.  It's only when I work with executives who complain about how little they are understood at home that I realize how lucky I am.

Tonight I'll have a chance to thank others for their help -- members of my WaMu team, colleagues and clients from the days of Delphi Computers & Peripherals, and those who have so inspired me in my current line of work.

There are others no longer with us but who shaped who I am and how I got to be this way -- in particular the poet George Starbuck; Ewen Dingwall, mastermind behind large events like Seattle's presentation of  World's Fair and the King Tut exhibition; and Bagley Wright, former newspaperman, art patron and philanthropist.  I'll lift a glass in their honor.