How to Keep Your Computer Safe From Hackers

computer security

Did you know that the more you spend time on the Internet, the more vulnerable your computer becomes to hackers, viruses and malicious programs? In fact, a recent report showed that in the first ten minutes of being online, a computer could be exposed to 10,000 different types of threats.

One way to protect your computer is to install an antivirus program. This is software that could detect viruses and prevent them from infecting your computer.

But this is only one way. There are many kinds of computer threats that a mere antivirus program cannot completely stop.

In this report, you will learn more about how to increase the level of security in your home computer and protect your information from being stolen or compromised.

Firewall

Consider this your first line of defense against computer security threats. Basically, a firewall works by enforcing security measures in your network to decide who can access your computer. This prevents outside intruders from maliciously accessing your computer system and tampering with its settings or your hard drive.

Moreover firewalls can help control how people within your network access outside resources. In other words, it can reinforce your existing surf control so that certain unsecured websites remain inaccessible from within your network for greater protection.

However, like every other type of software, not all firewall programs are the same. Some may have more features than others. Some are free. Some are not. Some may contain features that are not present in others, and vice versa.

Understand that when it comes to choosing software programs, like firewalls, the rule of thumb is this: the more features, the better. Common sense will tell you that a catch-all program is better than a program that is dedicated to solving only one security issue.

Then again, the inherent weakness in full-suite solutions is that since they target broad security issues, they might not be quite as efficient as system and problem-specific software in dealing with a particular issue. And you, the buyer, will therefore be left with the same old question: which one can give your home computer more protection?

Read on to find out.

Need Assessment

When deciding to buy a firewall program, the first question to ask is what you need it for.

If you are a home surfer who spends maybe two to six hours a day on the Internet, then you probably do not need sophisticated software for security purposes. In fact, you can probably do with a free firewall program to protect your computer.

On the other hand, if you run a business, then you need to consider other factors, including the following:

  • Size of the business
  • Type of data traffic
  • Expectations for rapid growth
  • Number of mobile workers
  • IT budget

By considering all these factors, you can save money down the road, as well as successfully prevent an attack on your computer network.

For example, if you expect rapid growth of business in the next few years, then it is advisable that you go with a firewall program that is highly scalable. That way, you only need to do upgrades for your existing program to handle increased network traffic and additional clients.

Another significant factor is the capability of your IT staff as this will help you determine how complex your firewall program should be.

Hardware vs. Software Firewall

There are advantages to both types of firewall program. For hardware firewall, for instance, its main advantage is that its set up is much easier and deployment much faster to accomplish than software firewalls. Moreover, hardware firewalls make your system less susceptible to outside attacks because it has its own embedded code built into an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). The dedicated ASIC also helps process traffic much faster.

On the other hand, while software firewalls are less easy to set up and to deploy, they are nevertheless easier to upgrade compared to hardware firewalls. As such, software firewalls are recommended if your network is complex and makes use of multiple interfaces.

Antivirus

For an effective antivirus program, you need a program that has adopts a two-pronged approach to fighting viruses – that is, it not only scans all incoming emails but also runs on your desktop to provide real-time protection.

As with firewalls, there are two types of antivirus programs. They are available as hardware appliances or as traditional software packages.

For hardware antivirus, they can range from low-end programs with multifunction capabilities but not very configurable to high-end devices that are highly configurable for complex networks.

Software antivirus solutions are, as always, infinitely configurable. However, the downside to them is that the higher the level of configurability of the package, the more complex it is to set up. So your choice would really depend on how far you are willing to go in order to improve the level of security of your computer.

If you are knowledgeable about software set up and installation, then you should probably try the more complex software packages. However, if you only know the basics, then you are better off with a simple antivirus solution.

In either case, the important thing to remember is that you get the most out of a given antivirus program.

Update Your Antivirus As Often As Possible

With new viruses created and propagated over the Internet every minute of every day, your antivirus program is only as good as the next update. Setup your antivirus program so that it will automatically update its files and configuration settings.

Enable Real-Time Scanning

This will allow your antivirus program to check any incoming mails or files for viruses before they even hit your hard drive.

Perform Regular Antivirus Scans

Also, you should scan all files in your computer, including but not limited to the following:

  • Image files
  • Streaming video clips
  • Audio snippets
  • Executable files
  • Compressed file types: ARJ, LHA, LZH, ZIP, RAR

Anti-spam

Unlike viruses and worms which can be very destructive, spam is relatively harmless. The problem with spam is that when they become too many, they can load up your server and eventually lead to a system crash down.

Anti-spam comes in two types. You can either purchase them as standalone products or as appliances. However, unlike antivirus programs which are relatively stable and uniform, anti-spam products remain different. As such, they require a lot of configuration and management in order for you to get the most out of them.

One thing you should always remember: get an anti-spam solution that combines several technologies with filtering-engine capabilities. Examples of these technologies are Byesian, heuristic, and sieve filters.

Here are more tips to help deal with spam issues in your network:

If you run a small business, consider outsourcing your anti-spam solution.

This is especially advisable if you lack IT support. By going with a service, you can avoid many headaches, such as configuration of the anti-spam device, management of spam queues, and restoring an employee’s mail system which was mistakenly caught by the anti-spam program. These little things can be left to someone from the outside so you can focus your attention on propagating and letting your business grow.

Appliance Anti-spam Device

As with any other security products, there are two kinds of anti-spam devices – ones you can purchase as standalone products and as appliances. Appliance anti-spam device is recommended if you want total control of your email and you have the expertise.

You can set up your own gateway-filtering device which can detect spam and stop it before it can get past your LAN.

Discourage Use of Work Email Addresses

Spambots are always crawling the Internet in search of email addresses to spam. They often search in newsletter sign-ups, registration forms, and forums which are often a rich source of email addresses. To avoid having your work email address picked up by one of these spambots, it is best if you avoid using your work email address when you sign up for anything on the Internet.

If you own a small business and you have people under your employ, encourage them not to use their work email address when they fill up registration forms online or sign up for newsletters. Moreover, do not publish your employees’ email address on your website.

Enable Black Lists

Most spam filter systems allow you to enable or disable black lists. This is a feature wherein you can maintain a database of known spam senders and domains, so that the next time your system encounters spam, the anti-spam will immediately match it up with the database entries to determine whether or not it is spam.

Note that some anti-spam programs allow you to add your own known spam entry into the database.

Enable White Lists

Basically an “allow list”, white lists are the most restrictive filtering systems for anti-spam. The program only allows those addresses and domains which are in your contacts lists. Those mails that come from unknown addresses will automatically get into your suspected mail folder, allowing you to review them and selectively determine if they are spam or not.

Moreover, the person who sent you that suspected mail will receive a verification email which they would have to fill up in order to be allowed into your “allow list.”

These are only three of the products available to improve the security of your computer. However, the real key to maintaining your network security is not really on your existing security products installed but on how well your patch management is. Always remember that your security software is only as good as the next update. So it is important to always update your security patches to keep up with the speed with which new viruses and worms can take advantage of new vulnerabilities in your system.

Car Security

car security top tips

 10 Ways to “Theft-Proof” Your Car

Your car is probably one of the biggest investments you have ever made. Therefore, it is only natural that you want to protect it. But how? This is where car security systems come in.

There are different types of security devices you can use on your car. Some work by attaching them to your gear stick. Others can be fit across the steering wheel. Still, there are others that use wheel clamps, or any combination of these devices.

While these devices may decrease the likelihood of car theft, it is not unknown for thieves to find a loophole or a weak spot in common car security devices.

Many car security devices can be unlocked or easily removed in mere seconds. This is not to say, however, that you should put off using any of these devices. What they offer is added security, and there are some devices that are indeed very effective in deterring thieves, leaving you with the question: Which ones are effective and which ones aren’t?

#1. Get a car alarm or install immobilizers.

If your car is new, then chances are that it already comes with a built-in car alarm and immobilizer. In fact, this is one of the reasons why there has been a significant drop in theft of newer cars over the past years.

However, in case your car does not have any of these basic security devices, here are other options that you have.

A car alarm operates by preventing both car theft and theft from your vehicle. Immobilizers, on the other hand, prevent the engine from starting. Both are highly effective as deterrents to car theft, and when combined, their efficiency increases.

It is possible for a car to have a car alarm but no immobilizer. If you want to install an immobilizer as well, you can fit one into your car. The same goes if your car only has an engine immobilizer.

#2. Prevent car breakdowns.

There is no way of telling if your car is going to break down on a particular trip. This is all the more reason for you to take positive steps in preventing breakdowns as much as possible.

When your car breaks down, you feel vulnerable, especially if it happens in a dark, isolated place. You are on your own and help is a long way off. Even if you know cars, this does not guarantee your safety because it would be difficult for you to keep your guard when you are busy changing tire or checking the hood of the car.

To help you feel a little safer in case of a car breakdown, be sure to follow up on your weekly car maintenance checks, including oil, water, and other engine fluids. In addition, check to see if the tire pressures are sufficient and whether there is enough petrol. Also, stop at a refilling well before your gauge runs low.

If your car breaks down and help is on the way, it is often recommended that you stay inside the car. However, this rule does not always apply, especially when the breakdown occurs in a motorway. In which case, get out of the car on the passenger side and wait.

It is less risky to stand outside and away from the car than to sit on the hard shoulder where you are more likely to fall into harm if your car is struck by another vehicle.

If it is dark, be sure to turn on your car’s hazard warning lights. If you are on a motorway, there should be marker posts every 100 meters that point you to the nearest telephone.

#3. Keep your car things out of plain view.

One word: temptation.

When you leave your valuable possessions in your car and in plain view, you are only tempting thieves to break in and steal them. Do not give them the opportunity to do so. Do not give them a reason to break in.

What are the valuables usually kept in cars and will catch a thief’s attention? These include:

  • Car stereos
  • CDs and tapes
  • Tools
  • Laptop computers
  • Mobile phones
  • Bags
  • Briefcases
  • Clothes
  • Sunglasses
  • Credit cards
  • Tax disks

For in-car entertainment systems, most new cars have a built-in security system. For instance, car stereos may have removable faces which you can carry around when you have to leave the car.

Another security feature for car entertainment systems is a built-in security code. The code is needed for the stereo to work in case it is removed and installed in a different car.

#4. Get security etching.

Another way to secure your car is through the VIN. You might recall your car dealer giving you a 17-digit number. This number is called the VIN (registration number) and it is very important because it identifies your car and distinguishes it from other cars.

The VIN is often etched on the window of your car and other parts of the vehicle. This is actually useful for the police to match the vehicle with its parts so that they can identify the rightful owner.

In addition to the VIN, most new cars also have a special code which manufacturers use to match up the car with its chassis.

Older cars may not have this security etching at this disposal, but don’t worry. There are many companies that sell car window glass and windscreen with free security etching included.

#5. Incorporate a GPS tracking system in your vehicle.

Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite navigational system that allows a person to accurately determine the location of any GPS receiver (GPSr) anywhere on Earth.

As used in vehicle tracking system, a GPS receiver is installed in the vehicle “covertly” – that is, the receiver is usually hidden from view and no warning notices are placed on the car indicating that it has a tracking device.

The GPS receiver operates by transmitting a special radio signal which the satellite can decipher and send back to the police who will then be able to track the car. Only in the event of a car theft or when the owner reports that his car is missing will the GPS system be activated.

Granted that GPS is a sophisticated piece of security equipment, and thus, may require a big investment on your part, it by far the most advanced car security system out there with a 99% chance of recovery.

#6. Never leave your keys in the car.

Even if you are only out of the car for five minutes. Or you are only taking shopping bags from the car into your house. Or you are only dropping something off at the post office. One word: DON’T. Never give thieves the opportunity to steal the keys of your car.

Thieves these days are getting smarter and smarter. Instead of breaking in and then starting the car manually, they will just steal the keys to your car. Sure, it requires a different kind of daring, but thieves will take every opportunity thrown their way if it means they will have an easier time stealing things that don’t belong to them.

In addition to stealing keys that are left in the car, some thieves will try to take keys from bags or pockets. In some cases, they might even steal the keys right from your home.

In one study conducted by the Metropolitan Police, the figures showed that majority of the car key crimes occur when people are loading or unloading their cars, while in 29% of cases, said crimes occur in people’s homes.

To avoid being a victim of car key crime, treat the keys of your car as you would your other personal belongings, such as your credit cards or cash. And when you are at home or at work, make sure that you keep them in a secure place.

#7. Be careful of where you park your car.

The parking lot and where it is located is very important for your car’s safety, as well as yours. That is why you need to carefully choose where you park your car.

You will recognize a fairly secure parking lot if it has good lighting and better surveillance. If you are in a hurry and there is no secured parking lot anywhere, just park in an area that is quite busy and well lit, especially at night.

If you can, reverse into the parking space. This will make it easier for you to get away quickly in case of an emergency. Also, if the car park is multi-storey, choose a parking space that is closer to the exit. As much as possible, park away from pillars.

#8. Be on your guard when filling up your car with petrol.

Recent studies show that car thefts and assaults in petrol stations are rising. So you should always be careful when you stop at a petrol station to fill up your car.

To help citizens like you minimize opportunities for crime, here are a few simple measures that you can take:

  • When you leave your car at the pump to pay for fuel, be sure to lock your car.
  • If you have a child, don’t leave him or her in the vehicle unattended. This is an important reminder for parents with very young children.
  • Always take the car key with you.
  • When you leave the car to pay, be sure not to leave any valuable possessions in the car in plain view.

#9. Read up on vehicle theft and how to protect your car.

One must understand that vehicle theft is more than just a crime committed by teenagers out for a joyride. It is a huge crime committed by organized criminals. If all of us would take proactive steps, then we can all help in putting the brakes on car theft.

#10. Beware of the “bump and rob” criminal.

In recent years, car thieves have come up with ingenious ways to steal vehicles. One of the more recent ones is when they intentionally bump into the rear of your car. When this happens, the natural thing to do is to get out so you can look at the damage. The thief will then take this opportunity to steal your car.

This kind of “bump and rob” crime often happens with executive cars, but it always pays to be careful. If you feel a threat, then do not hesitate to call the police.

All of the above steps are only preventive measures. Like most problems in this world, there is no sure-fire way to solve the crime of car theft. But by being careful and taking steps to minimize opportunities for criminals to do crime, then you can rest assured that you are contributing a great deal to stopping car theft once and for all.

And if all else fails, be sure to get a good car insurance policy. This is your safety net, so be sure to choose a good, reliable insurance company, one that won’t give you the run-around when something bad happens.

Survivor Stories: Karen

domestic violence survivor holds her son

Karen* is a domestic violence survivor. She was a teenage mom who has suffered a long history of family abuse in her life. There wasn’t a lot of love in Karen’s life growing up, and her poor health left her body fragile. She is 30 years old and has three kids, one of whom is a teenager.

Between her history of trauma and some major financial hardships, Karen was diagnosed with PTSD. This combined with her poor health, make Karen very vulnerable to abuse.

Karen’s teenage son has gotten into a lot of trouble both in school and with the police. He has a history of violent crimes, assaults, and possessing weapons. Unfortunately, his violence doesn’t stop on the street.

He has sexually assaulted his younger brothers causing severe mental health issues for them. He raped his mother on multiple occasions while she was confined to a wheelchair and was sentenced for those crimes. Karen’s son continues to threaten her,  sending her explicit, aggressive texts warning her of what will happen when he get his hands on her.

Karen’s younger boys were taken from her care to get the stability and safety they need, while no one knows the location of the oldest, most violent son.

Karen still receives threats from him, so we were called to make sure her home is as safe as possible.

A new beginning

Like any domestic violence survivor, Karen needs help beyond security, so we have recommended she receive trauma counseling to help with her PTSD.

We gave Karen new locks and security screen doors. We installed cameras and lights in the back and front of her house. She now has a Commsync Alert device so she can call for help with a touch of a button.

Karen’s son has since been arrested and taken into custody. All members of this family are now getting the care and professional help they need to lead a safer and hopefully happier life.

If you would like some more information, please contact us.

 

*Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor.

Home Safety Tips from Former Cops

There is so much more than a secure home than locked doors and windows.  In our 25 years of law enforcement and work with domestic violence, we have seen our fair share of break-ins even with the most obvious safety measures in place. The good news is there are some pretty easy adjustments you can make to make your home safer for you and your family.

Make your street number visible 

You may hide your house number to keep door to door salesmen away or to make the pizza delivery guy’s life a little harder, but it’s actually important for your safety to make sure it’s visible. Make sure emergency services wouldn’t lose a second getting to you if you needed them by making sure your house number is 120 mm in height and is visible at night. Also paint the number outside your home on the curb to be extra obvious.

Don’t lie with warning signs

Let people know that your house is protected and secure with signs. Got a dog? Post a sign. Is there a camera? Let potential intruders know. When you install a security system, you will get a sign, so display it. While these signs look a little meaningless to us  sometimes, thieves know what to look for to confirm if the signs tell the truth. So, do post signs, but don’t lie!

Fences & Gates

Fences and gates are great at keeping people out, but the most important thing to remember is to be sure your home is still visible from the outside. This decreases places for criminals to hide and allows full visibility in case of an emergency.  Consider installing self closing gates  that automatically lock. That way you can be sure your gate is secure at all times. Just don’t forget to bring the key with you! Obviously, you can have the best fence ever made, but it won’t help you if it’s broken or run down. So, be sure to maintain them so they stay in good working order.

secure your fence

Landscaping

Trees & shrubs should be trimmed to reduce hiding places and increase visibility to and from the street. Overhanging branches should be trimmed to prevent people using them to access other parts of the property, e.g. using a tree to get to an upper level.

Security Lighting

Security lighting should be installed around the perimeter of the property make sure there is light when it’s dark outside. Be sure to check and maintain them so they are in good working order. Additional security lighting should be installed, particularly over entry/exit points. Consider using light timers to turn lights on/off when not at home. Timer globes are also available.

Letterbox & Power Board

Put a lox on your letterbox and keep it locked. Criminals can learn a lot from your mail, so keep it tough to access. Also, the power board should be housed within a locked cabinet so no one can mess  with the power supply. Be sure it is approved by your electricity authority.

Garage & Garden Shed

The garage should be locked to restrict access to your house and theft in your garage. Roller, tilt and panel-lift doors can be secured with additional lock sets in the form of hasp,  staple, and padlocks. Garden sheds should be locked and securely anchored to the ground so that criminals can’t lift it. Don’t forget to securely lock the windows in both garages and sheds. Garden tools, equipment and ladders should be locked away when not in use to prevent them being used to gain access to your home.

secure your garage in your home

Doors

External doors and frames should be of solid construction. Although there are no specific fire regulations that for types of locks, it’s best to use quality deadlocks so you can escape in a hurry if you need to. Locks should be checked and maintained on a regular basis to ensure they are in good working order.

Consider having a peephole (door viewer) installed in the door to monitor people at the door.

Don’t leave your keys in the door when you aren’t home so that thieves can’t use your key to get in and out.

Security/screen doors can be used to provide additional protection and the locks should be in good working order. They should be designed and installed to the Australian Standards.

Windows

Window frames should be anchored to the building to prevent easy removal. We recommended that all windows should be fitted with quality key-operated lock sets and kept locked when not in use. Thieves may break glass to unlock windows, so don’t leave keys in the locks.

If you have skylights to your home, keep them suitably secured.

Be sure your glass within doors and windows is reinforced to restrict unauthorized access. You can also reinforce the glass internally with a shatter-resistant adhesive film. If this isn’t an option,  replace it with  laminated glass. Another option is to install bars or shutters for ultimate security.

secure windows in your home

Property Identification

Keep track of descriptions/model/serial numbers and even photographs of your belongings for easy identification. It is also always a good idea to have insurance in case something happens. Keeping track of your property is helpful in case it gets stolen, but in case your computer is taken along with the rest of your stuff, back up this document.

CCTV Cameras

Any existing CCTV Cameras should be checked to ensure they are all in good working order to maximise their effectiveness. IP based CCTV cameras with a recording NVR that can provide remote access to your smartphone or computer are the preferred security feature. Victoria Police prefer IP.

Telephones, internet and GPS devices

Pre-program the emergency number 000 into speed dial in your phone. In case you need it and don’t have time to look it up, place a sticker with the telephone number of the emergency and local police number.

Ensure your mobiles and computers are protected with a passcode.

Check the privacy settings on your phone, computer, and GPS devices to make sure you cannot be traced or tracked via technology

Safes

For added security for valuables such as jewellery, cash and documents, consider installing a safe. The safe should be well concealed, fixed to the floor or embedded in foundations. This can save your personal possessions from being stolen. Do not leave it open for convenience. The key to the safe should be stored out of sight in a separate room. Buy a safe that is manufactured and installed to the Australian & New Zealand Standards.

Key & Valuables Control

Spare keys should not be hidden outside the home but left with trusted friends or neighbours. Keys should not be left in locks or in view but should be kept in a safe location, as thieves may use them to gain entry to your home or steal your car.

Try to limit the amount of cash kept at home, as it is often targeted by thieves and is often not covered by your insurance.

Intruder Alarm Systems

An intruder alarm system can be used to enhance the physical security of your home. Research has shown that monitored intruder alarm systems are more effective in that they alert your security company of intrusions. The intruder alarm system should be manufactured and installed to the Australian & New Zealand Standards for Domestic Applications. Remember to regularly check the battery and test the system.

secure your home for your family

Even if you only implement a few of these safety tips, you will be on your way to making you, your family, and your belongings safer. At the very least, be sure that your existing security measures are in efficient working order. There is nothing worse than a bit of bad luck making you wish you had taken the time to make break-ins tougher.

If you would like some help optimizing the security of your home, contact us.

Is Your Co-worker Experiencing Domestic Violence?

It’s hard to imagine that people in our everyday lives may be victims of domestic violence, but the truth is it happens more often than most of us realize – to friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues.

We spend so many hours of our lives with our colleagues, we may start to pick up on cues that things aren’t right at home. Domestic violence may start with exerting control over finances or with psychological attacks and can end in serious physical harm or death. In the middle may be stalking at work, contact check-ins, and physical signs of violence.

If you suspect that your co-worker may be experiencing domestic violence, here are some signs to watch out for:

Withdrawn and abnormally quiet at work.
Emotional responses that are inappropriate to the situation.
Weight loss.
Bruises anywhere on the body, especially the sides of arms, neck, legs, ankles, and face. (If you don’t see injuries, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.)
They may have a raspy or croaky voice (from strangulation).
Different appearance in clothing or make up
Always in a heighten sense of stress -jumpy, reluctant to engage in conversation
Possible abuser visits work to check in multiple times a day
Excessive sick days
Co-worker shows extra anxiety at breaks and finishing work
Visible bruising/injuries followed by gifts and flowers, etc. at work

domestic violence victim at work

If you suspect a co-worker is experiencing domestic violence, consider who in your workplace would be the best resource. Most companies are by law required to have a safety and health representative, and you can ask Human Resources who they are. That person should have the knowledge and sensitivity to do what is right by your co-worker.

You are not powerless to help. Being kind, patient, and asking if they are ok go a long way in making a victim’s life just a bit easier.

If you are an employer concerned about an employee, contact us to learn how we can protect you and your employees from abuse.

Survivor Stories: Dana

Dana* is a soft spoken, kind, Ethiopian woman who fell in love with a man with aspirations to study in Australia. She describes him as charming and thoughtful when they met. He was reliable and funny, and she was in love. Her family approved and encouraged their relationship. They were married, and soon later he moved to Australia.

She agreed to ;eave her family to follow her new husband to a foreign country where she knew no one. Dana says there were warning signs early in their relationship – strong opinions on what she wore, which friends she saw, and a fondness for whiskey. But he never hurt her. He was the man she fell in love with more often than not.

Almost immediately things started to change. Gone was the funny, reliable man she married and instead she was met with his moodiness, coldness, and control. He prohibited her from leaving the house and threatened her life when she argued with his rules. He held her at knifepoint and raped her at will.

Once pregnant, the abuse escalated. Dana was desperate to leave, but leaving her husband meant being sent back to Ethiopia. Her family did not support divorce and had very traditional views on a woman’s place in her marriage. They shamed her for considering leaving her husband under any circumstance, so Dana felt she had no choice but to endure her husband’s abuse.

Dana had a beautiful baby boy who brought love and joy into her life. Her husband recognized this and used it against her. He extended his violent temper to their son, holding them both at knifepoint to control Dana. He raped her in front of their son whenever it suited him – often heavily intoxicated.

Obsessively checking her cell phone, accusing her of having an affair (even though she never left the house), and restricting access to money were all common place in Dana’s life. She and her son would go days or even a week without a stocked fridge or any money.

African woman crying - stock photo

“I thought I would never escape; I thought I wouldn’t survive. How could I raise a happy child with such a violent man?” – Dana

 

Finally Dana got the help she needed and was connected to us through her son’s school. We met her at her house for a risk assessment. By this time she had a restraining order against her husband, but he would show up drunk threatening her son and abusing Dana.

We checked her doors and windows, installed cameras, and began the legal process to help Dana divorce her husband but still be able to stay in the country. She had no where to go since both her own family as well as his bad in Ethiopia would greet her with anger and most likely more abuse for leaving her husband.

Dana’s story is one of our favorite survivor stories, because she not only had an abusive husband and a newborn son in her life, she had the added challenge of her legal status in Australia. But her story has a happy ending. After months of legal proceedings, she was granted permanent resident status. This meant she was able to leave her husband and stay in Australia with her son under the protection and support of local resources and, of course, us.

She and her son now live safely in a quiet suburb. Her husband is out of her life. Her son is in school, happy and thriving. She has started studying and is working to support herself and her son.

Dana is a true survivor of domestic violence.

If you or someone you know experience similar treatment from a relative, please contact 1-800-RESPECT (737-732) or to explore our services, click here.

*Names and details have been changed to protect the survivor’s identity.

 

Ex-Cops Protect Abused Women

The ex-cops who protect women

Geelong Advertiser
Written by Erin Pearson
Saturday August 22 2015

THEY’RE unconventional ex-cops looking to change the way Australia protects domestic violence victims.

Bolstered with experience from years of working in the force, hospitality and security industries, Geelong father-of-two Stephen Wilson and business partner Steven Schultze are helping build a sense of safety for some of the state’s most abused and vulnerable people.

They delve into the confronting world of cyber abuse, install CCTV outside the homes of women with violent ex-partners, remove tracking devices and reassure victims that some men still do care.

The pair run Protective Group, a private company specialising in risk management, security, investigations and certificate courses, which has helped more than 200 family violence clients in the past 12 months alone – most for free.

“Most recently we’ve been working closely with the Salvation Army’s Safe Futures program, where if someone comes to us as a high-risk victim, we conduct a risk assessment, set up professional meetings,” Mr Wilson said.

“Right now, I get a call from Karen from the Salvation Army(saying)”I have a woman who is very scared, her husband is bashing her door down, I need your help’.

We’ll get there, we’ll get her away, get her to the crisis centre, organise a watch for her, organise an IVO (intervention order), against him and liaise with the police.

“We don’t have to submit a report, we just go out and do it.”

A self-titled “crusty old cop”, Mr Wilson previously spent 15 years with Victoria Police, working with the National Crime Authority and drug squads on cases including large-scale race-fixing and drug importations. He then ran the Royal Hotel in Queenscliff, before venturing into operating a security business.

It was there, he says, that he became aware of the desperate need for help among domestic violence victims “Until you change a male’s way of thinking, you’ve got to look at other options, and if that option is making people safer in their own homes – giving the woman a sense of empowerment back – she’s got control of her life,” Mr Wilson said.

The Geelong Advertiser reported in June that local women’s refuge Minerva Community Services was getting 160 referrals from police each month, with reports of domestic violence in the Greater Geelong region doubling over the past four years.

It is revelations like these that moved Mr Schultze – a former criminal intelligence, homicide and cover operations cop – to present his personal findings at the royal commission into domestic violence in July.

He slammed hold-ups in investigating cases and called for an increased working relationship between private companies, police and state government agencies.

He told the hearing that the most frustrating part of his job was learning that the cases of many terrorized women had “fallen through the cracks” with Victoria Police.

“The police cannot be expected to respond to the 67,000 response call-outs that they receive,” Mr Schultze said.

“However, the reality is that women and children’s violent experiences are not being validated, being left unseen, unheard and unprotected because of system failures, and in some cases, the failure to conduct proper criminal investigation of family violence matters,” he told the royal commission.

“We are determined to wrap a safety net around family violence victims and their families, and understand that while many societal changes are needed to put an end to this insidious issue, in the interim we must protect those that suffer at the hands of present and former intimate partners.”

Since the pair began working with the Salvation Army about three years ago, they’ve been moved to start tapping into technology as a way to break the cycle and address the rise in calls for help.

They have developed a device they have dubbed the “Safety Watch” – designed to empower women and allow them to stay in their own homes knowing Mr Wilson and Mr Schultze are only a press of a button away. They are now pushing to have the new age device included as a government-funded safety rollout.

“When the iWatch came out we realise we could make a similar looking device that could go undetected yet be monitored 24-7,”Mr Wilson said.

“If a family violence victim gets this and feels any angst or had a problem, they can press the red button on the top which goes to a monitoring centre which can hear what’s going on. The device records to catch out any breaches and it can also dispatch police, ambulance or contact a friend to say ‘I think he’s here’.

“We’re now looking at developing a perpetrator anklet that would sync with the watch, so if she’s home in Geelong West and bugalugs goes within 500m of her house, it beeps. Within 100m and it tells her to go inside and lock the door.”

They say that since the Safety Watch was rolled out they’ve seen intervention order breaches drop significantly, with only three reported since 2014.

Salvation Army Crossroads program manager Karen Hagen said the pair’s support for her program was priceless.

Ms Hagen said with domestic violence being the leading cause of homelessness and homicide, urgency was the key. “We need to have the highest level of intervention. Every day we’re meeting high-risk and extremely fearful women, and because of the Protective Group we’re able to work with more women, speed the process up a lot and gain priceless knowledge from them,” she said.

“Yesterday our case manager was paged to review a high-risk house and they found a number of things which we could do. Without this support we would’ve had to wait until the police weren’t busy with an emergency call before we could even attend-and they don’t charge us at all.

“These guys go above and beyond.

Geelong Advertiser Erin Pearson Saturday August 22 2015