Dying To Get Away? You Just Might If You Travel To Certain Countries.

The Dominican Republic has been all over the news these past several months as an unusually high number of American tourists have died there under mysterious circumstances.  (From our perspective, the culprit appears to be tainted alcohol that was consumed from the hotel mini-bars.)  This anomaly aside, the first step in planning any trip abroad should be to check our State Department’s Travel Advisory map.   This color-coded guide to our world is  fluid and continually updated as conditions around the globe change rapidly in any country at any time.

From the U.S. Department of State:

Travel Advisory Levels 1-4

The Travel Advisory appears at the top of each country page, with a color corresponding to each level:  Most Travel Advisories are at Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions – or Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution. Travel Advisories at Levels 2 – 4 provide clear reasons for the advice, use common risk indicators, and state specific actions U.S. citizens should take if they decide to travel to or reside in that country. The new format highlights areas within a country that are of particular concern and provides specific advice for U.S. citizens who decide to travel to those areas.

We consider many factors to determine the Travel Advisory level for each country, including crime, terrorist activity, civil unrest, health, natural disaster/weather, and current events. We clearly explain the reason for the Travel Advisory level and describe the safety and security concerns. The information used to formulate Travel Advisories is collected from a range of sources, such as crime statistics and other information that is publicly available, information gathered from U.S. government sources, as well as assessments by our embassies and consulates. Travel Advisories also take into account decisions made to protect the security of U.S. government personnel overseas and ensure that U.S. citizens receive appropriate security information. This analysis is undertaken without regard to bilateral political or economic considerations. Travel Advisories represent our commitment to protect U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad by providing them important safety and security information.
We work directly with experts to consider many factors to determine Travel Advisories, including crime, terrorist activity, civil unrest, health, natural disaster/weather, and current events. We clearly explain the reason for the Travel Advisory level and describe the safety and security concerns. We consult closely with personnel in embassies and consulates throughout the world, security and intelligence experts, and with other agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control.
After a careful review of the security situation, we advise U.S. citizens not to travel to a country as U.S. citizens face a greater likelihood of life-threatening risks in that country. In some countries with a Level 4 Travel Advisory, we have no U.S. embassy or have a very limited diplomatic presence, so our ability to help U.S. citizens is limited. We advise U.S. citizens who decide to travel to a country with a Level 4 Travel Advisory to write a will, have custody arrangements for children, prepare security contingency plans, and have plans if taken hostage or detained.

Travel Advisory Sample (currently in effect)

Advisory

Level

Date Updated

North Macedonia Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions December 26, 2018
Nauru Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions April 2, 2019
Palau Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions December 17, 2018
Burma (Myanmar) Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution June 18, 2019
Worldwide Caution Caution January 15, 2019
Afghanistan Travel Advisory Level 4: Do Not Travel April 9, 2019
Albania Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions July 10, 2019
Algeria Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution April 9, 2019
Andorra Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions August 28, 2018
Angola Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions April 9, 2019

Also, if you would like to receive alerts, choose the method that works best for you here:  travel.state.gov/stayingconnected

So, enjoy your travels abroad but stay informed.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Drivers Licenses From Four States Soon Useless In Airports For Domestic Flights

real id

Real ID Card (Note the identifying star in the top right corner.)

Over the years we’ve reported on the Real ID Act that was passed by Congress in 2005.  As of the date of this Beacon Bulletin, four states are not in compliance with this legislation: Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, thereby prohibiting domestic flight travel without the presentation of a federal form of identification (passport, visa, etc.) Compliance to the federal ID law is required by all states by January 1, 2016.  . Basically, Real ID is the first major step towards a federal ID card, but this is the official definition:

From Wikipedia (not a usual source but the .gov explanation rivals the ACA legislation in terms of length):

The REAL ID Act of 2005, Pub.L. 109–13, 119 Stat. 302, enacted May 11, 2005, was an Act of Congress that modified U.S. federal law pertaining to security, authentication, and issuance procedures standards for the state driver’s licenses and identification (ID) cards, as well as various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism.

The law sets forth requirements for state driver’s licenses and ID cards to be accepted by the federal government for “official purposes”, as defined by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security has currently defined “official purposes” as presenting state driver’s licenses and identification cards for boarding commercially operated airline flights and entering federal buildings and nuclear power plants, although the law gives the Secretary the unlimited authority to require a “federal identification” for any other purposes that the Secretary shall determine.

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In the news:

New ID rule is a problem for driver licenses

N.Y. minimum to fall short of enhanced U.S. standard

By Michael Gormley
NEWSDAY
on September 8, 2015 – 9:49 PM

ALBANY – New Yorkers looking to board a domestic flight or take a cruise next year could find themselves grounded unless they have driver’s licenses containing additional security data that is soon to be required by the federal government.

That’s because the state has failed to comply with the minimum standards of the federal Real ID system by not mandating these so-called enhanced licenses, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The state contends that it has complied because it makes enhanced licenses available to those who want them.

At an undetermined date next year, the federal government is expected to require that state driver’s licenses meet minimum security standards to board even domestic flights and cruises under the Real ID Act passed by Congress in 2005 based on a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission.

New Yorkers will then have to hold an “enhanced driver’s license” embedded with passport-type data. Without an enhanced license or enhanced nondriver’s ID, travelers will need a passport, passport card, permanent residency card, birth certificate or one of a few other acceptable pieces of identification, in addition to their standard driver’s license, to fly, go on a cruise or to enter most federal buildings. A passport card is a wallet-size card that can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean by land or sea, but not by air.

We carry our passports regardless, given our history of unexpected international travel, but with NYS’s non-compliance with the Real ID, it just makes sense.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

Can Someone Hack Your Passport? RFID Wallets and More.

scanner
As of now, most credit cards and debit cards issued within the past decade have RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology embedded in them. All US passports issued since August, 2007 and later have RFID chips that track your data and photo. RFID chips are a convenient way to store and read data – instead of having to swipe your card through a reader, you can simply wave your card in front of an RFID scanner without even taking it out of your wallet.  Such comfort!

Unfortunately, RFID technology used to track sensitive data in many of today’s portable identifiers (e.g. cards) can be easily scanned without you ever knowing.

How can RFID-hacking occur and how to protect your RFID-chipped documents when traveling:

What is RFID technology?

RFID stands for Radio-Frequency IDentification. The acronym refers to small electronic devices that consist of a small chip and an antenna. 

The RFID device serves the same purpose as a bar code or a magnetic strip on the back of a credit card or ATM card; it provides a unique identifier for that object. And, just as a bar code or magnetic strip must be scanned to get the information, the RFID device must be scanned to retrieve the identifying information.

RFID Works Better Than Barcodes

A significant advantage of RFID over barcodes is that the RFID device does not need to be positioned precisely relative to the scanner. We’re all familiar with the difficulty that store checkout clerks sometimes have in ensuring that a barcode can be read. And obviously, credit cards and ATM cards must be swiped through a special reader.

In contrast, RFID devices will work within a few feet (up to 20 feet for high-frequency devices) of the scanner. For example, you could just put all of your groceries or purchases in a bag, and set the bag on the scanner. It would be able to query all of the RFID devices and total your purchase immediately.

 

It’s a scary thought to entertain and if it bothers you, keep reading to find out what you can do about it.

How can you stay safe against hacked RFID chips?

Unfortunately, the danger is that someone could build a counterfeit reader – which wouldn’t be too difficult for anyone who is experienced in that field – and pick up your RFID information without your consent or even knowledge. Counterfeit card readers existed before RFID, but you were required to physically swipe your card through a slot; counterfeit RFID readers can pull or delete data without so much as you walking by.

On the market now are RFID-blocking sleeves, pouches, wallets and other such personal item carriers. A proper RFID blocker will utilize something called a “Faraday cage” (a grounded metal screen surrounding a piece of equipment to exclude electrostatic and electromagnetic influences) and the specification you want to look for is “electromagnetically opaque”. These RFID blockers will prevent illegitimate reading of your RFID-embedded objects.

Not all RFID-blocking wallets are made equal; some are more effective than others. In addition, even the most effective RFID-blocking wallets can fail, whether due to wear and tear or user error. These products will help keep you safe, nonetheless, exercise caution and common sense when traveling.

 

At Corporate Travel Safety, you can purchase RFID-reader blocking items such as wallets, full-sized/mini document holders, ladies’ clutches and handbags, neck holders, inside front pocket sleeves, etc.  We’ve bought and used several of their products and have for years with no negative incidents to date.

neck pouch

BNI Operatives: Situationally Aware.

As always, stay safe.