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Domestic terror incidents in the Garden State and across the nation, as Ocean Countyans know, hit home when a bomb detonated in a trash can during a charity race in Seaside Park.  The New Jersey Director of Homeland Security, Chris Rodriguez, addressed this and other issues at the Ocean County Mayors' Association's monthly meeting in Toms River.

A focal point of discussion was the vetting of possible radical terror suspects both entering the country or becoming radicalized once inside.

Rodriguez explained, "A lot of the security vetting for people coming into the New Jersey is done by the federal government...the U.S. Department of Homeland Security...the F.B.I."

Rodriguez adds that his office supports federal investigations, but within the state, his office maintains a constant vigil for signs of homegrown terrorism in every New Jersey municipality.

NJ Homeland Security Director Chris Rodriguez speaks at the Ocean County Mayors Association Monthly Meeting. (Vin Ebenau, Townsquare Media)

"It's incumbent upon my office to get out to local and county governments and make sure that they know there are resources at the state level for counter terrorism they can utilize," said Rodriguez.

Another point of emphasis Rodriguez pointed out is how critical it is for New Jerseyans to remain vigilant in wake of these terror or other domestic threats.

"That's absolutely critical, our ability to get out there and inform the public," said Rodriguez.

He explains that New Jerseyans are the first line of defense in an environment of terrorist threats.

"Our ability to communicate and be transparent with the public, I believe, will make us a more resilient state," said Rodriguez.

"If they see something, they need to say something and report that to local police departments and the state," said Rodriguez.

From there, he adds, investigators can springboard toward further intelligence into any potential threat.

For some civilians, it's easier said than done. Fear of reprisal can impede progress. Rodriguez meets this concern with public disclosure of intelligence, to an extent that won't compromise investigations, so everyday citizens can be as aware as possible of what's going on.

"If the public reads what it is we write, they will develop a more sober fact based understanding of terrorism," said Rodriguez. "I think that's absolutely critical in this threat environment."

A final topic of discussion was on the potency and danger of cyber terrorism in New Jersey and across the globe, which has seemed to gain strength of late.

Rodriguez explains the vital importance of practicing 'cyber hygiene' on your computers.

"We need to make sure that the public is resilient and making sure their shopping or conducting online transactions in the safest way possible," said Rodriguez.

Here is a list of Cyber Security tips from the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security:

  • Public computers may contain malicious software that steals your credit card information when you place an order or use online banking login credentials.
  • Additionally, criminals can intercept traffic on public wireless networks to steal payment card numbers and other confidential information.
  • The "s" in "https" stands for "secure" and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted. Reconsider your purchase if you get to the checkout  cart page and do not see “https” in the address bar. In addition, look for the lock icon in the address bar.
  • Be cautious of all emails you receive, even from seemingly legitimate senders, including your favorite retailers, financial institutions, friends, and family. Malicious actors often use advanced techniques to make emails appear to originate from senders you recognize.
  • If you receive an email from a retailer or financial institution asking you to click a link to “view a message on your account” or to access a great deal, never click on these links and instead go directly to the legitimate site.
  • In the case of an email from a friend, co-worker, or loved one containing an attachment or link, text or email the individual to their known address to confirm they sent you the email in question.
  • Pay close attention to misspellings in the subject, URLs, message text, or attachment titles.
  • Creating a strong password is one of the simplest and most important steps you can take in securing your devices, computers, and accounts.

  • Always use more than eight characters consisting of numbers, special characters, and both upper and lower case letters.

  • Use a unique password for every site or account.

  • Do not reuse previous passwords. Change your passwords periodically. If you think your password has been compromised, change it immediately.

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