In support of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we asked experts from across our organization to share best practices for staying safe online. See what they recommend, then take a few minutes to up your own defenses. Bonus points for passing the tips along to your family and friends — because online, we’re all connected.
Did you know October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month?
A collaborative effort led by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA), the month-long educational campaign is devoted to helping people stay safe online.
This year’s theme — “See yourself in cyber” — is all about making cybersecurity accessible to everyone.
Here at Allstate Identity Protection, that’s a mission we can get behind.
So we asked three experts from across our organization to share the simple things they do to stay safe online.
Follow their tips to take your protection up a notch. Then, consider sharing this article with friends and family.
Because when it comes to cybersecurity, we’re all in this together.
What is cybercrime?
Before we talk about cybersecurity, it’s important to know that cybercrime is on the rise.
Cybercrime is any criminal activity that involves a computer and a network (like the internet), or a networked device (like a router).
In 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation received a record number of cybercrime complaints — more than 840,000. Losses from those complaints exceeded $6.9 billion, up from $4.2 billion in 2020.
In the face of this growing problem, cybersecurity is more important than ever.
But what is cybersecurity, exactly? It’s the practice of defending your data, devices, and systems from unauthorized or criminal use — and we’re here to help you do just that.
Protect your online accounts and devices
As Director of Product Management at Allstate Identity Protection, Menka Hariani knows a thing or two about combating online threats. Her team works hard to build the products that help our members stay a step ahead. In addition, Hariani’s Faculty Staff on Cloud Security at Harvard University — she really knows her stuff!
While using an identity monitoring service like ours is important, Hariani says, there are additional foundational things you can do to gain peace of mind online.
First things first: make sure your online accounts and devices are protected.
This is good for you — and also for your friends and family.
“By protecting your own accounts and information, you may prevent scammers from targeting others in your network via email and social connections,” Hariani says.
Use strong passwords and a password manager. Make your passwords long, complicated, and unique, and update them every three months.
Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) for online accounts that contain personally identifiable information. This includes checking and savings accounts, loan and investment accounts, and social media sites.
Update your software when available. “Make sure you have the latest security software, web browsers, and operating systems,” says Hariani. “That’s really the best defense against viruses, malware, and other online threats.” To turn on automatic updates for your device, go to Settings or System Preferences and enable Software Updates. Or, if you use Microsoft Windows, go to Settings and tap the Update & Security button.
Shield your personal information when browsing and shopping online
When our members call us about a possible case of identity theft, our Customer Care team is the first line of defense.
With that in mind, we asked Michael Ware, Customer Care Specialist at Allstate Identity Protection, to share what he’s learned on the front lines of fraud.
Everyday actions like shopping or browsing online can leave your money and personal information exposed, Ware says — but simple measures can minimize the risk.
Try these tips to stay safe:
Be cautious on public Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi offered in coffee shops, airports, libraries, or other public places is typically not as secure as the Wi-Fi in your home. In some cases, criminals may be able to infect your device with malware or see what you do online — which can leave personal information exposed. “I advise people to save sensitive transactions for home,” Ware says.
Don’t save payment information online. When you’re shopping online, use guest checkout. “You want to avoid creating an account if that means the company will store your financial information,” explains Ware. Large retailers and corporations are vulnerable to security breaches, so the best bet is to limit the data you share and save.
Recognize and avoid phishing
Next, we reached out to Restoration Manager, Vera Tolmachoff.
Tolmachoff’s team of identity specialists help our members untangle even the trickiest cases of identity theft.
Her number one tip, given all she’s seen in the trenches?
Be aware of phishing. These fraudulent messages, designed to steal your money or personal information, can lead to identity theft — but if you know the red flags, you’ll have a leg up.
Here’s what to watch out for:
Look out for blurry images and typos. Phishing messages are often designed to look like they’re coming from a trusted source such as a bank, credit card, or retailer — but look closely. Blurry images and slight misspellings all point to phishing.
Be suspicious of urgent requests. Scammers might pressure you to act fast to avoid a fee, or threaten to close your account if you don’t share money or personal information. Know that legitimate businesses won’t contact you this way. “If you receive an unsolicited, urgent request, stay calm and don’t respond,” Vera advises.
Think twice before clicking on attachments or links. Don’t click or open anything or enter your information unless you're absolutely sure a message is from a trusted source. Quick tip: hover your mouse over a link to see the full URL. If it doesn’t look right, delete the email and move on.
Protect yourself — then pay it forward
We recommend taking a few minutes to up your own defenses, and encouraging loved ones to do the same.
Here’s what Hariani says — and we couldn’t agree more:
“Cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility, so let’s all do our part to protect ourselves and others online.”