family cyber secure
Illustration: Romualdo Faura

Is your family cyber secure?

We share some of the top cyber security issues that both children and adults should be aware of – and provide useful tips to follow and stay safe online

What is cyber crime?

Keeping your family cyber secure is a necessary priority in today’s digital world. But before you can protect yourself against it, it’s important to understand exactly what cyber crime is.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) defines cyber crime as an offence ‘committed using a computer, computer networks or other form of information communications technology (ICT)’.

It includes crimes such as:

Hacking – This involves gaining access to someone’s computer network without their permission. The hacker can then take control and/or access information.

Malware (malicious software) – This can include viruses, spyware and remote access trojans (or RATs) – programs that create a ‘back door’ to allow administrative control from outside a targeted computer. These programs allow criminals access to other people’s computers to carry out illegal activities.

Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS) – These involve sending a website a huge amount of internet traffic at one time. This can result in people who want to visit the site not being able to access it.

Here are the ways in which cyber criminals can gain access to your devices:


This is when fraudsters disguise links that download malware onto your device or steal your personal information. The links are often made to look like something innocent and tempting, such as a funny video, an exciting offer or ‘clickbait’-style article. This type of cyber-attack is common on social media.

What you can do

Warn your child to be careful what they click. With clickjacking links there’s usually something suspicious if you look closely – an offer that’s too good to be true, or a phrase the person who shared it is unlikely to use. If it doesn’t seem right, don’t click on it.

Identity theft

Even children have to worry about identity theft, as teens are appealing targets for some criminals. Often more trusting than adults, they can be tricked into sharing private information.

What you can do

Make sure your child knows not to give out personal information online. Obviously, they should never share their passwords. But any personal details that would help answer security questions on their account or profile information – such as their mother’s maiden name, their first pet’s name or their postcode – could leave them vulnerable to cyber crime.

Viruses and malware

Make sure your child is aware of the risks of viruses. Opening an infected attachment or visiting a corrupt website could download harmful files onto their device, or yours, leading to fraud, important data being deleted or even your computer being made unusable.

What you can do

Install antivirus software on any device your family uses to go online, and update it regularly. Tell your child not to turn off your virus scanner, and talk to them about the risks. Even with virus protection, make sure your child knows to not download suspicious files or attachments.

Unsafe passwords

Your child’s passwords are the keys to their online life. It’s important to choose passwords that are impossible to guess, and to not use the same password for more than one account. For your child, the passwords to their social media and email accounts are especially important.

What you can do

Talk to your child about how to create a strong password, or read these tips. Online password generators can also help, but remind your child to always keep their passwords private – even the best password is useless if it’s shared.

Where to report

Even if you’ve taken precautions, things can still go wrong. Action Fraud is the UK’s national centre for reporting cyber crime and fraud. You can report online via their website or ring them on 0300 123 2040.

More ways to keep your family cyber secure:

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