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How to stay cyber secure: a short guide

It’s difficult to imagine how we would have functioned this year without our smartphones, laptops, and the services we access online. They’re an essential part of our personal and professional lives.

With this in mind, it’s important to be aware of the steps you can take to protect your devices and prevent unauthorised access or loss, as well as helping children and young people to do this too.

What is cyber security?

Cyber security refers to how individuals and organisations:

  • protect devices, services and networks from theft and damage
  • prevent unauthorised access to personal information stored on devices and in accounts

Personal information can include:

  • a name
  • a home address
  • an email address
  • location data

It also helps reduce damage caused by accidents.

Practice good cyber hygiene

Practice good cyber hygiene with the devices and online accounts you use by taking these 6 steps published by Cyber Aware:

Improve your password security

1. Create a separate password for your email

Your email account is the gateway to all your other online accounts, and contains lots of important information about you. Use a strong password that is different to all of your others.

2. Create strong and memorable passwords using three random words

Create strong and memorable passwords using three random words that mean something to you, for example RainbowPineappleDogs

3. Save your passwords in your browser

Using the same passwords for all your accounts makes you vulnerable - if that one password is stolen all your accounts can be accessed. Of course, remembering lots of passwords can be difficult, but if you save them in your browser then you don’t have to.

Add extra protection

4. Use two-factor authentication on your accounts

Two-factor authentication is a free security feature that reduces the risk of being hacked by asking you to provide a second factor of information, such as getting a text or code when you log in.

5. Keep your device up to date

Using the latest versions of software (including anti-virus software), apps and operating system on your device can immediately improve security.

Make sure you can recover quickly

6. Turn on backup

Turn on backup to make sure you have a copy of all your important information in the event of it being lost, damaged or stolen.

Phishing and the secure padlock

Good advice to children and young people is to always check the web address bar to see if it has the little padlock on the left hand side and the web address starts with 'https', with the s denoting secure. Security researchers are finding that criminals are also using the padlock in the hope that you'll be tricked into thinking the site is legitimate and/or safe.
It's still good advice to check for a secure connection, but users should also check:

  • Grammar and spelling (this is the easiest and the most common that I find).
  • Suspicious popups making outlandish claims (e.g. win an iPad).
  • A slight alteration to the web address (an obvious one might be Barc1ays, where the L has been changed to a figure 1).


Digital footprint

The recent Ofcom report highlighted that one third of 12-15 year olds knows how advertising online works, which suggests that two thirds don't. Advertising is a great way of talking about the digital footprint from a slightly different angle. MediaSmart UK have some great free resources for primary and secondary schools:


Always talk to a trusted adult

It's one of the important messages we give to children, but if you are using this message, please be careful. This message cannot be used as a 'rule', it needs context. Remember, one of the processes an offender might try is to establish trust.