What is cyber security?

Expert advice to keep families safe online

Cyber security is an important part of daily life, whether you’re connecting to public WiFi hotspots or scrolling through social media at home. As such, it’s important to learn all that you can.

Learn how to keep your family secure with expert articles and guidance on cyber security topics.

What is cybersecurity?

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What is cyber security?

Cyber security means protection in the online space. Therefore, it can refer to the security settings you use on your online social and video gaming accounts or the software you use on your family’s devices.

Good cyber security means the risk of your family’s personal information falling into the wrong hands is less likely. As such, it’s important to implement security measures that protect your devices.

Explore this guide to learn about the different types of cyber attacks and the protections you can put in place to keep your family safe.

Explore topics around cyber security

Cyber security covers many different parts of information technology and online use. From phishing to piracy, there is so much to know. So, we’ve put together some topics to explore in more depth to help with your child’s online safety.

Creating secure accounts

Settings icon, padlock icon and tick mark icon with text that reads 'Help kids create secure accounts: Set strong passwords, use two-factor authentication and more.'

An interactive guide to help secure children’s online accounts.

Phishing and ransomware

Learn about cyber attacks, phishing and ransomware.

What is a data breach?

Setting a strong password can help protect from data breaches

Discover how strong passwords protect from data breaches.

Privacy and identity theft

Cybersecurity means protecting your privacy and identity.

Learn about identity theft, how your child might be targeted and what you can do.

What is doxxing?

Doxxing is a threat to cybersecurity, meaning it's important to take action to protect your child.

Learn how to help your child protect their private information.

The dangers of digital piracy

Discover the hidden horrors of piracy image

Learn about the risks of digital piracy and how to take action.

What is encryption?

Learn about encryption and how it might affect your child.

Types of cyber attacks

Poor cyber security leaves your devices at risk for attack, which can look like many things. It may therefore affect your devices and information security in different ways. The following are a few cyber attacks your family could be vulnerable to:


This is closely related to cryptocurrency and results from clicking on suspicious links or online ads. When this happens, malware gains unauthorised access to your device and uses it to mine cryptocurrency. Mining cryptocurrency uses a lot of energy and power, so you will notice your device slowing down. However, it is otherwise undetected.

How to stay safe

Make sure all software your family uses is the latest version, install ad blockers where possible and talk to your child about the dangers of clicking on mysterious links or ads.

Password breach

Password-sharing is common among children who don’t understand the importance of cyber security. In some cases, friends misuse each other’s accounts, which results in trouble for the account holder. However, password breaches can also happen in other ways.

When you register to new websites, there is always a risk of poor data security which result in data breaches. These breaches could result in passwords being released and used by third-parties. If you use the same password for every account, this creates more vulnerability. Unfortunately, many children use the same password across accounts.

How to stay safe

Use password managers to create secure passwords and check websites like Have I Been Pwned? to see if your data has been breached and where. Reset passwords on any accounts that have been compromised and delete discontinued accounts.

Man-in-the-middle (MITM)

During the Covid-19 pandemic, MITM attacks became more frequent because of the use of virtual meeting software. When two parties communicate (i.e, the client and the host), an attacker might take over the session to steal information.

While many virtual meeting platforms increased security to stop these cyber attacks, using vulnerable WiFi connections leave users open to harm.

How to stay safe

Avoid connecting to public WiFi where possible or check that it is reliable and safe.


Phishing can lead to the installation of malware on your device or theft of sensitive information. It is often associated with emails from unrecognised senders but can also use established contacts. For example, they might use a contact’s first and last name but use a different email. Alternatively, your contact’s email could be hacked and used to phish.

How to stay safe

When you or your child receives an email, it’s important to think carefully about the content:

  • Is the sender’s email unfamiliar?
  • Or, if familiar, is the way the email is written strange?
  • Is the email unexpected (e.g., from a government body that doesn’t usually send emails)?
  • Is the sender asking you to click on random links?

Teach your child to delete such emails or ask you if they’re unsure. They should never click on links when they don’t know where they lead. This is true on social media, across different websites and through online video game chats as well.


You might have heard of malware but do you know what it is? In short, malware (or malicious software) is a software designed to gain access to a computer system without permission. Once malware is on a computer, it can damage files or disrupt personal cyber security. A computer virus is a type of malware.

Someone might use malware to steal personal information, financial details or anything else that could benefit them but harm your family.

How to stay safe

Install software on your computer to fight malware. In addition to this, make sure your children understand how attackers might target them.


A type of malware, ransomware blocks access to a computer system for financial gain. This is called ‘locker ransomware’ and disallows any use of the computer.

However, sometimes a computer is still usable but the files are encrypted and inaccessible. This is called ‘crypto ransomware’. Cyber criminals continue to block access until the owner pays a sum of money to release it.

How to stay safe

Ransomware can end up on your computer through phishing emails with infected attachments or through vulnerabilities in cyber security. Additionally, clicking on mysterious links or going to untrustworthy websites can lead to infected devices. Teach your children to think before they click and ask you if they’re ever unsure.

Digital piracy could threaten cybersecuritySee how one teen, Hannah, became the target of cyber security threats on a school laptop and how she got help.


Teach children about cyber security

Whether you’re a parent or carer at home or a teacher in the classroom, the following resources can help you teach cyber security. For full lessons or informative guides, choose an option below.

Popular cyber security software for families

The following products are the most popular cyber security software for families based on ratings from all over the web. They all offer their own unique elements for network security. Therefore, we have outlined the benefits and drawbacks to help you make the best choices for your family’s online safety.

Paid software

If you have the budget for quality cyber security software, using one of these paid services is a great place to start.

Norton 360 Advanced

Norton 360 is one of the most popular cybersecurity software providers

Why families use it

Norton 360 Advanced is an all-in-one cyber security software. As such, it provides a range of security features, including protection from viruses and malware. Additionally, it provides a secure VPN service along with social media monitoring and identity theft support. This software provides protection all year long for up to ten devices.

Cost: £39.99 for the first year


  • 200GB of space to backup your PC on the cloud
  • highly-rated protection from spyware, malware, viruses and ransomware
  • protected private information with firewalls and password managers
  • identity theft protection
  • secure VPN and webcam security
  • parental controls, screen time control and social media monitoring

Norton 360 also has less expensive options available to best suit your family’s needs. Some of the above benefits are not available on all versions.


While users love the level of protection from Norton, the biggest complaint is the price. While £39.99 per year seems reasonable to most, automatic renewal is £149.99 per year. Therefore, many users report cancelling and repurchasing, which can cause some headaches.

McAfee Total Protection

McAfee Total Protection is one of the most popular cybersecurity softwares in the UK

Why families use it

Alongside, McAfee leads the market as a popular antiviral software for families. Total Protection offers more than just antiviral services though. It also provides families with a firewall, secure VPN, parental controls and great technical assistance from the McAfee team. At the Premium level, you can add up to 10 devices to Total Protection.

Cost: £49.99 for the first year


  • award-winning antivirus protection
  • a secure VPN, firewall, file shredder and password manager to keep personal information safe
  • parental controls across devices
  • identity protection
  • good customer support

McAfee also has less expensive options available to best suit your family’s needs. Some of the above benefits are not available on all versions.


  • Some users complain about the reinstalling process. If you already have McAfee on your device, you might face some trouble when installing a new version
  • After the first year, the software automatically renews at £99.99 per year, which is double the first year’s price

Bitdefender Premium Security

Bitdefender is one of PC Mag's top choices for cybersecurity, meaning it's a great choice for families.

Why families use it

Bitdefender Premium Security is an all-in-one software for enhanced cyber security. As such, it offers protection for your data and passwords as well as against spam, fraud and phishing. Additionally, it offers protection for up to 10 devices, which is a great option for a multi-device family.

Cost: £54.99


  • excellent protection against cyber threats such as phishing, ransomware, malware and more
  • protection for online banking
  • optional unlimited VPN for safe browsing
  • parental control options


  • some complain about the automatic renewal
  • other complaints say that Bitdefender’s customer service is poor

Free software

A tight budget does not mean cyber security is impossible. While the paid software above may also have free versions, the below are some of the most popular among free software available.

Avast One Essential

Avast protects your cybersecurity, meaning you're safe from cyber attacks for free.

Why families use it

Avast One Essential is a popular software for protection against cyber security threats. It offers similar features to paid-for options such as malware protection and an optional VPN, but the free option makes it a good option for money-conscious families.


  • highly rated protection against malware and phishing along with protection against ransomware
  • an optional VPN
  • options to check for data breaches and compromised passwords
  • scans to clean up storage and optimise apps
  • scans the behaviours of apps to detect anything suspicious


  • while it is available across devices, the protection is limited on Android and iOS
  • it could use more robust options for firewall protection
  • some report difficulties with installation and its speeds
  • some claim the scans slow down the system

AVG AntiVirus Free

AVG AntiVirus free can help protect your computer against threats meaning your cybersecurity is stronger

Why families use it

Millions of users around the world use AVG AntiVirus Free. Just like paid options, it offers regular scans and protection against a variety of online threats without costing you anything. It is also specifically designed for personal and family use rather than business, which means it offers the right protection.


  • excellent ability to tackle malware, phishing and ransomware
  • option to use the AVG Secure Browser and a VPN
  • optional browser extension to enhance privacy and safety
  • the option to overwrite files before deleting them for added security


  • Common complaints include the amount of time the software takes to run a scan, which can also make your computer run slower
  • Some complain that the user interface is complex and not user-friendly
  • You will need to install it manually on any device you want protected

Microsoft Defender

Windows Defender means cybersecurity for all Windows operating systems

Why families use it

Microsoft Defender is automatically installed on Windows operating systems. If you have no other virus protection or cyber security software, Microsoft Defender does a decent job of protecting users.


  • automatically installed on PCs with Windows operating systems
  • great protection against malware and ransomware
  • it’s always on if there is no other antivirus software installed


  • tests found it had poor ability to protect against phishing
  • browser filters only work for Microsoft browsers, so if your family uses a different browser, they miss out on this protection

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