A family guide to cybersecurity
Be cyber smart to avoid cybercrime
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As a parent or carer, you may have been informed by your child or their school about how to support them to stay safe online. One key aspect of online safety is to develop good cybersecurity skills. Depending on your own experience and level of technical expertise, this might feel like a daunting task. However, there are some simple and practical steps that you and your family can take to significantly reduce the risks of cybercrime.
This guide will explore what cybercrime is, the risks it can present to adults and children, and what you and your child can do to be cyber smart online.
What is cybercrime?
The term ‘cybercrime’ is often used as an umbrella term to describe 2 types of criminal activity that involve technology:
- cyber-enabled crime – traditional crimes whose scale or effectiveness can be enhanced by technology (for example child sexual exploitation, blackmail, fraud, extortion and drug smuggling)
- cyber-dependent crime – crimes that can only occur using computers, networks, and information and communication technology (ICT) (for example hacking, cyber espionage, data theft, creating and distributing malware, and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks)
This guide focuses mainly on the latter – specifically on criminal activity that involves the theft of personal data or money.
What risks exist around cybercrime?
Cybercriminal activity poses risks to all online users. A 2021 academic study by the University of Birmingham and Avast revealed that 72% of adults in Wales have been affected by cybercrime.
Many apps and services rely on user data to drive their growth and development, which makes them attractive targets for cybercriminals. In particular, social media platforms encourage users to share their information through posts, images and videos. With this information, a cybercriminal can commit fraud or identity theft, resulting in a loss of money or property for the victim.
Criminals also employ several strategies to extract data from victims, from scams such as ‘phishing’ through to the use of malware to steal data from devices and accounts or to encrypt data and hold it to ransom against users. Some cybercriminal activity also results in the destruction or deletion of data.
For young people with advanced digital skills, there is also a risk that their expertise leads them unwittingly into criminal activity through acts such as hacking websites, or the creation or distribution of malware.
What can I and my family do to be more cyber secure?
Although some cybercrimes are very sophisticated, most attempts to steal your personal data, money or property can be greatly reduced by simply adopting some good habits. These 6 tips from the National Cyber Security Centre’s Cyber Aware advice campaign are very effective.
- Use strong passwords – the best passwords are those that are easily remembered but not easily guessed. Try creating a password out of 3 random words. Always use a different password for each account or service you and your family use.
- Use a separate password for your email – your email address is often the portal to other online services you use. Protecting it with a strong password can prevent hackers from gaining access to your personal data.
- Save your passwords – having lots of unique passwords can be hard to keep track of, but using password management software can help.
- Use two-factor authentication (2FA) – this helps stop hackers from accessing your accounts, even if they know your password. When turned on, a site or service will ask for a code before allowing you to access your account. Usually sent to your phone by text or email, only someone with access to this code can access the account.
- Update your devices – keeping all your family’s devices up to date is key to good cybersecurity. Make sure that all software, apps and operating systems are updated whenever prompted. Some devices can automatically update software for you.
- Back up your data – regularly making a copy of your data and storing it in the cloud or on another device means that, if it becomes lost or stolen, you can quickly recover a recent version of the information you lost. Some devices and software can create automatic backups.
- Learn how to protect yourself – over the last 5 years online crime has increased. Scams and frauds are now more common than before so it’s important to understand what these are and how you can protect yourself. Our ‘Fraud, finance and online crime’ playlist on Hwb can support you with this.
Where can I get help and support?
If you have concerns about your child’s safety or wellbeing online, you should always seek advice and support. This could be from the school, your GP or another organisation. You can find a range of support services in the ‘Keeping safe online’ section on Hwb.
Remind your child that they can also contact Meic, which offers free information, advocacy and advice for children and young people in Wales up to the age of 25. Call Meic free on 080880 23456, text on 84001 or talk to someone online at www.meic.cymru. The service is open from 8a.m. to midnight, 7 days a week.
If you feel that you or your child have been the victim of cybercrime, then it is important to report this to the police. ActionFraud offers an online reporting tool to allow you to report any incidents.
You may find the following helpful to understanding and discussing cybercrime and cybersecurity with your child.
- Information for individuals and families – National Cyber Security Centre
- ‘Keeping safe online’ area on Hwb