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.

These steps apply to personal devices and accounts and those you use at work. Education settings also hold lots of personal and sensitive information about staff, children and young people, and parents and carers. As well as the steps above, you should consider how you transfer this data in the most secure way possible. For example, you may use an online storage provider or a password-protected USB stick provided by your setting.

Your setting should have policies in place to guide you with this. You can also find further advice from The National Cyber Security Centre and The Education Network on preventing cyber incidents in your education setting.

Further support

The National Cyber Security Centre provides further detail on how you can stay secure online, including:

Resources to use with children, young people and their families

To develop children and young people’s knowledge and skills

Use the Education for a Connected World framework to identify the knowledge and skills that children should have the opportunity to develop in your setting, to help them to protect their data and keep it private.

The framework, published by the UK Council for Internet Safety, sets these out by age and stage and can support you to build these opportunities into your curriculum.

You’ll find activities in the following Thinkuknow resources to help you deliver this education:

  • Jessie & Friends (episode 3): this episode and accompanying session plan helps children to identify what personal information is and the importance of not sharing this
  • Play Like Share: the resource pack includes a session which explores the importance of strong passwords and keeping them safe
  • Cyber Aware activity sheet: fun, quick, five minute activities for a variety of ages, to help families think about how they can be Cyber Aware.
  • CyberSprinters: interactive online security resources (including a game and supporitng activities) for children aged 7-11. 

Take a look at NCSC’s CyberFirst programme to learn more about how you can introduce young people, who have a passion for tech, to the world of cyber security.

To start conversations at home

It’s important for parents and carers to be taking simple actions at home to help their child to understand the importance of cyber security.

Our cyber security activity sheet includes conversation starters and fun tasks to help families explore how they can keep personal information private.

For further support, direct parents and carers to our website for guides on:

And the NCSC’s Individuals and Families page.