As cyberattacks become an increasing problem for businesses and governments around the world, we're all increasingly aware of our own vulnerability to scams, theft, and exploitation. If you have kids, then the chances are that you've been concerned about this for a while, but the threats are always changing, so it's important to keep paying attention. The good news is that if you follow a few basic rules, the risk that you face will diminish across the board.

Safety basics

Most people who get in trouble online do so not because they're caught in some sophisticated trap but because they don't pay attention to the basics. The single most important thing to do is to make sure that everyone who uses your computer has secure passwords. Though it's okay to use a general password for less important sites with which you don't share personal data, the passwords that you use for your account on the computer, your email, your social media platforms, and financial sites should all be different and hard to guess. Never use personal names or dates of birth. Make sure that all your software is kept up to date, as out-of-date software can contain loopholes that are easy to exploit. Never say anything about yourself online - anywhere outside private email - that you would be uncomfortable with the world knowing.

Protecting your identity

The more people can find out about you, the more easily they can impersonate you and persuade people to give them access to your money or use your identity to carry out criminal activity, potentially getting you in trouble with the police. The simple way around this is to restrict the amount of personal information that you share to the very basics. You should also think about the nature of information that you use elsewhere - for instance, if your bank wants to know your mother's maiden name as a security measure, don't talk about your family history online. You may also choose to use fake information online in situations where it has no legal significance, making it very easy for you to prove that it wasn't you if it's used inappropriately.

Protecting your money

If you use online banking, talk to your bank about the security measures in place and make sure that you understand them. Don't use online finance sites unless you can easily verify that they're reliable, and look for ones that automatically insure your transactions. Don't be tempted by special offers and deals online unless you know the sites on which they appear are trustworthy. Have a look at online safety checklists to understand how you can identify a credible website; it's incredibly important whether you're simply browsing or making a purchase. This new way to buy tickets for the CA lotto is a good example of a safe website, but many other sites do not meet the same safety standards.

Always check the full URL of a site to make sure that it hasn't been created by a scammer pretending to be a company that you trust. If you really want to buy something from a small retailer but you can't confirm that they're safe, try shopping with them through a larger organization such as Amazon, which will provide you with a protected transaction and keep your financial details safe. Always check your credit card statements and report any suspicious activity immediately.

Protecting your computer

Your identity and your money are not the only things of value to cyber-attackers. Your computer itself can be hijacked and its power redirected to do work for somebody else, such as mining Bitcoin, without you knowing about it. You can reduce the risk of this by using up-to-date antivirus software, running regular clean-ups on your machine, and defragging it every couple of months (always remember to back up your data first, just in case). Be wary about any unexpected slowdown in performance. If you like to hibernate your computer day to day to make it quicker to get back to what you're doing, make sure that you shut it down properly at least once a week.

Child safety

If you're worried about your children's safety online, you can install filtering software, but you should be aware that children can be very good at working around this. The best software is adjustable, so you can broaden their access as they become more mature, enabling them to explore more fully and thereby reducing the frustration that inspires them to try to get around it. Experts say, however, that the single best thing that you can do is to talk to them and make sure that they feel okay about talking to you if anything they encounter makes them feel uncomfortable. You should remember that children are vulnerable to most of the same kinds of online threats as adults, and never let them use your credit cards online without direct supervision.

Nothing that you do online can ever be 100% safe, but most of what you need to do to protect yourself is common sense. If you follow these basic rules, most criminals will move on to look for easier targets.