You don’t have to be particularly tech savvy to know that the internet brings risks as well as benefits. But most people don’t realise just how bad it is. Every day 200,000 new malicious programs are released and, each month, 1 million new phishing websites pop up to try and catch unwitting victims.

Servers are regularly hacked into and usernames and passwords stolen, and kids can also be vulnerable if they’re allowed to play online games and use a web browser unsupervised.

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: install security software. You might know about antivirus software, but you may not realise that good security software does a lot more than scan for viruses. It can also protect your whole family by warning of dangerous websites, remembering your passwords and logins so you don’t use the same details for every website, update old software and can even include a VPN which encrypts your internet connection and keeps your activity private.

It can be tempting to ignore the dangers and think that you and your family will be ok. But it’s not worth taking the risk. If the cost is a barrier, the good news is that you can download and use good security software for free. Yes, really.

Avira Free Security – as the name explains – doesn’t cost a thing, and includes all the features just mentioned. Here are five ways it can help to protect your family online.

1. Regular antivirus scans

At its core, Avira provides dependable protection from malware. You can run a scan for viruses on demand, but it will automatically scan once per week (or however regularly you like). That’s one less job on your to-do list, then.

It will stop adware, ransomware, spyware, and every other type of malicious software in its tracks.

2. VPN for shopping and browsing

When you’re shopping online or simply browsing the web for anything sensitive, you can enable Avira’s VPN to encrypt your internet connection.

This keeps everything private: no-one can see which sites you’re looking at, the web searches you’re making or the credit card or bank details you’re entering to make purchases.

You don’t need to use a VPN all the time, but it’s easy to switch it on in Avira Free Security when you do.

3. Password manager

Having a unique, strong password for each and every online account is really important. It means they’re much better protected than if you just use the same password for all your accounts, which is a really bad idea. It only takes one website to be hacked and those login details can be used to access all your other accounts.

The trouble with passwords is that the human brain isn’t very adept at remembering lots of different ones. It’s also incredibly difficult to remember which password to use for a given account.

But you don’t have to. The password manager in Avira Free Security will remember lots of different, complex passwords for you, so there’s no excuse to continue using your cat’s name and birthday as your password for everything. If you struggle to come up with strong password for each account, that’s no problem either: the password manager will automatically generate them for you.

It will also enter those passwords – and your other login details - automatically on login pages, which is exactly what you’d want. There’s no need to look them up and copy and paste them.

4. Software updater

Something we’re all used to on our phones is that the apps are updated automatically. But on Windows, where we download and install software from many different places, that doesn’t happen. Avira Free Security helps out here as well.

Its Software Updater scans for out-of-date apps and lets you know which ones need attention. This helps to protect you and your family from ‘holes’ in apps which could be exploited by hackers.

5. Browser Safety

It’s easy for kids and teenagers (and adults, for that matter) to end up on a dangerous website by clicking on links in emails, WhatsApp messages and other social media apps. Often these appear to be from friends or family, but whatever the source, the scams are designed to trick you into clicking and then handing over personal information such as logins, addresses and even payment details.

Avira’s Browser Safety prevents this by blocking malicious websites, trackers and adverts. It’s available for Windows and macOS and is compatible with Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Opera.

There are, of course, many more ways to keep your family safe online and if you do have kids, it’s well worth talking to them and explaining the dangers and how to avoid them.

To get free protection for your PCs, laptops and Macs, simply head to Avira’s website and download Free Security.

Avira also offers free protection for iPhones and Android devices, so if you’re looking for an all-in-one cybersecurity solution for all your devices, you should check out Avira Prime.