Today’s youngsters today face challenges and risks never known to previous generations. They use and live in a world of technology that gives them instant access to people and information across the world.

But this same technology also gives them access to information and people that may put them at risk. Given that the Internet has also become a magnet for less than positive practices, youngsters are prey to multiple threats and this is evident with exposure to computer malware.

However, it can be tricky to navigate. For instance, downloading from the internet can be right or wrong, depending on different factors; downloading some software can cause a computer to be infected with malicious software while in other cases downloads are perfectly acceptable.

So how do you educate and protect the kids?

  • A good starting point is to ask the kids what they know about computer viruses. You can clear up any misconceptions by explaining not every undiagnosed issue on a PC is a virus. 
  • You can also share your experience about viruses, if for example, you have been infected by a virus and what were the consequences, such as your computer freezing up or the virus spreading itself through your email contacts. 
  • This can lead into a discussion about the different types of viruses such as spyware, adware, and Trojans. 
  • This can then lead into the need for good antivirus software, how to run virus scans and the need to always apply software updates. 

It’s good to talk

You don’t have to be a computer expert to talk to the kids about viruses and their dangers. With youngsters, a little knowledge can go a long way in opening up their eyes.

However, if you feel out of your depth here is a short and simple guideline to computer viruses and their different variants.

Basic virus definition - software designed to harm computers and data

  • Malicious software programs or codes are created and designed to destroy, steal, corrupt or perform other unwanted actions to a computer and its networks. 
  • When a computer is affected by malware, the existing data and software is attacked while the external components of the computer are untouched. This affects the functioning of the computer on different levels depending on the severity of the attack and the type of malware. 
  • If a virus is hidden in a file, for instance an email attachment, the virus will remain inactive until the user opens it. The virus then spreads and may also replace bona fide files

Worms

Worms are very similar to viruses. The main difference is that a worm doesn’t need a file to be run or executed.
  • Both worms and viruses replicate themselves and spread from system to system. They cause the same type of damage. 
  • However, worms are malicious programs that invade an entire document so that the entire document is considered the worm. 
  • A worm doesn’t need help to spread. Once it is downloaded it infects an entire computer

Trojan horse

  • Users may download and run what they think is a useful and legitimate software program. 
  • However, once a Trojan is activated, the damage can vary from minor irritations to major losses. 
  • For instance it may deliver frequent pop-ups to a screen or delete files. More seriously, it can be used for stealing information or data. 
  • Trojan’s are popular among cyber fraudsters for gathering information from infected computers.

Spyware

Spyware programs are designed to collect small pieces of information from a computer without a user’s knowledge.
  • They may cause changes in internet or computer settings, slow a computer down or affect other installed programs. 
  • Spyware can also be used to steal passwords or personal information. 
  • It is often introduced into a computer unknowingly, while downloading some software.

Importance of antivirus protection

Antivirus software prevents, detects, and remove viruses, worms, Trojans, and other malicious software.

Good antivirus is essential to protect computers and kids by safeguarding against all types of viruses, whether it’s actual viruses, spyware, Trojans, worms or any other type of malware.