Everyone knows that there are viruses lurking out in the vast worldwide web, posing a threat to personal devices because even the best antivirus programs won’t catch every problem right away. For parents and guardians, the threat is even greater: while adults are cannier about what they click on and what sites they visit, children (young ones in particular) are easily duped into downloading malware.
Telling kids not to click on advertisements only goes so far. Some malware is hidden on webpages or in Flash Player-based games, invisible to the eye, and some doesn’t require a click at all. If you explain to your child the main ways malware is shared, you can prepare him to navigate the internet more safely.
Anyone who frequently spends time online runs into pop-up ads, many of which are from reputable sources and will not cause any harm to devices if clicked. Still, this is a popular method to spread malware, sometimes even in an illegitimate ad for real companies. The malware is embedded in the ad, so clicking on it or following a link presented in the ad can infect your computer.
To handle pop-ups safely, don’t click on them even to close them. Use “close pop-ups” from the system tray area (reached with a right mouse click). If you think your child might have already downloaded pop-up malware, you can look here for a comprehensive guide on how to remove it.
Before, people needed to click directly on a page to download malware. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Hackers have developed the ability to attack your computer just because you opened a page they have infected, such as with hidden iframes.
You should make sure that your child does not visit any site you have not verified as safe for her to open. There are programs you can use to pre-screen websites to make sure they do not pose a threat.
Web widgets (or just ‘widgets’) are tiny programs from third-parties that can be put on any website, and are extremely useful for interacting with visitors or displaying content like news items or a Twitter feed. Google advertisements are widgets, and so are some weather forecasts, crossword puzzles, and email sign-ups.
Even legitimate widgets and websites could become compromised through their vulnerabilities, which means you need to lay ground rules for how your child interacts with every site so that when he finds his way to a new site, he will tread carefully when using anything that might be a widget.
Malicious Web Banners
Perhaps the easiest method to cite for the spread of malware, web banners are a flashy way to lure victims, but they can also be less obvious, like ones declaring that a virus has already been detected. For kids, the idea that they made a mistake is likely to result in more mistakes to try to fix it. Make sure your child knows to come to you if she ever sees something on the device she was using that says a virus has been detected.
Fun, interactive ads, however, appeal most to a younger audience. Although many of them are geared towards adults, there’s plenty of reason for people to try to lure kids, who are susceptible to simple forms of entertainment. Prepare your child to recognize the different promises and enticements used in banner ads so that she can steer clear.
If you think your devices might have already been infected, there are plenty of sources to help you purge your PC, Mac, or iPhone and iPad. If the devices your child uses are still malware-free, now is the time to teach him how to keep them that way!