So here's the thing about computer developments: as Internet speed increases and as devices get more sophisticated by the day, so do cyber criminals. It's a constant battle of who's ahead of each other, with criminal elements trying to be as creative and ingenuous as they can in overcoming security protocols in order to enable themselves to perpetuate evil without getting caught.

For all its heralded benefits and advantages, the Internet can be a very unsafe place, particularly when its users are not sufficiently aware of the risks they face each time they browse or log on to a webpage. At a great risk are children who are often too young and inexperienced to know how to deal with these kind of things, especially in relation to something as complicated as malware.

So what is a malware? This is essentially an undesirable program designed to cause negative effects on other people's files, personal data, and even hardware systems. It stands for "malicious software" and comes in the form of either an executable code, a programming script, or a software.

Innocuous-looking

Many people, particularly children, fall prey to malware because these are often innocuous-looking, often coming across as an attractive online package that promises a lot of perks for the user. Many of them are also embedded in legitimate programs, so there is no way of identifying their presence beforehand. Computer viruses, worms, Trojan Horses, spyware, and adware are examples of malware.

Malware infection causes a number of negative effects. Among these include corrupting or modifying files on the infected device, hogging a huge chunk of the system bandwidth to the point of being useless, stealing personal information, sending private data from the infected device to another network without consent, and generating intrusive ads within the system.

The effects of malware infection can be expansive, particularly when a common computer used by many people gets infected. In such a case, everybody's files and personal data stored in the device, including passwords and credit card information, become compromised.

Therefore, it is necessary to be aware of what to do to avoid prevent any form of malware infection. But before parents can teach their children what to do, they themselves would first need to understand how these things work. Email spam filters, firewalls, and other security programs can be installed on the computer prior to its use.

Next, key to prevention is the need to make children more aware of the risks and threats associated with malware. As its name suggests, a malware is a malicious program designed to cause a negative effect on your files, personal data, or hardware systems. Parents should emphasize to their children the following risks:

l Identity theft, or when someone steals another person's private information to assume his or her identity with the intent of deceiving others;

Parents should take a more proactive role in ensuring that their children do not end up downloading any malware. This can be done by establishing rules that must be strictly adhered to all the time.

Begin with the basics: Dissuade children from downloading anything on the web, especially if these are coming from strange or unfamiliar websites. At the same time, parents should let their children know not to click on any suspicious link. Most of these links normally include catchy baits, such as "You've won $10,000. Click here to claim" or "Your friend says hello. Click here to say hi." Additionally, parents should instruct their children to log out from their web accounts after each use.

Reducing risks

Parents need to let their children know some of the things they should be mindful of when going online, in particular when it comes to malware. In fact, there are a number of telltale signs that are normally indicative of the presence of any form of malware in the system.

Chief among these signs is slow Internet connection. When webpages load a bit slowly than they otherwise would, and if the connection remains dismal even after doing basic troubleshooting, then this is already considered a red flag. As pointed out earlier, a malware encroaches on hardware devices, and in the case of worms, they replicate many times over until they hog a huge chunk of the bandwidth, resulting in an abysmally slow Internet connection.

Another sign a malware is present in the system is when there are just too many popup ads appearing while browsing webpages. Parents should advise their children that there should not be any popup ads on the screen, nor should they be tempted to click on any of those said ads. The appearance of excessive and intrusive popup ads is normally the effect of a form of malware called adware.

With or without these signs, however, it is necessary that the computer's security systems, including antivirus and antispyware programs, be regularly updated. Each day thousands of new viruses and worms are created, so security systems should always be ready to address any possible risk that may come along. Most of these security programs can be programmed for auto-updates. Otherwise, parents should put a shortcut link of these programs to the desktop where their children can easily use them for quick security checks before they go online.

In addition, two of the most widely used operating systems in the world -- Windows and Mac OS -- can likewise be set up to automatically install security patches. These features are useful in reducing the risks of malware infection.

As pointed out in length above, there are many ways to go about safety threats online. The key is to become more aware of these risks and to take a more proactive approach in addressing these same risks even before they cause anything real. Given this, parents should be more vigilant and should not take chances with the safety and security of their children's Internet experience. You can protect your computer with free programs such as Malwarebytes.