Services that offer online virus removal are becoming very popular. These online services claim to be able to completely clean viruses from a PC as long as the end user has a working internet connection. Repairs are performed by a computer technician who logs on to a user’s computer from a remote location and removes malware as though he was sitting right in front of his customer’s PC. Many people, though are reluctant to use these services because they are worried about the security risks of letting a stranger have remote access to their computer. I think that this fear is mostly due to a lack of understanding of how such services work, so in this article we’ll try to answer a few questions you may have on the subject and help you decide if online virus removal services are really all that risky.
First, a little background. Even though online PC repair services are gaining popularity in the private sector, they really aren’t a new thing. If you have worked in a corporate environment in the past twenty years or so, you’ve probably had to call the IT helpdesk on occasion. Many times the helpdesk personnel would just log on to your workstation remotely and fix whatever problem you were experiencing. In the early days of corporate networks, it became cost effective to set up an in-house helpdesk as part of the company network. Instead of running around from office to office (or city to city, in some cases), it was much more efficient to keep their IT personnel centrally located and simply remote into an employee’s workstation when there was a problem.
Over time, this produced an industry of helpdesk contract services and many large companies started outsourcing their IT service needs to third parties in favor of maintaining an in-house staff of computer technicians. In recent years, competition in the market and advancement of new technologies have brought the price point down on the remote technologies used by these large helpdesk services. Many companies such as Citrix® have recently started offering their remote software at prices that even small computer repair businesses can afford. As a result of the growing availability of remote access technology background removal service at affordable prices, we’ve seen an explosion of “personal helpdesk” services being offered to both small businesses and individual users alike.
If you are worried about the security implications of using an online virus removal service to clean malware from your computer, you really just need to apply common sense. Base your decision on whether to do business with one of these services on the same criteria that you apply to other situations. Here are some common concerns in a Q & A format:
Q. How do I know that my personal information is safe when letting a stranger log onto my PC?
A. If you think about it, your personal information is no more at risk than when you take your PC to a shop and drop it off for repair. Technicians at a repair shop have full access to your personal data while they are in possession of your computer. At least with an online service, your computer never leaves your home (or place of business) and you can see what the technician is doing on your computer the whole time he’s logged on.
Q. Can The Technician log back into my computer anytime he wants?
A. To avoid this possibility, make sure you use a service that utilizes “session-based” remote access. This means that the web application used for remote access to your computer is automatically removed when you terminate the session. The session is initiated by the end customer (you) by using a PIN number provided by the technician. When the session is over, the tech can only get back into your PC by starting a new session which only you can do with a new PIN number. A good example of session-based” access is Go-To-Express by Citrix®.
Q. What about identity theft? Could the technician steal information from my computer?
A. Again, I think it’s a matter of common sense. You don’t think twice about handing your credit card to the waiter at the restaurant after dinner. You have only known this person for an hour or so and you let him disappear around the corner with your card. But, because you’re comfortable that the restaurant owner is established and probably hires honest employees, you are willing to take that risk without much worry. Same thing when dealing with online services. Follow your instincts. If, after looking into their company you feel that they are reputable, then you are probably safe.