Home Page Navigation Contents Contact Sitemap Search

Uses and risks of online virus scanners

You cannot just check sus­pi­cious doc­u­ments such as e-mail attach­ments with the help of locally installed anti-virus soft­ware, but also by using an online ser­vice – con­ve­nient, but also risky.

In the age of phishing, e-mail attach­ments and other files copied to your device from external sources should always be ver­i­fied before opening, since doc­u­ments of unknown origin, like sup­posed invoices or appli­ca­tions, fre­quently con­tain mal­ware.

If it is not pos­sible to clearly estab­lish who sent a doc­u­ment, checks using a virus scanner can help iden­tify risky files. Many users use online ser­vices like Google’s Virus­Total to do so. Some e-mail soft­ware or plat­forms even allow for the use of such scan­ning ser­vices directly from your e-mail facility, so that you don’t have to store any attach­ments on your own system before­hand at all. That’s con­ve­nient and could add another level of security.

How­ever, Internet virus scan­ning ser­vices have one major dis­ad­van­tage: They usu­ally store all files uploaded and fre­quently even pass them on to partner ser­vices. Such an approach is a basic neces­sity for the virus scanner to be able to con­tin­u­ously keep “training” it to recog­nise mal­ware, so that ide­ally, it is always up to date. Most scan ser­vices advise you of this fact by way of a warning message.

The problem is though that such scan­ners often don’t pro­vide suf­fi­cient data pro­tec­tion for users – uploaded data can some­times be found and accessed by other users even months later. If uploaded files con­tain third party data worthy of pro­tec­tion, users might even commit an offence under Swiss data pro­tec­tion laws when uploading to any such plat­forms, which are gen­er­ally located abroad.

In addi­tion, online ser­vices can only check files which are actu­ally uploaded, not those which for instance are copied to your machine by inserting an USB stick, or any files down­loaded from a website.

You should there­fore use online virus scan­ners as an addi­tional tool only next to anti-virus soft­ware or app installed locally on your device, and exclu­sively for doc­u­ments of which you are cer­tain that they don’t con­tain any sen­si­tive data. Online ser­vices cannot replace local anti-virus software.

What else would you like to learn about security when e-banking?

Reg­ister for a course now
and learn more:

Basic course

Find out about cur­rent Internet threats and some easy pro­tec­tive mea­sures, and how to securely use e-banking.

fur­ther information

Online course mobile banking/payments

Find out about mobile banking, mobile pay­ments and how to securely use these apps.

fur­ther information

Online course for the under-30s

Learn how to use your smart­phone securely. Next to basics, we will show you what you should know about social media, clouds, mobile banking and mobile payments.

fur­ther information

Course for SMEs

Is your organ­i­sa­tion suf­fi­ciently secure? Learn which mea­sures you can take to sig­nif­i­cantly strengthen your organisation’s IT security.

fur­ther information