Putting insecure PCs under new management: The cloud

Comodo's GeekBuddy begs the question: Can cloud management and all-you-can-eat support spur better security?

The antivirus industry has long profited from protecting people against yesterday's threats with no guarantee that it can stop the attacks of tomorrow. Now, one company plans to make a guarantee -- of a sort -- that it will keep its customers computers safe from threats.

Security firm Comodo last week announced GeekBuddy, a consumer solution for securing, maintaining, and supporting PCs from the cloud. The guarantee comes in the form its pricing: all the software, service, and support needed to secure and maintain your PC for $49 per year.

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The pricing and all-you-can-eat support gives the company an incentive for doing a good job to secure the end-users' computer, says Comodo CEO Melih Abdulhayoglu.

"The more infections you get, the more money I would get as an [antivirus] company -- that is not in the interest of the end-user," says Abdulhayoglu. "Where with GeekBuddy, if you get infected it costs me money, so I will be making sure that you don't get infected. For the first time ever, we have a business model that will secure end-users."

The trick, says the CEO, is to proactively manage the end-user's PC and prevent misconfigurations that could lead to security and software problems.

"We don't let the problems happen in the first place," he says. "We proactively check about 5,000 different things in your PC. If any one of that happens, we have tell you about it and be able to fix it for you before it becomes a bigger issue."

Abdulhayoglu says the approach can eliminate 60 percent of support calls related to malicious software.

The business model tracks closely to other cloud offerings: Expertise is centralized to simplify the customer's experience. In addition, the announcement comes the same week that Microsoft called for a collective effort to improve the health of PCs. Given the lack of tech savviness of many consumers and small-business users, a cloud service to manage their computer systems may be the best way to do that.

However, the company has immense hurdles to make GeekBuddy work. A massive virus outbreak could flood the company's support channel, effectively causing a denial-of-service attack. Additionally, PC management creates a significant privacy issue that needs to be addressed. Abdulhayoglu says all sessions will be recorded as a screencast for later auditing purposes in case there is a privacy problem.

Still, if the idea catches on among consumers and small businesses, it could lead to a much more secure baseline for PCs.

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