One in four consider online banking unsafe

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Nov 15, 2007

Virus Bulletin finds that one in four users consider online banking to be unsafe, but manage their accounts online regardless, while 50% of users consider online banking to be risk free.

In a survey of more than 370 visitors to www.virusbtn.com - many of whom are security professionals - a mere 23% of users said they did not use online banking, while the remaining 77% either said they consider it to be completely safe or said they consider it to be unsafe, but use it anyway.

"It's a little worrying that so many people consider online banking to be without risk," said John Hawes, Virus Bulletin technical consultant. "Either these people are placing an enormous amount of trust in their banks and their desktop security, or they're dangerously ignorant of the threats of phishing, spyware and identity theft. A healthy sense of risk promotes caution, which is always a good thing when sensitive information is passed over the internet."

Security consultant David Harley and anti-virus researcher Andrew Lee, who assessed the effectiveness of anti-phishing quizzes at this year's Virus Bulletin conference, agree. "People shouldn't think of online banking as risk-free," said Harley, who is Director of IT security consultancy Small Blue-Green World and the administrator for anti-virus network AVIEN. "Every authentication is a leap of faith: users are trusting the end site to secure both the transaction process and their data; they're trusting application providers to design and maintain programs securely; they're trusting their ISP (or, often, their employer) to maintain a reasonably secure connection," he continued. "That's an awful lot of trust, but we can't usually eliminate the risk by managing all those aspects of a transaction ourselves."

Lee, who is Chief Research Officer at anti-virus vendor ESET, says it's all about managing risks: "Life is about managing risk, we do things every day that are intrinsically unsafe - like driving for instance - but most of us get away with it, so it's not a bad thing that people manage their accounts online despite thinking it's unsafe." However, he says that customers do need to take responsibility for their actions: "Customers need to realize that the way they behave online is equally important as it is in the real world. Just because you're physically alone in the room, doesn't mean you're alone on the internet."

David Harley concurs: "If users rely totally on security applications to protect them from risks they don't understand, their risk also increases. The effectiveness of security programs is often underrated, but it certainly isn't 100% effective." And in the end, he points out, "it may not matter at all how effectively and securely their bank manages its business processes if a customer somehow becomes convinced that a phishing site is the real thing."

Earlier this week, Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of anti-virus vendor Kaspersky, admitted to an audience in Amsterdam that he doesn't use online banking himself. According to Dutch website security.nl, Kaspersky admitted he might be a bit paranoid, but he believes that in the end this is the most secure way to behave.

The results of the Virus Bulletin poll can be seen here.

Posted on 15 November 2007 by Virus Bulletin

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