Online bank security slammed by Oz consumer group

Online bank security slammed by Oz consumer group

Over half of online banking users in Australia have received a phishing e-mail according to research conducted by the national consumers' association, which also claims that many measures implemented by banks to protect customers are ineffective.

According to the research by the Australian Consumers' Association (ACA), 57% of Web banking users have received a phishing e-mail attempting to direct them to a fraudulent Web site.

Catherine Wolthuizen, finance policy officer at the ACA, says although consumers can identify phishing as an attempt to defraud them, they are less aware of more elaborate scams such as the use of viruses to infect e-mail applications and 'switch' links which are used to send consumers to bogus sites without an e-mail being opened.

Wolthuizen also criticises banking security procedures as ineffective in combatting the risks.

"Requiring consumers to constantly update virus protection software, to continually change passwords and PINs and never write those security codes down is simply asking too much of consumers, who report they struggle to keep up with such expectations and are uncertain of their rights," she says.

The ACA is calling on banks to do more to protect online customers, saying that attempts by banks to unreasonably shift the onus onto consumers will not result in adequate protection.

On a positive note, the survey found that 85% of respondents felt very or fairly safe when banking online, while 95% used virus protection software.

But the Australian Bankers Association (ABA) has criticised the research, saying that despite many positive results the survey does not provide an accurate representation of Internet banking safety and customer experience.

The ABA says the survey questions did not specify timeframes, ask whether problems were resolved or find out the nature of the transaction.

David Bell, chief executive of the ABA, insists that banks have been communicating with customers on how to protect against Internet fraud attempts.

"If a fraudulent transaction does occur, consumers have important protections through the electronic funds transfer (EFT) Code with which ABA member banks comply," says Bell.

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