Barclays breach rattles consumer trust

As Barclays tries to deal with its second online security breach in 48 hours, the Consumer Association is still condemning it for the carelessness that led to the first

Consumer watchdogs and technical experts agree that security breaches such as that experienced by the online division of Barclays bank Monday and the recent Powergen fiasco are chipping away at the UK's confidence in Internet security.

Barclays played down the security breach by pointing out that only a handful of many thousand Internet customers were able to access other user's accounts and that no transactions could be carried out.

But the Consumer Association does not believe such excuses are appropriate or indeed valid and suggests Monday's breach contributes to an overall decline in consumer trust.

"Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident," says a spokesman for the Consumer Association. "Our last Internet survey showed that only 50 percent of UK Internet users are prepared to shop online. This incident can only depress that figure further."

The spokesman adds that the aftershocks of such an incident will undoubtedly be felt throughout the UK e-economy. "This is not very good for e-commerce growth," he adds. "It is potentially very serious," and made worse by Barclays position as a trusted bank.

"There is very little that consumers can do apart from not use an Internet bank," the spokesman adds.

Since the beginning of 2000 there has been a security breach experienced by Internet organisations, many of them high profile, every month. Statistics like this have prompted an astonished reaction from security experts.

"The bottom line is that this is not good for consumers. It's high profile because everything online is at the moment," says senior security architect with Information Risk Management Richard Stagg.

Stagg says that, though Monday's breach might not have been especially risky, it still had maximum impact on the confidence of Barclay's customers and consumers at large.

"These things happen and it's impossible to be 100 percent sure," he says. "But Barclays are in the sort of market where they shouldn't take chances."

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