Commonwealth passes security question to Netbank users

Commonwealth Bank is looking to shift concerns over online security to Netbank customers with the announcement that it will be giving away security software to a selection of users.

Commonwealth Bank is looking to shift concerns over online security to Netbank customers with the announcement that it will be giving away security software to a selection of users.

"We absolutely need our customers to be aware of what their responsibilities are and what the banks are when it comes to security," said Drew Unsworth, executive manager for online banking and payments at Commonwealth.

"We want to inform customers about the dangers and issues associated with online transactions, and lift their awareness of what they need to do to keep their identities secure," he said.

Andrew Walls, Asia-Pacific security analyst for research analysis firm Gartner, said that Commonwealth's announcement is interesting in light of a recent decision by New Zealand banks to review their Code of Practice, and draft a possible amendment passing on greater liability to the customer in cases of online fraud, but played down the possibility of Commonwealth's actions foreshadowing any such changes in Australia.

He told ZDNet Australia that online liability in Australia is still firmly in the banks' corner, and that a recent attempt to pass greater liability onto customers under the EFTPOS Code of Practice was met with "huge uproar" by the media and the public.

"Banks got a very clear message that if they try to push this kind of liability on to customers it will not be well received," he said.

"Most home PCs aren't secure; with that being the status quo it's not reasonable to expect the average bank customer to secure their computer to the point of shifting liability," said Walls.

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Commonwealth's Unsworth said that Netbank has around two million "regularly active" customers, and according to the bank's figures, around twenty percent of them do not use security software.

Ross McEwan, Commonwealth's group executive for retail banking, said it was these users that the bank hoped to target with the initiative.

"It's a shotgun approach really, I don't know how successful they'll be in targeting that twenty percent of users," said Phillip Routley, product marketing manager at security firm Messagelabs.

"There has always been a high level of concern with online transactions from a consumers point of view," he said.

Gartner's Walls believes that home users are the obvious soft target for hackers and phishers, given the high level of security employed by most banking systems.

"The question is whether or not most customers are competent enough to completely look after their own security, it's a complicated business," he said.

Commonwealth will be offering free antivirus software to the first 25,000 existing Netbank customers to complete a Web-based questionnaire -- a relatively small percentage out of its total online user base.

Commonwealth's Unsworth said: "Relative to that it's a small number, but this is just one of the initiatives we're providing."

He went on to say that the bank was prepared to offer the software to all Netbank customers at half price once the 25,000 free copies had been distributed.

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