Halifax offers online fraud and hacking reassurance

Will the Halifax set a precedent in dealing with online fraud?

The Halifax bank has responded to growing concerns over online security Monday by offering antifraud measures and antivirus services to its customers.

From the end of September the bank will offer guaranteed reimbursement against Internet fraud as well as complimentary antivirus software.

According to the Halifax, the antivirus software will help protect customers against Trojan horse programs that could be employed to gain access to accounts or personal information. The antifraud guarantee is designed to reassure them that even if they are targeted, they will not be left out of pocket.

The new services follow a string of recent Internet security incidents at major UK businesses including Powergen and Barclays.

UK banks were recently savaged in an independent report in July -- Electronic Commerce: Who Carries the Risk of Fraud? -- for leaving customers responsible for reporting and proving online fraud.

The Halifax' revamped antifraud guarantee, which will be displayed on all the bank's financial Web sites, states: "If an Online customer is a victim of fraud the Halifax will guarantee that they won't lose any money on their Halifax account and that they will always be reimbursed in full."

Brain Gladman, computer security expert and co-author of the July report, remains concerned that this does not clarify the extent to which customers will be left to prove their innocence. "The issue is, if a customer claims fraud, what do they have to do?" says Gladman.

A Halifax spokesman says that the bank will work with customers on a case by case basis in order to determine whether they have been the victim of fraud.

General manager of Halifax Online David Walkden believes the new services will help rebuild consumer confidence. "These initiatives mean that our customers will have the peace of mind of knowing that their own PCs are protected against any computer viruses as well as having the security of the Halifax Online Guarantee," he comments.

News of these new services comes shortly after the Halifax announced its subsidiary online service, Intelligent Finance, has been delayed to carry out further testing.

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