Security issues dog National Bank's online debut

National Bank has re-badged its Countrywide Bank online presence, but security issues have dogged its first few days. One customer spoken to by Computerworld has indentified at least three problems with the service.

National Bank has re-badged its Countrywide Bank online presence, but security issues have dogged its first few days.

"Windows cannot determine the validity of this certificate", proclaims one customer's browser when he tries to log on to the site.

"I use Internet Explorer 5 on a PC running NT," says the customer, who does not want to be identified.

The customer, who was formerly with Countrywide Bank and used the online banking facility before Countrywide's purchase by National Bank parent company UK-based Lloyds TSB, says the security problems don't end there.

"If you open up a session and copy the URL and then paste that into another browser on another machine, it will open up a session under the same log-in," says the customer.

"I believe it's only valid for the time out of that connection, but it's a bit of a concern."

On top of both of these problems is another issue: when this customer logs on to the site to begin using the facility his customer number is already displayed — he only has to enter his PIN to gain access.

"Whether that's embedded somewhere or if it comes from a cookie, I don't know. Either way it's not very good."

National Bank manager for online services Richard Hutton says security is one of his highest priorities.

"One of Internet Explorer 5's features is that it can store settings for you. Users have the option to do that. I don't know if that's what's happened in this case or not."

Hutton has not encountered these security problems before.

"We're integrating a lot of the systems now but we're certainly not aware of any issues that this customer has raised."

Currently the online service is available only to ex-Countrywide Bank users who have already signed up. There is no visible link from the National Bank site (www.national bank.co.nz) to the online service — on the page titled "ways to bank" it lists phone and ATM, but doesn't yet mention Internet banking. The URL for the online bank is: www. nbnz.co.nz/online.

"We hope to be able to offer the service to general customers in the near future," says Hutton.

Most of the team that has been running the Countrywide Bank site is now working on National Bank's offering and so has around 18 months' experience in Internet banking, says Hutton, who is himself a Countrywide Bank convert.

"We've worked hard to be able to offer all the same services and channels that Country-wide customers had. Subsequently they're all available [from National Bank]."

Hutton will be looking into the security issues "immediately".

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