Online Banking: Widespread Security Flaws Revealed

July 29, 2008 – 6:26 AM

Online bankers, beware. More than 75 percent of bank Web sites surveyed by a research team had at least one design flaw that could make customers vulnerable to cyber thieves.

University of Michigan computer scientist Atul Prakash and his graduate students Laura Falk and Kevin Borders examined the Web sites of 214 financial institutions in 2006 and found design flaws that, unlike bugs, cannot be fixed with a patch.

The security holes stem from the flow and the layout of these Web sites, according to their study. The flaws include placing log-in boxes and contact information on insecure Web pages as well as failing to keep users on the site they initially visited. Prakash said some banks may have taken steps to resolve these problems since this data was gathered, but overall he still sees much need for improvement.

“To our surprise, design flaws that could compromise security were widespread and included some of the largest banks in the country,” Prakash said. “Our focus was on users who try to be careful, but unfortunately some bank sites make it hard for customers to make the right security decisions when doing online banking.”


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