Five golden rules

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From our point of view, the five rules mentioned in this section offer the most protection for the least amount of effort. By following these rules you will greatly increase your PC's protection, not just when you use the Internet Banking service, but when you use the internet in general.

They are not all the measures you can take, but are an excellent start. They are equally applicable to business owners and to private individuals.

Updates and patches

Make sure you have the latest security updates and patches

From time to time, vulnerabilities are discovered in programs running on your PC and so the publisher will then release a "patch" to correct these weaknesses. They are weaknesses that are regularly exploited by virus writers and hackers to gain unauthorised access to those PC's that have not been patched.

To check for patches and updates you should visit the publisher's website, typically in their Download section.

You can visit Microsoft's website for an automatic check of what is required for both operating system and browser and then download it at your request.

Antivirus software

Install antivirus software

You may already be using antivirus software, however to be effective the software should be updated on a regular basis with the latest virus definition files. If you are unsure how to do this, you should refer to the program's Help function.

There are many effective programs to choose from, but the most common commercial products include McAfee, Symantec (Norton) and Sophos.

It is also possible to obtain free antivirus protection. A search for "free antivirus" on Google will provide a list of the most popular ones.

Personal firewalls

Use personal firewalls

A personal firewall is another small program that helps protect your computer and its contents from outsiders on the Internet. When installed, it stops unauthorised traffic to and from your PC.

There are many effective programs to choose from. Common commercial examples include McAfee and Computer Associates.

Password advice

Read our password advice

Passwords are the key to your online account information. Avoid using the same password for different systems that are important to you. Doing so puts your money at risk should anyone discover this single password. For this reason, you are strongly advised to have a unique password for any services as critical as your Internet banking.

When choosing a suitable password, you might consider the following:

  • Each password should be different. Avoid using the same password for different services.
  • Don't be personal. Do not use passwords that can easily be guessed, such as children's names, pets' names, birth dates and phone numbers.
  • Never got the password. If you feel that you have no alternative but to write down the password, make sure that it is written in such a way that it is not understandable by third parties.

In any case, you should never disclose your Internet login details anywhere on the web, except your usual online banking website which should be accessed in the normal way and never via a link in an e-mail.

Anti-spyware software

Use an anti-spyware program

Spyware is the term used to describe programs that run on your computer for the purpose of monitoring and recording the way in which you browse the web and the internet sites you visit. For example, spyware can combine information about your online behaviour with that of many other users in order to generate market research data. This information can be bought and sold by companies interested in improving the way websites are designed and how the Internet is used. You however, may not wish for your internet usage to be monitored in this way.

In addition, just as spyware can be used to improve the online experience, it can also be used to extract personal information that you have entered, including passwords, telephone numbers, credit card numbers and identity card numbers.

Spyware is often loaded onto a PC as part of a free download of another service - for example a service that claims to improve the performance of your PC. Sometimes your agreement to the download is requested in the small print, but spyware may also be loaded onto your PC without your agreement or knowledge.

Spyware is not the same as a virus, since it only records what you do rather than altering how your machine works. Because of this, antivirus software is not effective in identifying and removing spyware; you will need to download and run a specialised anti-spyware program.

Anti-spyware security software currently available include McAfee, Spybot Search and Destroy, AdAware, Spyware Eliminator, Spyware Doctor and Microsoft Antispyware. We strongly recommend that you install and use a reputable anti-spyware product to protect yourself against spyware on your PC.

Please visit www.banksafeonline.org.uk for further independent information on this topic.

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