Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Can you be TOO secure when it comes to internet banking and viruses?

Of late, South African banks have stepped up their efforts to stop internet banking fraud, by introducing a number of 3rd-Party applications that are supposed to protect the end-user from potential threats.

The ones that I have encountered include Prevx (FNB) and Rapport (Nedbank), and they add an additional layer of protection onto your web browser, specifically targeted at protecting internet banking sessions.
End-users will happily install whatever the bank recommends, because in doing so, the end-user then has grounds to claim, should their account be hacked or breached in any way.
If an end-user has done everything that their bank has advised in order to stay safe online, then it minimizes any responsibility placed upon them, should the proverbial sh1t ever collide with the proverbial fan...

Now this is all fine and well, one might say. Anything in the name of security!
Then I inevitably get a call, and it goes something like this:

Caller: My PC is running really slowly lately...


Me: What has changed on your PC recently that may have caused it? Have you installed anything new? Changed anything?


Caller: Nope, just installed this banking software thing to protect me when I am online...


Me: Ah. Ok, and what other antivirus protection etc. is running?


Caller: ....dunno.


The call out that follows, invariably involves the discovery of one or more of the following software packages installed:

- Prevx
- Rapport
- Some antivirus (Avast, Norton's, BitDefender...)
- Windows Defender

The important thing to remember here is that each new antivirus / anti-spam / security package that gets installed on a PC, does 2 main things:


- It tries to protect you, and in doing so it scans opened files, web pages, RAM, folders on your hard drives, flash drives that you may plug in etc.
- In the process of trying to protect you, it uses system resources - i.e. RAM and CPU mainly.

Ultimately, trying to be as secure as possible on the internet is a delicate balancing act between safety and speed.
It is also not necessarily true that more is better - I have seen antivirus software identifying banking protection software as a virus... go figure...?!
So, in addition to speed concerns, you could end up with an arm-wrestling match between different software packages. It can become quite confusing!

As a guideline, I would say that one antivirus package, coupled to a single internet banking protection package should be sufficient.
If you happen to bank with different institutions who each want you to install THEIR preferred software, then you have a dilemma on your hands, because you are likely to end up with an antivirus package (assuming you already have one), and 2 or more packages aimed at protecting your online banking experience = potentially slow PC... :)
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