Invalid banking cert spooks only one user in 300

Up to 300 New Zealand BankDirect customers were presented with a security alert when they visited the bank's website earlier this month - and all but one dismissed the warning and carried on with their banking.

The bank's logs show about 300 customers used the single affected server during the 11-hour period when the certificate was out of date and only one backed out of the page, says Clayton Wakefield, head of technology for BankDirect owner ASB.

Peter Benson, chief executive of Auckland-based Security-Assessment.com, says he is "not at all surprised" at the statistics. "In my experience, the single weakest point in the chain of [computer] security is the space between the keyboard and the floor."

A lot more education of users in responding appropriately to security alerts is needed, he says.

That said, an expired security certificate probably does not represent a great risk in itself, Benson says. It's most likely someone in the organisation just forgot to do the regular update, as was the case at BankDirect.

In a worst-case scenario, he says, such a warning may be connected with a sophisticated phishing or pharming attack aided by DNS "cache poisoning". Here malicious hackers use a DNS server they control to feed erroneous information to other DNS servers. A user relying on a poisoned DNS server to manage their web surfing requests might find that entering the URL of a well-known website directs them to an unexpected or malicious web page.

The main risk such a fault indicates is social and educational, not technical, Benson says. The kind of person who thoughtlessly clicks away an expired-certificate warning is likely to indulge in more risky behaviour, such as visiting a fraudulent website whose URL is included in an email and disclosing confidential information such as an account number.

Peter Muggleston, group manager of ASB Online, is also not surprised by the figures, but doesn't see it as a reason to worry about users' lack of caution. The certificate was only one day past expiry, he notes, and all its other details were valid. "We don't know how many customers just clicked the warning away because they didn't know what it was, and how many looked at it and made a considered judgement that the mistake didn't reflect anything serious. And we wouldn't know that without calling every one of the 300 and interviewing them.

"It's not a good look for us," he concedes, "and we'd always like our customers to be cautious", but users made the right decision in this case and most probably thought before acting.

It's also possible that some users did not even see the warning, because some browsers configured with a low security setting will not warn of expired certificates.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Bell

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?