Is the Internet safe? Bankers have had reasons a-plenty to ask that question over the years. Phishing, hijacking, and botnet armies have undermined the perceived security of this growing business channel.
No doubt, bankers were asking the question yet again when they read the July 9 headline “Critical flaw rocks the Internet.” The article revealed that major hardware and software developers had been secretly working for months to fix a fundamental Internet error that would have turned control of web traffic over to the hackers.
The flaw concerned the way browsers, servers and routers translate www.xyz.com into the real address, which looks more like 111.212.056.144. When translated correctly, the web surfer goes to xyz.com. When hacked, the web surfer will go wherever the criminals want him to go, regardless of the website address typed into the browser.
Imagine what the “phishers” and other criminals could do with that! Bank customers would type in www.mybank.com and find themselves at www.mycriminal.com without ever knowing the difference. Say goodbye to passwords, birth dates, and mothers’ maiden names. The hackers could get them all.
The good news is that hardware and software developers came together, created a fix and coordinated a release for all computer software platforms. The patch’s design prevents hackers from ‘reverse engineering’ the patch, and technical details about the flaw were kept secret for a month after the patch’s release to allow companies time to update their computers.
The bad news is that the flaw was found by accident. For those of us who keep asking if the Internet is safe, the answer continues to be “We just don’t know.” That’s not good enough for the increasing numbers of customers who are switching their banking business to the web.
These measures won’t prevent massive errors such as the addressing issue reported above, but you will know sooner than your competitors that a problem exists, and be able to protect your customers. That’s what it takes to keep today’s Internet safe for the banking business.