HSBC flaw exposed by Cardiff University hackers

Researchers from Cardiff University claim it's possible to hack into an HSBC account in less than nine moves

HSBC has hit back at claims that researchers have been able to exploit security vulnerability in its online banking system, saying that its three million UK customers aren't at risk.

The financial services giant was responding to a media report that surfaced in today's Guardian newspaper, suggesting that a research team at Cardiff University had uncovered a serious flaw in the bank's online set-up.

The researchers claim that their discovery makes it possible to break into any account in no more than nine tries using key logging technologies to obtain the necessary entry details. They also suggest that the vulnerability has been laid open for at least two years.

"There are serious issues here," computer scientist, Professor Antonia Jones, who led the research effort, told The Guardian.

"Banks are in the business of safeguarding your money, and if they tell you that it's safe then you assume that's the case. But as long as this flaw exists, customers are at risk. For banks or institutions that are making huge amounts out of their customers not to protect them is pretty scandalous."

HSBC responded to the alleged security hole by playing down the severity of the flaw.

"Online fraud via HSBC's internet banking system is substantially lower than the market average and we are satisfied that our customers are more than adequately protected," said HSBC in a statement to IT PRO.

"HSBC would be very interested to hear any expert commentary on the security of its Personal Internet Banking service. However, in this instance the supposed flaw uncovered is not one that we have seen criminals use. It is an extremely sophisticated attack that would require a particular and time-consuming focus on one individual victim. It is therefore not likely to be a profitable way for criminals to behave.

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